Bill to Bolster West Coast Ship Repair Industry Introduced

The BAE Systems ship repair facility in San Diego Harbor. Photo: Mark Nero.

U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) in July introduced the Smart Ship Repair Act (SSRA) of 2023, a bill that his office says promotes healthy market competition, transparency and the U.S. Navy’s continued access to West Coast private ship repair facilities.

Currently, the Navy can only use military service-owned docks to perform maintenance on its non-nuclear surface fleet even when openings exist in private yards. This practice, detractors have said, can disincentivize private sector investment in the ship repair market and threaten the labor force needed to support the Navy’s future fleet goals.

“The SSRA addresses this challenge by requiring the Navy to only use service-owned docks if there is insufficient private sector dock space,” Peters’ office said in a statement.

“San Diego is home to a vibrant ship repair industry that supports the Navy’s force posture in the Asia-Pacific,” Peters said. “This bill will further strengthen the San Diego-Navy partnership and ensure San Diego’s ship repair industry remains a leading national security partner as our country prepares for the threats of the future.”

The bill would also require the Secretary of the Navy to report to Congress when the Navy uses government docks when capacity in private yards exists and why and requires a study of how the Navy assesses costs unique to the ship repair industry.

“We thank Congressman Peters for his introduction of the Smart Ship Repair Act of 2023,” General Dynamics NASSCO President Dave Carver said. “This legislation reflects his dedication and hard work to ensure that Navy repair contracts are awarded based on fairness and transparency.”

 General Dynamics NASSCO is a San Diego-based shipbuilding company. Multinational corporation BAE Systems, which operates a ship repair facility in San Diego, said in a statement that Peters’ legislation “reflects the importance of Navy readiness and supports healthy competition, while encouraging industry to continue to invest in and maintain their drydocks.”

“This legislation is a step in the right direction to sustain a strong partnership between the Navy and industry to ensure the Pacific fleet’s warships are mission ready,” BAE Systems San Diego Ship Repair Vice President and General Manager Eric Icke said.

In its own statement, shipbuilding and repair company Austal USA said that the Smart Ship Repair Act of 2023 “is an important step in ensuring a stronger, more capable ship repair capability in the San Diego homeport area in particular.”