Shipbuilding & Ship Repair
BARTLETT MARITIME CORPORATION
PRESSES FOR NAVY CONTRACT TO
INCREASE GREAT LAKES SHIPBUILDING
Capt. Ed Bartlett has a vision. If it turns into drydocks and vessels, it will bring shipbuilding – and an estimated 5,000 direct, permanent jobs – to Ohio through two privately owned companies. If successful, the Great Lakes would become a nucleus for renewing the nation’s military submarines as early as 2026.
Bartlett Maritime Corporation was formed in 2019 after extensive delays in submarine maintenance were spelled out in the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s GAO Report 19-229 titled, “Navy Readiness: Actions Needed to Address Costly Maintenance Delays Facing the Attack Submarine Fleet.”
Bartlett and a board of directors set out to provide a solution. The Bartlett Maritime Plan provides details on a new shipyard, manufacturing facility and two ATBs to move the U.S. Navy submarines into the system for repairs and maintenance. Given a firm contract with the Navy, Bartlett will proceed with building two Ohio-based companies – American Naval Depot in Lordstown and American Naval Shipyard in Lorain.
GAO Report Details
The report was released in 2018. It states, “Navy shipyards have been unable to keep up with maintenance demands for attack submarines. As a result, the Navy has spent $1.5 billion since 2008 to support submarines that it could not deploy.”
An example, the USS Boise – one of 51 attack subs – was docked for two years while waiting for maintenance, with the Navy paying to support it. This is just one delay that created a 10-year gap between the sub’s deployments. The GAO report also found that the nation’s submarine fleet lost more than 10,300 days of availability during the previous decade.
While much of the report is classified, one declassified recommendation is that the Navy assess how it allocates maintenance between public and private shipyards. It challenges restricting use to overbooked public yards.
In a podcast about the report, John Pendleton, director of GAO’s Financial Markets & Community Investment team, says that site visits to both types of yards showed public yards at or above capacity for years.
“We recommend the Navy take a look at the costs and benefits of using private shipyards capacity,” Pendleton adds. “And, in general, be more strategic in how they allocate maintenance work.”
While shipyard shortage for the subs existed before the GAO report was published, Bartlett says it was not known outside the Navy. Since discovering the problem, he has formed Bartlett Maritime Corporation and worked behind the scenes to detail its multimillion-dollar, multi-year solution.
“We’re ready to go,” says the former master/captain with the U.S. Coast Guard. What isn’t ready is the Naval contract and the information needed to determine specifications for the shipyard and manufacturing facility.
In 2018, the Navy announced a 20-year, $21 billion effort to modernize and optimize its four public shipyards: Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Washington and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. Bartlett proposes a public-private partnership that includes building the shipyard and manufacturing facility with public funds. The corporation would operate the shipyard for 30 years, at which time, ownership would transfer to the Navy.
Bartlett chose Ohio for both companies because of the state’s Industrial Revenue Bond Program, which provides businesses access to the national capital market to help fund economic development projects. Businesses, manufacturers, nonprofits and governments can access long-term, fixed interest loans and, under some circumstances, can access the bond fund’s tax-exempt issuing authority, according to DevelopOhio.
The state’s ports are primary handlers of these bonds. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority was the first port in the state to create a bond fund. Since then, more than 575 projects representing an investment of more than $2 billion have helped create about 19,000 jobs. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority issued these bonds to help draw Amazon to the area.
The Navy also has access to an existing federal lease-purchase program to acquire facilities through bond repayments. The three-way public-private partnership – Bartlett’s company, the Navy and the state – would provide capital. Bartlett says that state bonds would provide capital for constructing the facilities, and they would be backed by a 30-year lease-purchase agreement by the Navy. The formal proposal has been submitted to the Navy.
“All of the work we’ve done so far has been independently funded without any Navy input,” he says. “Now we need to get the Navy engaged. We need to know exactly what they want the facilities to contain to build them to the specifications.”
While most of the work has occurred locally and without much fanfare, Bartlett Maritime Corporation recently signed a cooperation agreement with the AFL-CIO that supports implementation of the Bartlett Maritime Plan in Ohio.
“The labor agreement provides for workers to build the physical shipyard and company plant,” says James “Jimmy” Hart, president of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department at its Washington, D.C. office. “We commonly join with manufacturing and contracting partners on labor agreements to help move projects forward.”
Public announcements of the agreement prompted media coverage. Bartlett says he hopes the attention helps persuade the secretary of the Navy, U.S. Department of Defense and even the White House to encourage the needed lease/purchase agreement with the Navy.
According to Bartlett, the future of the shipyard and manufacturing facility have moved from the technical/planning realm to the political realm. He hopes the union and mounting Great Lakes congressional support will help finalize the contract.
“We’re committed to taking this project over the goal line,” Hart says. “We’re all working with delegations, the department of the Navy and the White House to answer all the questions and build a consensus on this project.”
“When we get involved in something, we do our due diligence,” Hart adds. “We have a long relationship with Capt. Bartlett that goes back 12 or 13 years. He’s a credible businessman, and when he brings something to the table, we take it seriously.”
Details on the Plan
The American Naval Shipyard proposed for Lorain would be located near Lake Erie and along the Black River. It would have two drydocks in an enclosed Integrated Drydock Production Facility, according to the plan. Between 2,000 and 3,000 workers would work on the subs.
American Naval Depot in Lordstown would involve greenfield construction. It would be built with growth in mind, Bartlett says, to support Columbia Class component manufacturing. It’s forecast that the facility would employ between 500 and 1,000.
Bartlett Maritime Corporation’s plan could bring geographic diversity and expand the labor pool for Navy submarine work. Of the Navy’s current drydocks for the subs, 10 are listed as “acceptable” and eight as requiring upgrades through the Navy’s 20-year Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program.
While Bartlett says the company has not settled on a specific location for the shipyard in Lorain, it has settled on a “preferred” location for the Lordstown depot. Property purchases would follow securing the Navy contract.
“The landowner there is favorably disposed to support this project,” he says. “In Lorain, there are several sites under consideration – all on the Black River. Several landowners in Lorain have contacted us and are very interested in having their properties used for the shipyard. We expect to select the site during the first six-month planning period.”
That planning period would also involve demonstrating a comprehensive facility acquisition plan for both companies and the proposed workforce development plan.
The third reason Bartlett selected Ohio for the new shipyard duo is available workforce. While building the plan, Bartlett consulted with the state of Ohio on available workforce. And since going public, he says he’s had “an overwhelming response from people who would like to work in these plants, including people who grew up here, have moved away and want to come home.”
Lorain’s shipbuilding dates back to constructing wooden sailing vessels near the mouth of the Black River. The sloop General Huntington was the first boat launched from Lorain in 1819, according to Lorain County.
Shipbuilding progressed into Cleveland Shipbuilding Company, the precursor for American Shipbuilding Company. Through economic ups and downs, and even a tornado that caused extensive shipyard damage in 1924, the industry remained a relevant employer until the Lorain yard was closed in 1983. The last ship built in the city was William DeLancy, a 1,013-foot laker.
According to Hart, union labor would be used to construct and operate both locations. While construction is underway, training would occur with workers being assigned to work elsewhere until the jobs in Lorain and Lordstown were available.
The mayors of both communities support the projects for what they would bring – or return – to the area. Like the AFL-CIO, they have provided letters of support to Bartlett Maritime Corporation in its pursuit of the contract.
“Lorain has a great shipbuilding history,” local mayor Jack Bradley says. “We produced ships during the second world war for the military effort, and we continued to do so through the American Shipbuilding Company. We have a proud history of working on vessels here in our city. I saw this as an opportunity to return to that tradition.”
“I first heard about this plan shortly after the GM plant shut down here,” Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill says. “I took Capt. Bartlett around to see the potential sites for the maintenance plant.”
In addition to the AFL-CIO, the Seafarers Union has been contacted about the project. Bartlett says those ship operators would be hired to operate the sub’s transport carriers, which could be built at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. (See the story on page 17 for details on the specialized vessels needed to move the submarines to and from the shipyard.)
“This project has elicited so much emotional support in the community,” Hart says. “I’m hearing from old-time workers who worked the shipyards in Lorain and lost their jobs when they shut down and moved away and from family members who stuck it out in these towns because they believed in these communities and wanted to keep their families together. Let’s break ground.”
According to Bartlett the project seeks to complement the public yards, expanding Naval shipyard capacity and capability “to restore and maintain full fleet readiness.”
Janenne Irene Pung ■
MEET THE TEAM
Nelson “Spence” Spencer Jr.
Nelson “Spence” Spencer, Jr. is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bound Media Group as well as publisher of Great Lakes/Seaway Review. Additionally he is the third generation Spencer to man the helm as publisher of The Waterways journal, a 134-year-old weekly trade journal, and for other Bound Media Group’s publications, such as Marina Dock Age, International Dredging Review (IDR), the Inland River Guide, Inland River Record and Quimby’s Cruising Guide.
After graduating from DePauw University and working for a law firm in Denver, Spence joined The Waterways Journal staff in advertising sales and then also as business manager until he worked his way to being named publisher. With a passion for growing B2B and B2C connections that server consumers and businesses alike, Spence continue to develop media publications to serve its constituents far into the future.
Janenne Irene Pung has been Editor of Great Lakes/Seaway Review for 16 years. During her time with the magazine, she has represented the company at binational meetings, more fully activated the Editorial Advisory Board, developed new departments and evolved editorial styles.
Prior to joining Harbor House Publishers, Pung worked in mainstream media as a reporter and editor. She then moved into risk communications for the nuclear industry, documenting (visually and in writing) and communicating the process of decommissioning a plant and returning the lakeside property to a natural state.
In addition to being a professional, Pung is a wife and mother. She teaches life skills at a woman’s transition home and is a member of the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office Victim Services Unit. In both roles, she helps people work through trauma.
Digital Media Director
As Digital Media Director with Bound Media Group, my desire is to help develop effective digital strategies for our advertising partners across all our publications. Whether it is a custom print publication or advertising in one of our many properties such as The Waterways Journal, Harbor House or High Plains Journal, I am here to help you navigate the digital landscape.
I also have my own film company and enjoy teaching at Wichita State University and Southwestern College such as film production, storytelling, editing, computer science, web development, business strategies and marketing.
“For years, Great Lakes/Seaway Review was the monster project in our office that I didn’t have to tackle. When becoming Creative Director, I was nervous about the daunting task of designing the magazine. Since then, the team has worked hard to modernize our look and make the magazine as beautiful as it is informative.”
“Growing up, the Great Lakes were a place to swim and watch sunsets. After helping produce the magazine, I’ve learned that they are home to an entire network of companies which provide materials that support my everyday life. Each time I send the magazine to press and help prepare the digital edition, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment.”
Michelle Cortright is Publisher-Emeritus of Great Lakes/Seaway Review and Harbor House Publishers. She purchased the business from her father, diversifying the company into custom publications for chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. It has and continues to assist in regional business growth by creating business magazines, visitor guides and aiding clients with image development.
As Publisher, Cortright oversaw every aspect of product creation, which encompassed the editorial and business sides of print, digital and mobile publications. She met with our clients, which we consider true partners, spearheaded business development and was always looking ahead for “the next thing.”
She is the mother of an adult son, who is now a business owner in the same town, and is married to Rod Cortright, who pretends to be retired but remains involved as our corporate pilot and jack-of-all-trades.
“For several years I worked with a Mackinac Island, Michigan-based company and had the pleasure of photographing and taking videos of vessels passing through the Straits of Mackinac, especially the Round Island passage. My love and admiration for them was formed—and continues to grow. I now have the pleasure of working in the maritime industry and understand how important and vital these vessels are to our region and the economy. My goal is to work with our partners in the industry to help us all reach our collective best in the years ahead.”
Senior Account Manager
“Great Lakes/Seaway Review knits together every aspect of the Great Lakes commercial maritime industry from deckhands to CEOs to ports.”
Senior Account Manager
“I’ve known the magazine since Volume 1, first as a consultant in St. Paul working with Great Lakes clients and later as the Great Lakes Commission Executive Director, partnering with Jacques LesStrang. The last 30 years, I’ve worked on the inside.
“What makes Great Lakes/Seaway Review different is informed advocacy. Everything in the magazine is informed, factual and researched. We have spearheaded and partnered in research that led us to advocate for season extension, forgiveness of Seaway debt and removal of tolls, designation of the Fourth Seacoast, recognition and control of invasive species and many other issues benefitting the system today.
“Informed advocacy draws people to Great Lakes/Seaway Review for information and understanding—and it’s what makes it valuable to our advertisers and our readers.”
“Any successful business relies on timely, accurate information to stay ahead in their industry. Great Lakes/Seaway Review magazine is a trusted source of news and analysis of information needed by all members of the maritime community.”
“Historically, many of my family members have traveled the Great Lakes as ship captains, first mates and engineers. In fact, I had a family member perish when the Bradley went down in November 1958. As a child, my aunt would take me to the port in Rogers City to watch the ships load and unload their cargo. The mystique and beauty of the Great Lakes have been of particular interest to me.
“For the past 26 years, I have had the privilege of working with this talented team, which truly supports and advocates for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system.”
“I have early childhood memories of my dad loading us in the car on a Sunday afternoon and driving up to the Soo to watch the boats go through the locks, eat ice cream and buy saltwater taffy. I still go several times during the season. I have always loved that you can talk to the sailors on the ships—asking them where they’ve been and what they’re hauling. It’s like the whole world is at your doorstep.”
“Lake ports can grow no faster than shipping will permit. Shipping cannot grow beyond the capabilities of the ports. Yet neither has come close to reaching their present potential and will not until the savings in time and in dollars is fully understood by those who make the decisions on how and when and where to move goods. To the ends of development and information, the Seaway Review dedicates itself.”
Editor from 1985-2003
“Jacques LesStrang, founder of Great Lakes/Seaway Review, had many talents, or “skill sets,” as we say today. But one that served him particularly well throughout his career as a writer, editor, publisher, publicist, etc., was his knack for knowing a good story when he saw it. And the story he recognized in 1969—the 10th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway—was as good as it gets. In fact, that story was so good it is still being told today, 50 years later.
“The publication created by LesStrang, or “J.L.” as his staff knew him, to mark the Seaway’s 10th anniversary was so well done, and so well received, that it grew legs, as it were, and took off running as a full-color, high-quality quarterly which became the most widely recognized chronicler of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system. Having Great Lakes/Seaway Review continue in that role today speaks volumes about the ongoing commitment of the current Publisher Michelle Cortright to Jacques LesStrang’s vision and high standards. Staying competitive in today’s information scrum is challeng-ing, to say the least, for print media. It requires dynamic, well-researched, topical content presented accurately and in a visually compelling format. In other words, it requires telling a good story. That was true in 1969, it is still true today and nobody tells it better than Great Lakes/Seaway Review.”