Photo by Ashley Cowan

Work Begins to Reclaim Land at Dry Dock 3

Published November 23, 2021

A small ceremony in early November officially marked the beginning of the end for Newport News Shipbuilding’s Dry Dock 3.

John Anderson, NNS’ senior dockmaster, and other officials poured buckets of water into the dry dock as it was flooded likely for the last time, more than 100 years after its first flooding.

“The long-term plan is to fill in the dry dock to gain back real estate,” Anderson said. “We’re in the early stages where we need to flood the dock, scrap the dry dock gate and build a new bulkhead across the entrance.”

Dry Dock 3 is one of the three original timber dry docks built at NNS. Construction began in December 1905, and it officially opened in 1908. The dry dock was reconstructed in 1966 and docked its last vessel – Los Angeles-class submarine USS Tucson (SSN 770) – in 1996.

The dry dock had been modified over the years for a specific function – to dock an older class of submarines – and it became difficult to use for other purposes. In the 1990s, a decline in commercial ship repair work at NNS led to excess capacity, and in 2002 the company voluntarily decertified the dry dock.

To reclaim the land, crews will remove all steelwork like stairs, stanchions and piping systems, break up the concrete floor and walls, and fill the area with dirt. The ground will be suitable to drive piles for building construction if that’s how the company decides to use the space.

With NNS’ current workload at record levels – and waterfront space at a premium – Anderson said the multi-year project to reclaim the dry dock is important.

“This is the first dry dock we’ve ever decommissioned and planned to fill in,” he said. “This is definitely a unique project, and it’s part of the NNSFORWARD Strategy to make these kinds of investments into the plant. I’m excited because it’s unusable in its current state, and this will allow us to make it usable space again.”