Jonathan Crimmins

Jonathan Crimmins

One could spend a significant amount of time in Bath and Brunswick and not even realize that every ship that sets sail from Bath Iron Works is originally launched up the road in Brunswick. Far away from the industrial elegance of the large cranes in Bath is a facility that makes those familiar shapes on the water seaworthy.

The Hardings facility on Bath Road may be going through a much-needed upgrade over the course of the next year or so. It was reported that the facility has submitted plans to modernize some of their oldest equipment and expand some of their buildings on the Brunswick campus. For the people who work at the site, it means safer equipment and an easing of lost time due to equipment failure. For the men and women who take these ships to sea, hopefully it will mean an even better quality than what is produced now.

Over the last 45 years there have been more than 100 ships produced at the Yard in Bath. Many of those ships were built on contract for the United States Navy. The Hazard Perry class, the Ticonderoga class, the Arleigh Burke class and even the Zumwalt class all shared the institutional lineage to the preparation and production that was common in the mid-1970’s. Unfortunately, the work that was state of the art nearly 50 years ago is not what is needed today.

While the ships themselves became more intricate, more technical, the machinery they were being built from stayed the same. The processes to prepare the steel and shells of the ships became more complex, yet the tools never changed.

The plan produced by the shipyard and presented to the Town’s Planning Department, would see a large building built on the current property that could accommodate new machinery. It was reported that there have been work interruptions and delays due to the failings of some of the equipment. Those delays would be alleviated due to the proposed upgrade.

Some much-needed improvements could not come at a better time for the shipyard. As one of two producers of the nation’s front-line class of war fighting ship. the Arleigh Burke, Bath is poised to take advantage of some of the spending that was in the omnibus budget bill that was voted on in the Congress and signed by President Trump. In that deal there is an allotment of nearly $24 billion for new ships in the coming year.

According to CNBC, the budget deal will fund 14 new ships. Given the makeup of the Navy and its fleets, it stands to reason that this may include some money earmarked to come to Maine. If that is the case, then Brunswick and Bath will surely be on the winning side. Considering that nearly 6,000 people work for Bath Iron Works this will mean steady work and steady employment for some time.

A new and improved facility on the eastern end of Brunswick will spell good things for everyone involved. It means a facelift for an aging facility and it means growth in an area that is sometimes over looked when it comes to the town. East Brunswick is not the quaint downtown of Maine Street. East Brunswick is not the gateway to town like Pleasant Street has become. As time has shown and will continue to show, east Brunswick is the home to some very talented workers who build some fine ships.

There is a sign in Bath that says, “Through these gates pass the best shipbuilders in the world.” While this may be true, it all starts and will continue with steel prepared in Brunswick.

That’s my two cents…

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at j_ [email protected]

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