A Barrio Logan shipyard will celebrate the ongoing construction of its newest ship, the USNS John Lewis, with a special ceremony Monday where its namesake will weld his initials into the ship.
The National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, known as NASSCO, will hold what’s called a keel laying ceremony Monday, which serves as a ceremonious recognition of the ship’s construction. NASSCO began construction in September 2018.
USNS John Lewis is the first of six new T-AO 205 fleet oilers NASSCO is building for the U.S. Navy.
"I went to school for welding, and when they came to us presenting the opportunity, I just felt it was a gut instinct -- that's what I need to do," said new employee Tyler Altiamirano.
The shipbuilder has stepped up its outreach to community colleges and vocational schools, as it looks to hire additional trades workers.
"Typically in the marine business, in the shipyard, it's a very cyclical work," said NASSCO Vice President of Operations Bill Cuddy. "We have highs and we have lows, depending on the contracts. We can already look out a decade and have steady employment. That is very unusual for us."
NASSCO executives are hopeful its $3-billion-dollar contract for the six naval oilers could extent into a commitment for 20 ships.
The Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan, submitted to Congress in March, calls for an additional 14 fleet oilers.
"The Navy, for some period of time, let that fleet of ships really age. Now as they've made the choice to increase the fleet size in the Navy, they're looking at a lot of the auxiliary ships that will need to be replaced," Cuddy told NBC 7.
The ships will be used primarily to deliver fuel to carrier strike groups and aircraft carriers. They can also transport fresh water and small amounts of dry cargo.
USNS John Lewis is scheduled for delivery to the Navy by the end of 2020.
In July, NASSCO will begin work on the second oil tanker, the USNS Harvey Milk.
Construction on all six ships is expected to finish by the end of 2023.
The ship’s namesake, civil rights leader and current Georgia Congressman John Lewis, is scheduled to attend Monday's keel laying ceremony.
The ship's sponsor, actress Alfre Woodard, will weld her initials, along with Lewis, onto a steel plate that will be affixed to the ship.
The ceremony is open to invited guests.