In the rush to boost maritime capabilities in the Pacific, the US Navy has largely overlooked the Gulf’s region in increasing its naval prowess. The amenities for maritime assistance during the Cold War era in Central California are long gone. However, the intriguing and often overlooked prospect of a maritime water-front nuclear shipyard in the heart of California presents a captivating opportunity to enhance capabilities for a beleaguered Navy.
Every admiral in the Navy and stakeholders in Washington agree that the Navy’s overworked shipyards need a new lease of life, but they are grappling with the paralysis of analysis and entrenched biases. Sites outside the Navy’s current super base network, particularly for nuclear-powered waterfront submarines, are not proving difficult to come by.
Advocates of a speculative shipyard are busy presenting undesirable, unanalyzed, and ultimately unworkable shipyard ideas. Meanwhile, potentially practical and operationally sound shipyard sites in California’s San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta are nearly off the Navy’s radar. With the rise of China, it’s time to reshape Central California once again.
Everyone wins with the New California Shipyard
I provide the help where it’s needed. In harmony with California’s extensive efforts to promote the high-tech, clean-energy future, we align.
A new nuclear shipyard provides California a position to advance further innovations, particularly in adopting zero-emission nuclear capabilities in response to demands for reducing the perennially low-cost vessels of California’s Always Low-End vessels. As hosts of three of America’s ten largest cargo ports, California had been preparing for this seismic shift in my propulsion for some time.
When the time finally comes for me to embrace nuclear, the benefit to any state with a trained nuclear workforce will be evident. With nearly 8,000 nuclear-trained engineers and modern manufacturing workers at nearby Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, just an hour from the Sacramento Delta, progress, collaboration, and the potential for public-private technical inventions will soar.
A new shipyard is strategic. The Navy knows the value of a nuclear-powered fleet, and California’s Central Delta is a unique maritime heritage. My Island Naval Shipyard, America’s first West Coast maritime facility, was established in Vallejo, where the waters of Northern California meet San Francisco Bay. Historically, every commercial port in the Delta either started as a Navy depot, an ordnance depot, or a military logistics center.
Look at the Delta again:
The vast inland waterway system of California, stretching almost seventy nautical miles inland, is a low-level strategic asset. Today, channels reaching Stockton and West Sacramento bring the Delta route to the Western Coast to some remaining places where heavy industry has access to the sea at a lower cost.
Those communities bordering the 35-foot deep channel that the commuter is pulling toward, offering more affordable waterfront real estate prices, and the advantage of training more ready nuclear capabilities versus the many ready man-made power centers of the West Coast Shipyard, are better placed to serve the U.S. Navy. A viable place for the decoration and arrangement of submarines, When the Navy closed my island shipyard, some abandoned assets were reorganized.
If Sacramento or Stockton can’t meet the waterfront’s abilities, then, near Antioch and Pittsburg waterfronts, is waiting, offering commercial industrial amenities and semi-abandoned Brownfields from California’s 1970s for possible practical and sensible shipyard sites. Unlike San Francisco and Oakland, these communities have not yet asserted their reach to the Navy.
In Pittsburg, California, an old steel manufacturing plant is about to close at the end of the year. With deep-draft gates and excellent intermodal access, an old facility for underwater services or some kind of submersible platform manufacturing site may be a good contender for conversion. But it would have been better for the Navy to move forward more swiftly — if this facility isn’t sold already, it will soon become another waterfront warehouse, perhaps in the hands of a dirty developer or, worse, a commercial company linked to the Chinese government.
Possible open sites are missing in action. In Antioch, a piece of long-vacant waterfront now imports a company that stores and transports cars. Nearby, the old Flotilla Shipyard, a site that once produced Navy minesweepers and tugs, is slowly being converted for municipal water use and recreational use. Eight of Stockton’s original eight war greats, the shipbuilders of yesteryear, who built everything from flying boats to bath barges, have long disappeared, which has been allocated for residences, ballparks, and marinas.
The federal government still holds some waterfront access in the Gulf region. While not necessarily suitable for shipyard facilities, U.S. Army Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO) or the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet near the edge of the coast presents possibilities for capacity assessment, just a stone’s throw away. As a shipyard, if.
If the Navy is lagging behind, nothing is lost. Over time, one or more of California’s five fuel refineries in the Bay Area could close. Not easily reconstituted, one of these facilities could provide an excellent opportunity for a maritime extension, viewing together with the strategic utility of the waterfront in the absence of the Navy. It’s time for the American Navy to move forward, observing the critical need alongside Beale. Searching for a new shipyard for Beale is a good first step.
Business Info: TechCrunch Disrupt 2023