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National Steel and Shipbuilding Company

Coordinates: 32°41′25″N 117°08′21″W / 32.690163°N 117.139277°W / 32.690163; -117.139277
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National Steel and Shipbuilding Company
Company typeSubsidiary
Founded1905; 119 years ago (1905)
San Diego, California
Number of locations
San Diego, California; Norfolk, Virginia; Mayport, Florida; Bremerton, Washington
Key people
David Carver[1] (President)
ParentGeneral Dynamics
The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) in dry dock at NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. The 840-foot ship is the largest that can be accommodated in NASSCO's drydock.

National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, commonly referred to as NASSCO, is an American shipbuilding company with four[2] shipyards located in San Diego, Norfolk, Bremerton, and Mayport. It is a division of General Dynamics. NASSCO owns a subsidiary manufacturing facility with TIMSA in Mexicali, Mexico. The San Diego shipyard specializes in constructing commercial cargo ships and auxiliary vessels for the US Navy and Military Sealift Command; it is the only new-construction shipyard on the West Coast of the United States.[3] NASSCO performs ship repairs and conversions for the United States Navy in all four shipyard locations: San Diego, Norfolk, Bremerton, and Mayport.


The origin of NASSCO traces to 1905 and a small machine shop and foundry known as California Iron Works.[4][5] In 1922 California Iron Works was taken over by United States National Bank of San Diego (USNB) and renamed National Iron Works.[6] In 1933, USNB was bought by C. Arnholt Smith who thereby also took control of National Iron Works, which formed the first foundation of Smith's non-banking business activities in San Diego. USNB and National Iron Works were key elements in Smith's rise to becoming a San Diego business and political powerbroker in subsequent decades, including being first owner of the San Diego Padres. National Iron Works came with a shipyard, which expanded significantly during World War II.[7]

In 1944 National Iron Works moved to its present location at 28th Street and Harbor Drive on San Diego Bay and in 1949 the company was renamed National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. to reflect the shipyard.[8] National Iron Works built some important San Diego structures, such as some of the plants in which Convair manufactured aircraft for World War II. In this way, Smith came to have an interest in real estate and hotels. After the war, the shipyard made some of the first steel-hulled deep-sea purse seiner tuna boats, through which Smith consolidated local tuna businesses, controlling both ships and the canneries. These business were grouped into Smith's later holding company, Westgate-California Corporation.[9][10][11]

However, in 1959 Smith sold National Steel and Shipbuilding to four other corporations, including Kaiser Industries and Morrison-Knudsen.[12] In 1979 Morrison-Knudsen bought out Kaiser's share, and in 1989 management acquired the company from Morrison-Knudsen via an employee stock ownership plan.[13]

In 1940 the company's ironworkers organized into a union.[14] By 1979 the company had 7,900 employees organized into six unions. There was a labor strike in 1988 in which employees demanded a minimum wage of $12 per hour.[15] A 25-day strike in 1992 resulted in workers returning to work without a contract.[16] In 1996, a further strike hit the company. Around 2,700 employees stayed home while 50 marched in front of the company with picket signs.[17]

In 1991, NASSCO established the subsidiary manufacturing facility of Tecnologias Internacionales de Manufactura, S.A. de C.V. (TIMSA) located in Mexicali, Mexico.

In 1998 General Dynamics bought NASSCO in a $415 million deal.[18]

On October 31, 2011 General Dynamics-NASSCO acquired Metro Machine Corp, a surface-ship repair company in Norfolk, Virginia, and renamed it NASSCO-Norfolk.[19] The company had been conducting ship repairs and conversions for the U.S. Navy since 1972. NASSCO-Norfolk has two locations in Norfolk and Portsmouth VA. The NASSCO-Norfolk shipyard had the newest dry dock in the country, with two auto-start generators, automated ballast control system and automated ship hauling and centering system.[20]

In December of 2014, NASSCO established NASSCO-Bremerton in Washington and NASSCO-Mayport in Florida, in support of expanding NASSCO's Repair capabilities across the nation.

Work done[edit]

The guided-missile frigates USS Vandegrift (FFG-48) and USS Curts (FFG-38) conduct a double dry-docking at NASSCO

NASSCO began building commercial cargo ships in 1959, eventually including large cargo ships and Alaska-class oil tankers. Its most famous commercial ship was the Exxon Valdez tanker, which completed construction at NASSCO in 1986, and in 1989 returned to NASSCO for repairs after its accident and oil spill in Alaska.[21] In December 2012 the company signed a contract to build two 764-foot (233 m) container ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). When completed they will be the largest LNG-powered ships of any kind in the world.[22]

Beginning in the 1990s the company won Navy contracts to build AOE-10 support ships, strategic sealift ships, and TOTE Orca-class trailerships. Additional Navy contracts awarded during the 2000s included maintenance of the San Diego-based USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) and USS Spruance (DD-963) warships. In 2001 the Navy awarded NASSCO its largest order in company history, to build the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships (T-AKE), a 14-ship program with a contract value of $3.7 billion. The company has a contract to build at least three Mobile Landing Platform ships, a new class of ship for the U.S. Navy.[23] Construction on the first vessel began in July 2011 and the keel was laid for the second in December 2012.[24] In 2016, Matson, Inc ordered two Kanaloa-class freighters, to be delivered near the end of the decade.[25]


  1. ^ "General Dynamics Taps New Leader for Electric Boat". USNI News (Press release). 13 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Who we are" (Press release). Archived from the original on 2015-05-21. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  3. ^ Ronald D. White (July 3, 2011). "Full steam ahead for Nassco shipyard in San Diego". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ Linder, Bruce (2001). San Diego's Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 64–65 (photo insert). ISBN 1-55750-531-4.
  5. ^ [1] "San Diego-based NASSCO's history to date" 29 Nov 2005
  6. ^ US Board of Tax Appeals (1931). Reports of the United States Board of Tax Appeals, Volume 22. p. 383. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  7. ^ C. Arnholt Smith, in his own words – part 1, San Diego Reader, March 19, 1992
  8. ^ Kimber M. Quinney; Thomas J. Cesarini (2009). San Diego's Fishing Industry. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 55, 110. ISBN 9780738559926. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  9. ^ Tuna: A San Diego fish story, San Diego Union-Tribune, June 16, 2012
  10. ^ Tampering with Justice in San Diego, Life Magazine, March 24, 1972, pg 30
  11. ^ Starr, Kevin (2011). Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963. Oxford University Press. p. 66. ISBN 9780195153774.
  12. ^ Report of the Commission on American Shipbuilding, Volume III, Annexes IA-IE. US Commission on American Shipbuilding. 1973. p. 431. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  13. ^ "California Yard Got Controversial Ship Deal as Clinton Came In". Los Angeles Times. Daily Press. April 2, 1993. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  14. ^ "Iron Workers Recast Image as Union Celebrates Its 50th Year". Los Angeles Times. October 15, 1990. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  15. ^ Geza, H.G (August 15, 1988). "Outlook Bleak for Nassco : Strike, Dwindling Contracts Plague Struggling Shipbuilder". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  16. ^ "Striking Nassco Workers May Return: Labor: Union members to vote on whether to resume jobs at shipyard while contract dispute is ironed out". Los Angeles Times. October 24, 1992. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  17. ^ Fordahl, Matthew (July 18, 1996). "Shipyard Workers Strike Over Union Rules". Associated Press. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  18. ^ O'Brien, Dennis (October 9, 1998). "General Dynamics to Acquire NASSCO". Daily Press. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  19. ^ General Dynamics NASSCO. "U.S. NAVY REPAIR". article (Press release). Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  20. ^ NASSCO-Norfolk. "Facilities". powerpoint (Press release). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  21. ^ [2] "Nassco Gets Contract to Fix Valdez's Hull", 13 Jun 1989
  22. ^ "NASSCO, TOTE: Historic Deal to Build World's First LNG Powered Containership". MarineLink (Press release). December 4, 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  23. ^ "Construction Begins On First Mobile Landing Platform". Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs (Press release). June 30, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  24. ^ "Nassco Starts Work on Second Mobile Landing Platform". San Diego Business Journal (Press release). December 7, 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  25. ^ "Matson orders two new conro ships" (Press release). American Shipper. August 26, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2018.

External links[edit]

32°41′25″N 117°08′21″W / 32.690163°N 117.139277°W / 32.690163; -117.139277