NAVSEA Comments on Rusty Navy Ships
A recent report states that streaks of rust on U.S. Navy warships have attracted the attention of active and retired navy personnel, after comments on social media sites began pointing out the Navy’s switch to environmentally friendly paint. According to the report, an inquiry was sent to the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) for comment.
In August of last year, the rust streaks on U.S. Navy ships reportedly became apparent to Navy officers who worry about the ships’ appearances, impressions, standards and reputation when deployed. According to Naval News, U.S. Navy ships appear “old and worn” in comparison to foreign navies, according to Naval News.
About the Ships
Naval News reportedly sent an inquiry to the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in May, seeking answers to new questions and comments about the rust streaks. According to the report, an answer was received from NAVSEA public affairs the following month, on June 5.
“NAVSEA has worked successfully for decades to improve the corrosion-control performance of coatings while simultaneously reducing the adverse impact of coatings on the environment. In the 1990s, Navy tank coatings had a performance life of five to seven years, but emitted paint solvents when applied,” wrote Jamie Koehler of NAVSEA Public Affairs in an email.
“NAVSEA worked with domestic and foreign commercial coating manufacturers to develop ultrahigh solids epoxy tank coatings that do not contain any paint solvent. Since these coatings were first applied in the early 2000s, many coated tanks have remained corrosion-free for 15 to 20 years. These coatings are required on all Navy ships and have contributed to extending the drydocking periodicities.”
The “rusty-brown” streaks on the Navy ships reportedly point out how the high-operational “tempo” of the U.S. Navy and the backlog of ship maintenance has led to the battered appearance of Navy ships.
Officers in the Navy, when interviewed, reportedly said that one solution to the issue is that the Navy build more ships to replace the old ones. Specifically, the report states that the new USS Constellation-class frigates (FFG 62) and new Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) destroyers will help this issue, in addition to ship overhauls and service life extensions on old hulls.
“NAVSEA has had similar success in transitioning the fleet from silicone alkyd topside coatings that required reapplication, to new high-performance and environmentally acceptable polysiloxane coatings that provide extended service life. Because of the durability and color stability of polysiloxane coatings, ship’s force is able to use water solvent cleaning kits to clean paint without emitting harmful chemicals into the environment. NAVSEA also has adopted high-performance powder coatings for use on topside parts as powder coatings are inherently hard, durable, and color stable, and contain no paint solvents. NAVSEA maintains lists of qualified polysiloxane coatings to ensure price competition between suppliers,” Koehler continued.
“NAVSEA is also the current world leader in adopting metal-based, thermal spray nonskid technologies. NAVSEA researchers are actively involved in efforts such as the National Shipbuilding Research Program that is investigating technologies like drones and robots for coating applications. To date, the most successful use of robotic processes to coat Navy ships has been associated with the metallic nonskid coatings. In this process, a robot is used to apply the thermal spray coating to the flight deck in a controlled, consistent manner.”
In a follow-up inquiry, Naval News asked NAVSEA again why U.S. Navy ships appear so rusty in more recent years.
“The U.S. Navy has an inherently high operational tempo [around the world]. The vast majority of Navy ships are made of steel, which incurs corrosion from exposure to seawater. As such, any scratches or wear in coatings that expose steel on ships will result in corrosion and rust staining. It’s important to note that for our ships and crews, shipboard preservation never stops,” replied Koehler an another email from June 16.
“Our crews devote considerable time and effort to preserving and maintaining the interior-exterior areas of ships while balancing operational requirements and adhering to Navy shipboard procedures and environmental regulations. We take a methodical approach to preserving our ships, synchronizing efforts with other maintenance requirements to ensure ships are ready and fully mission capable.”
Additionally, regarding the destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55)—which had reportedly spent 215 days at sea—the U.S. Navy’s Mass Communications Specialist 1st class Jason Pastrick stated that the ship’s rust was removed quickly, and the ship was repainted after its return to Naval Station Norfolk in October. According to the report, the USS Stout’s maintenance illustrates the Navy’s “never-ending battle” against the weather and the sea.
In an article from The Washington Times last year, Admiral Mike Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations, said about the ships' rust: “Appearance is important. You’ve got to look sharp. We’re the world’s premier navy, [and] we’ve got to look like it.”