NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
Although Earth Day has long passed, the effort Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) puts forth to be environmentally friendly is a year round effort. In fact, the shipyard recently invested in a brand new and much needed piece of equipment for the Production Environmental Team (Code 990E)—a new wheeler tank cleaning vacuum system for oil removal on vessels while in dry dock.
Equipment Engineering Branch (Code 981) Engineering Technician and Capital Investment Program (CIP) Project Manager Kamau Adams inherited the project when he first came to be a part of the Equipment Management team. “I have carried this project from its cradle in 2015, all the way to its completion in 2020,” he said. “We only just recently received funding to carry out the project last year in 2019.”
To someone who is completely unfamiliar with NNSY’s water filtration process, what the new device does might not make sense. The way Adams and his team explain it, it removes the excess water from tanks onboard vessels that are contaminated with traces of oil, and eventually pumped to the Centralized Pier Pretreatment Unit (CPPU) that cleans the water and sends it out to river. “By the time the water is sent back to the river, it is cleaner than the river water itself,” said Code 990E Dry Dock Environmental Director Ian Womack.
In the past 30 years, the old wheeler has been put to use, but one can tell by looking at it that the delivery of the new one was timely. “Although it served its purpose and helped us get many jobs done, the old one was truly on its last legs,” Adams said.
“Moreover, it was getting harder to replace the parts and was almost as expensive to rent new ones as it was to buy one, so we figured the latter would be the better option,” Womack added.
To attain the equipment, the team provided a detailed justification to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) why it was needed and the long-term benefit. “Code 990E Environmental Zone Manager Patrick Williams assisted me when we did the NAVSEA CIP review of our work with this project,” Adams explained. “Anything I did not know the answer to, I just turned to him for help and he brought the answer home.”
“Once we, the production managers, received the funding, we conducted the Cost Based Analysis and the Performance Based Analysis to figure out the return investment,” Adams explained. “The return investment is how long it will take to gain as much money as we spent getting the new equipment—and it is going to save the shipyard a lot of money in the long run.”
After working with an outdated tank for so many years, getting new ones was like Christmas in August. The crew made it clear that they were grateful for the ability to invest in a much needed gift that keeps on giving. “These new ones are cleaner, the tanks holding the water are enclosed off from environmental exposure, and they provide a quieter and safer space for our mechanics,” Womack said.
The work involved in getting the new equipment, however, did not stop there. “We went through training with the mechanics from the company the tanks came from,” Adams said. “It took two days to train all of our mechanics from all three shifts.”
“These tests included operations, how to maintain the tank so it stays in good condition and lasts as long as possible, how to hook it up, and generally understanding the ins and outs of operating the system,” Williams added.
Although the team is finally succeeding in getting what they needed, they do not intend on stopping as they have already set their eyes on a new purchase. “As the main adjacent unit that works hand in hand with the tank in our water filtration process, the Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) unit that processes water from the wheeler tank will most likely be the new equipment we will be aiming for,” Williams said.
There will always be challenges in the way of completing the mission of fixing ships, but the team is counting on the new tanks to pave the path to success just a little wider. “In summary,” Adams explained, “personnel protection, protection of the tanks against the elements, and efficiency are the main reasons why these new tanks will provide a better way to dewater dry dock submarines moving forward and complete the mission—fix ships and return them to the fleet!”