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All Hands Make New Museum Ship-Shape

Friday, August 17, 2012

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With every inch of her 887-foot length gleaming in fresh coating, the legendary battleship USS Iowa is ready for her newest mission as Southern California’s newest maritime museum.

Launched in 1942 and battle-tested around the globe, the so-called  “Battleship of Presidents” has undergone a massive—even frenzied—transformation to ready her for her new Stateside role.

 Repairing the old ship’s mast was on the to-do list.

 Bay Ship & Yacht Co. / Dave Ashton

Repairing the old ship’s mast was on the to-do list.

The turnaround included an all-hands effort by marine contractor Bay Ship & Yacht Co.; PPG Industries; the Port of Richmond; and the Pacific Battleship Center.

Busting Rust, Dust, and Battle Scars

Although a former member of both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets during World War II, and a veteran of later service in Central America and the Persian Gulf, the Iowa (BB-61) had been gathering dust and rust in a ghost fleet when she was awarded to the Pacific Battleship Center on Sept. 6, 2011, through the U.S. Navy’s ship donation program.

The nonprofit group sought to give the ship new life as an interactive naval museum at the Port of Los Angeles, but it required the Mother of all Punch Lists to get the 70-year-old veteran back into shape.

For Mike Getscher, chief engineer and operations director for the USS Iowa, the list included:

• Revitalizing more than 1,000 staterooms and compartments, which meant inspecting and often replacing more than 1 million rivets, 16 miles of ventilation ducts, 80 miles of pipe, 900 electrical motors, 5,300 light fixtures and 250 miles of electrical cable; and 

• Replacing the ship’s rotting wooden deck and repair its rusting metal hull. The repainting task was made even more challenging by the need to address layers of old, flaking paint that had accumulated through decades of recoatings.

Project Challenges

In the spring of 2012, the Battleship Center selected Bay Ship & Yacht, of Alameda, CA, to preserve the ship. The contractor had worked on the Iowa when she was still part of a reserve fleet.

Bay Ship would have less than 10 weeks to paint the entire vessel from waterline to tip of mast, including all of her guns; reassemble and re-step the mast, which had been cut when the ship was mothballed in 2001; and abrasive-blast several tanks, bulkheads and all the waterways.

Adding to the challenge were the San Francisco Bay area's famously tough environmental regulations and chronically damp, chilly, windy climate, as well as the need to keep the vessel open to tourists and VIPs throughout the project.

 No other U.S. battleship has carried more presidents, giving the USS Iowa the nickname “The Battleship of the Presidents.”

No other U.S. battleship has carried more presidents, giving the USS Iowa the nickname “The Battleship of  Presidents.” At left, President and Nancy Reagan attended the Statue of Liberty centenary in front of Turret 1; at right is the bathtub installed for President Franklin Roosevelt.

Making It Work

The work was also performed at a remote site, so the company had to set up a supply line to the main yard to facilitate production. In all, about 40 to 50 blasters, painters and support personnel worked at least 10 hours a day, six days a week, rotating to keep crews fresh, said senior project manager David R. Ashton.

Ashton credits project manager Hector Trujillo with making the project work. Trujillo "developed a comprehensive plan, breaking the vessel into its component parts" and "designed a fast-track plan to allow the significant amount of scaffolding to stay ahead of his work while being removed and re-consumed as he passed through an area."

Although "not the most efficient way of painting the vessel," Ashton admits, the plan was critical "to accommodate a very short schedule." Trujillo "also had to vary his work schedule around weather to ensure that all time was used efficiently, rather than accept weather delays or losses."

Trujillo, in turn, credits "the cooperative nature of the PBC crew, to ensure the ship looked its best and was ready for public viewing."

Blasting and Painting

Crews performed 5,000 psi rotary nozzle hydro-blasting of the entire freeboard and superstructure to remove most of the loose and flaking paint, followed by mechanical preparation to SSPC SP-3.

On the main deck and parts of the 01 deck, most of the bulkheads were blasted up to eight feet above deck to SSPC SP-6, using 16/30 grit copper slag Black Beauty from Kleen Blast Abrasives, Ashton said.

From March to May, painting crews went to work, brushing, rolling and spraying on a system designed by PPG.

Coating System

The plan: PPG's 140 sealer over all mechanically prepared areas; followed by Amerlock 2 and Amercoat 240 anti-corrosive coats; and, finally, nearly 900 gallons of PPG's PSX ONE topcoat in five custom colors.

PPG's Protective and Marine Coatings division introduced the single-component acrylic-siloxane topcoat last year.

PPG-PMC sales representative Julio Mojica said he had recommended the product in part because of the ship's size.

"The original plan was to repaint the ship in dry dock, but it was simply too big," he said. "If we had to repaint the ship in the bay, we knew we wouldn't be able to sandblast or hydroblast the hull for environmental reasons."

PSX ONE "could be applied to the surface of the ship without any pretreatment," he said.

The single-component product speeded application, while the low-VOC, non-isocyanate formulation met the project's environmental requirements. PPG-PMC also says the coating has "unlimited recoatability" and will last 15 years.

Containment Demands

Environmental containment was a "very significant" part of the project, reports Ashton.

"We floated in two barges to capture all our wash water that we dammed up and contained on vessel," he said. "Our environmental process with the wash water was to dam it aboard the vessel; pump it to a special epoxy-coated containment tank to allow the sediment to settle out; [and then pump the water] to one of two barges that we moved onsite."

He added: "Later, those barges were pumped down with all fluid passing through our water scrubbing and processing plant to decontaminate it.  All solid waste was bagged and disposed of in the proper waste stream."

Other environmental measures included "the use of eco-netting to contain all spray, water and paint chips from becoming airborne; and negative-pressure, multiple-chamber sandblast areas with both dust collectors and dehumidifiers," Ashton said.

On the Move

In May, the warship was towed from Richmond, CA, to Southern California. Along the way, the Iowa participated in the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, where her 15-story mast barely squeezed under the landmark crossing.
On June 9, the ship made a 3.4-nautical-mile final journey to Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles. The ship that once carried 2,200 sailors bore hundreds elected officials, financial supporters, reporters, veterans and former crew members.

 The project involved nearly 900 gallons of paint, and the coating work was completed in 10 weeks.

 Jeremy Bonelle

The project involved nearly 900 gallons of paint, and the coating work was completed in 10 weeks.

On July 7, the Iowa opened as a naval museum in San Pedro, CA. In addition to touring the ship and virtually experiencing life at sea during active duty, visitors can look inside the powerful gun turret, climb inside the armored pilothouse, and visit the presidential stateroom.

‘One of the World’s Great Ships’

“The USS Iowa is one of the world’s great ships and a significant part of the historical fabric of America,” said Ashton. “Bay Ship & Yacht was delighted to play such an important role in preserving her for future generations to understand her historical significance.”

Getscher and Mojica also both took part in the ceremony and were thrilled at the ship’s appearance.

“She looked beautiful,” said Mojica. “Mike was happy. I was happy. Everybody was happy.”


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Corrosion; Industrial Contractors; Marine; Marine Coatings; Painters; U.S. Navy

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