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New labour deal touted as possible pathway for national workforce model for naval ships

The US Navy has begun to improve its current public shipyards, such as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, shown here. (US Navy)

A new labour agreement signed on 29 April that seeks to build a rotational workforce of skilled welders could eventually serve as template for a national workforce arrangement for work on naval ships, according to Edward L Bartlett Jr, founder and CEO of Bartlett Maritime Corporation (BMC) – the company that brokered the deal.

The impetus for the rotational welders was a plan to use such a workforce to work on naval ships in Charleston, South Carolina, Bartlett told Janes in an interview on 29 April.

BMC hopes to prove out the concept through the recentlysigned labour deal and similar follow-on agreements. BMC has also proposed to construct and operate component repair facilities in northeast Ohio with an option to build a new public naval shipyard in Charleston.

US Navy (USN) officials have not officially acknowledged a desire to create a new naval shipyard to relieve some of the backlog burden in the existing four public yards, but service officials have noted to consider even extreme means to address the maintenance and shipbuilding capacity issues.

The USN has begun to revamp and improve its public yards. The BMC rotational template is meant as a complement to those efforts, not as an alternative, Bartlett said.

However, he said, “If [the] navy is still far behind, I suspect they'll be interested in another naval shipyard.”

The agreement allows BMC to recruit from the Boilermakers construction sector members across the country. It also allows BMC to deploy these personnel to any location nationwide with only the negotiation of a local addendum.

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