A Spa for A Ship?

TS Kennedy in dry dock

… Well, not really that kind of spa. The Academy’s largest classroom, the USTS Kennedy, is headed for a major nautical procedure at the GMD Shipyard Corp located in the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York. In keeping with United States Coast Guard regulations, the Kennedy must dry dock twice every five years.  The last time was in 2015. According to Captain Mike Campbell, “The primary focus of this maintenance trip is to actually dry-dock the ship.  She will be guided into a “graving dock”.

The gates are then closed and the water is pumped out, allowing the ship to rest on “keel blocks”.  Once there, all overboard valves are removed for conditioning and inspection. The sea chests are checked for deterioration and underwater equipment like electronic catholic protection and depth sounder transducers are inspected.  The spa part happens when the bottom is high-pressure water sprayed, then re-painted with anti-fouling paint and the above water hull also water sprayed and repainted. While the ship is in dry-dock, hull thickness gauging measured, internal tank inspections, anchor chain ranging, and repainting involving the removal of the propeller. Hull thickness gauging involves a detailed evaluated by more than 1,000 ultrasound “shots”.

Like any exclusive spa center, Kennedy’s treatments come at a cost and safety doesn’t come cheap. The sabbatical of MMA’s largest classroom will cost the Department of Marine Transportation Maritime Administration approximately $6M and will have to be done again in 2020.  Even though the Academy is fastidious in its maintenance of all buildings and grounds, special care is paid to the upkeep of the training ship. Every year it carries a precious cargo of cadets, our maritime future, across wide expanses of open ocean. The Academy’s splendid, refurbished grande dame is expected to return home refreshed and rejuvenated in May where she is then scheduled to deploy with Texas Maritime cadets for their summer seaterm which will arrive back to Buzzards Bay in time to welcome the class of 2022.