Bringing examples of recent success, a union-contracted shipyard executive spoke in San Diego to the Maritime Trades Department Executive Board on the positive benefits of working more closely with your employees, and how such cohesion can lead to greater productivity.
“I’m here to talk to you about the ships at NASSCO, and I’m here, more importantly, to talk to you about the people at NASSCO and what our great workforce is up to,” said Kevin Mooney, vice president of programs and supply chain management at General Dynamics NASSCO, during his February 18 presentation to the board, meeting a few miles north of the shipyard.
Mooney began with a presentation about the latest containerships – built by MTD-affiliated Boilermakers and Machinists for Seafarers-contracted TOTE Maritime – and ECO tankers, which are being constructed for Seafarers-contracted American Petroleum Tankers and SEACOR. All of those vessels represent the latest innovations in efficiency and emissions-reduction, making them among the most environmentally friendly ships in the world, he said.
After mentioning that NASSCO also operates ship repair facilities all over the country, Mooney presented a video of the expeditionary transfer dock USNS Montford Point (ESD-1), formerly known as a mobile landing platform, during the ship’s military testing. The 784-foot vessel supports U.S. Military Sealift Command operations and is capable of launching landing-craft vehicles from up to 25 miles away from shore.
He then thanked MTD President Michael Sacco and the maritime community for their support of the ESD program. “We couldn’t build ships for the Navy, we wouldn’t get these contracts without your support,” Mooney said. “Last year, in April, Mike wrote some letters to the chairpersons of the Appropriations Committee in both the House and the Senate, which helped us secure the necessary funding for the fourth ship of that class. Mike, thank you.”
Turning from the ships that have been recently built, Mooney discussed the potential new builds of the near future. NASSCO is bidding on a variety of vessels, he said.
Currently, though, NASSCO is what Mooney described as a “tanker factory. Starting in December, we delivered the first of our eight tankers, and they’ll all be delivered by the middle of next year,” he noted. “So that’s eight tankers going through the yard in a period of 18 months. It is the most rapid buildup, and also the busiest production rate, ever in the history of NASSCO.” All eight will sail with union crews in the Jones Act trade.
Mooney also talked about the influx of mechanics this build schedule required, and how NASSCO applied lessons they had learned from previous periods of rapid training and employee hiring.
“In the past, when we did this 10 years ago, people in human resources would do a very quick screening, we’d bring in the applicants and we’d throw them over to the school,” he recalled. “It was okay, but attrition was high. This time, we said, ‘All right, we’re going to be a little more careful. We’re going to screen them more, have people from operations – the people who are actually going to work with them, on the deck plates – they’re going to do the screening and indoctrination.’ And the training program was going to be more targeted to be more effective to the actual work they were going to do in the yard.”
The new training program involved Mooney visiting the school for every new class of employees. He would then lay out a verbal contract with the newly hired individuals, asking for three things: show up on time, work hard and have a good attitude.
He said he told the trainees that NASSCO would take care of, “the rest,” and that he’d elaborate on that point at graduation. When each class graduated, he’d lay out the other side of that pact for them, stating that management owed them: a safe workplace, a fair wage, respect, tools and training to succeed, opportunity for growth, and recognition for a job well done
The results of those changes to their training program included a reduction in the attrition rate by 35 percent, more cooperation and collaboration between various other workers and operations staff, and quicker promotions.
He concluded his presentation with a video of the recent christening of the Isla Bella. The Seafarers-crewed vessel, which was sponsored by President Sacco’s wife, Sophie, is the world’s first LNG-powered containership.