No discussion of Philadelphia's rich nautical history would be complete without a weblog about the famous Philadelphia Naval Yard. Despite the extraordinary tale of the Philadelphia Experiment aside, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was the first Naval Shipyard commissioned in the United States. In 1799 the US Congress authorized $522,678 in funds for the purchase of land to establish the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The shipyard was originally located in the Southwark region of Philadelphia. However, with growth of the city, the shipyard was relocated to its present site.
Philadelphia NSY is on League Island in the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The original naval yard was established in 1801. The yard underwent numerous upgrades, primarily in the early part of the 20th century. In 1917, the Naval Aircraft Factory was established on the island. After World War I, the factory focused on the development and manufacture of experimental aircraft and aircraft accessories. During World War II, the shipyard constructed 53 ships and repaired 574. The workforce was greatly reduced after World War II, from 40,000 to 12,000. The Naval Aircraft Factory was re-designated the Naval Air Material Center in 1943, and became the Naval Air Engineering Center in 1963. In 1974, the Naval Air Engineering Center was relocated to Lakehurst, NJ. The last ship completely built at the yard was finished in 1970. In 1987, fleet carriers underwent service life extension at the yard.
The 1991 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended that the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard [PNSY] be closed but acknowledged that PNSY would perform the Service Life Extension Program for the USS. Kennedy from September 1993 until mid-1996. The work on the USS. Kennedy subsequently changed to a 24-month complex overhaul, which Congress required to be performed by PNSY. The Secretary of Defense concurred in this plan in September 1991. KENNEDY completed a two-year comprehensive overhaul in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on September 13, 1995 and then the Navy Shipyard closed on September 30, 1995.
The Navy Intermediate Ship Maintenance Facility (NIMSF) continued to store decommissioned and mothballed ships after the shipyard closed in the mid-1990s. In storage at the shipyard as of late 1995 were two battleships, one heavy cruiser, two aircraft carriers, two amphibious assault ships, two AEs, two AOs, two AORs, one AFS, four CGs, nine DDGs and seven FFs plus numerous small auxiliaries. These included the amphibious assault ships GUADALCANAL (LPH-7) and IWO JIMA (LPH-2); aircraft carriers SARATOGA (CV-60) and FORESTALL (CV-59); and the battleships IOWA (BB-61) and WISCONSIN (BB-64).
After months of intensive negotiations, on 21 October 1997 Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and Philadelphia Mayor Rendell signed an historic agreement with Kvaerner to to renovate and modernize the publicly owned yard. The shipyard project includes a public investment of $396 million in capital funding from federal, state and local sources. Public bodies will retain ownership in the yard and can recapture it should Kvaerner significantly reduce ship production.
Kvaerner is Europe's largest commercial shipbuilder, and an international engineering and construction company widely recognized as a world leader in high-tech transportation. In the deal with the city, Kvaerner committed to design and manufacture container and tanker ships using the world's most advanced robotics and software technology. The Philadelphia facility is Kvaerner's first American shipyard, and in the summer of 1998 the company established its North American headquarters in Philadelphia. Even though Kvaerner is actively involved in maintaining and running the shipyard, you can still see over 50 mothballed Navy vessels lining the northernmost docks of their shipyard within full view of Interstate 95.