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Federal Report Finds Poor Conditions At Kittery Shipyard

Jim Cole
Associated Press
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery in 2005.

A new analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds that the nation’s public shipyards remain in poor condition, putting naval readiness at risk — including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.

Zina Merritt, GAO director of defense capabilities issues, says Portsmouth’s most pressing challenge is buoyancy equipment for 40-year-old dry dock that helps to haul ships out of water. On paper, that equipment reaches the end of its useful life in 2021.

Despite that, Merritt says Portsmouth has the lowest backlog of general repairs needed among the four shipyards studied. But it will still take more than $800 million and 19 years to clear the backlog under current Navy spending plans.


“Portsmouth also has a little different challenge because of its size. It’s very small and there’s so much condemned, unusable facility space around it, and some of the prime real estate is being taken up by that, so they really have very little room to work and little room for growth,” Merritt says.

She says that 66 percent of ship work at Portsmouth was delayed last year because of maintenance issues. The GAO is making several recommendations, including creation of a new facility maintenance plan, better management and metrics, and regular reporting to Congress. The Navy says it agrees with those recommendations.