The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNS) is a US Department of Navy facility that repairs, overhauls, and maintains Navy ships, including nuclear-powered ships. Drydocks, cranes, waste-handling facilities, and offices are located at the shipyard. Activities supporting nuclear propulsion systems are performed in accordance with the requirements and authority of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, a joint DOE and U.S. Department of Navy program responsible for all activities relating to naval nuclear propulsion.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is located about 50 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts, at the southernmost tip of Maine. The shipyard itself is on an island in Kittery, Maine, across from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, near the mouth of the Piscataqua River.
The shipyard encompasses about 297.45 acres including the main base and a non-contiguous family housing site. The total number of buildings is 348, with over 4 million square feet of space. This total includes 49 ship repair/overhaul building with 1,524,512 square feet. The shipyard has three dry docks ranging up to SSBN and SSN 688 Class capability and 6,224 lineal feet of berthing. The berthing is comprised of six submarine berths (of varying class capability) ranging from only parking capability with no services to repair berths for yard and service craft. The facilities current plant value is $1,363,658,279. Plant equipment is valued at $473,507,075.
The civilian work force population at Portsmouth NSY decreased to a level of approximately 4,100 permanent employees in 1994. The military work force totaled 114 (not including forces afloat). Civilian payroll for FY94 was $235.9M.
The Portsmouth Harbor, about three nautical miles from the deep water of the Atlantic Ocean, is accessible year round via the Piscataqua River channel. The river channel is a minimum of 35 feet deep at mean low water and 400 feet wide. A Coast Guard station is located at New Castle near the harbor entrance.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, as the most experienced naval shipyard in submarine design, construction, modernization, and maintenance, is diversifying in the very deep ocean submersible and special operations arenas. It is the planning yard for the Navy's deepest diving submarine and submersible as well as other scientific research, defense prototype testing and submerged rescue platforms. It developes advance technologies and knowledge associated with this environment, including robotics, lighting, compensating systems, manipulators, search sonar, laser communications, material studies, thermal electric cooling and composites.
The construction of naval vessels along the banks of New England's Piscataqua River dates from the year 1690 when the HMS Falkland was built for the British Royal Navy. Naval shipbuilding and repair activities increased in following years, and warships built or fitted out by private shipyards located on the Piscataqua, such as John Paul Jones' USS Ranger, figured prominently in American naval history. However, it was not until 1800 that a permanent shipyard devoted exclusively to the construction and repair of vessels for the United States Navy was established at the mouth of the Piscataqua.
In 1798 the United States Congress established the Navy Department; and the following year, in an effort to build a naval force adequate for the maritime defense of the fledgling nation, the Congress authorized the construction of six vessels of a new class of frigates. Prior to this decision all American naval vessels had been built in private shipyards, but the private shipyards of the era were too small, lacking both the dockage and warehousing space, for the task of building this new class of frigate. The Secretary of the Navy proposed the establishment of publicly owned shipyards to cope with the problems of building these specialized warships.
Between 1800 and 1801, the Secretary of the Navy selected six sites along the eastern seaboard for the establishment of publicly owned shipyards. The first of these publicly owned shipyards was the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which was established on June 12, 1800, on an island located in the Piscataqua estuary. In the following years shipbuilding facilities were erected and a detachment of United States Marines was detailed to provide security for this new shipyard. In 1814 the 74 gun ship-of-the-line Washington, the first naval vessel to bear the name of the first president of the United States, was constructed, effectively demonstrating that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was fully capable of building state-of-the-art warships. In the years between the launching of the Washington and the beginning of the tragic American Civil War, a total of 13 vessels for the United States Navy were constructed at what was becoming known as the "Cradle of American Shipbuilding."
Following the conclusion of the American Civil War new ship construction continued at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, but at a much reduced pace. The shipyard continued to be the site of significant events in U.S. naval history, however. The USS Constitution, the most famous vessel in American naval history, was berthed at the shipyard as a receiving ship and floating warehouse.
In 1884, the survivors of the ill-fated Greely Arctic Expedition arrived at the shipyard to recuperate from their ordeal following their being stranded in the Arctic. In 1898, during and after the Spanish-American War, over 1,600 Spanish prisoners of war were quartered on the shipyard.Shortly after the turn of the century, the shipyard expanded and modernized. The centerpiece of this modernization was the construction of a large granite dry dock. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt persuaded the belligerents in the Russo-Japanese War to end their conflict. Russian and Japanese delegates met at the neutral site selected by President Roosevelt, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and negotiated the historical Treaty of Portsmouth. For his efforts as a mediator and bringing the two warring parties together, President Roosevelt was awarded the first Nobel Prize for Peace.
World War I saw the expansion of the shipyard's work force to nearly 5,000 people. Significantly, the shipyard took on a new and important role--the construction of submarines--in addition to the overhaul and repair of surface vessels. World War II swelled the civilian employment rolls to almost 25,000 men and women. During World War II over 70 submarines were constructed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and three submarines were launched on the same day. No other public or private shipyard matched Portsmouth's record of supplying this important class of warship to the fleet.
Following World War II the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was the Navy's center for submarine design and development. The research submarine, USS Albacore, with its revolutionary "tear-drop" shaped hull and round cross-section, set the standard for all subsequent submarine hull design world-wide.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard continued to build submarines until 1969, when the last submarine built in a public shipyard, the nuclear powered USS Sand Lance, was launched. Today, the oldest but the most modern publicly owned naval shipyard in the United States takes pride in being the Navy's leading shipyard for submarine overhaul and repair, and employs people in more than 44 trades and professions.
Among the many functions performed are:
Specialized industrial shipyard capabilities include: