The Bay State in the NASSCO shipyard shortly before its christening on Saturday morning. Photo by Chris Jennewein

As General Dynamics NASSCO christened its seventh ship in a year on Saturday, Rep. Juan Vargas praised the shipyard and its employees as “important to the security of the world.”

“We never want to be caught with the inability to build ships and defend ourselves from threats abroad,” said Vargas, who was flanked by two tankers at the shipyard in Barrio Logan.

“We’re on the cutting edge of shipbuilding here in San Diego and the United States,” he told the crowd, adding that NASSCO’s expertise helped it win a $3 billion contract to build six next-generation fleet oilers for the Navy.

The Bay State, a 610-foot “ECO” tanker, was christened in a public ceremony that drew several hundred to the shipyard in Barrio Logan. The new ship, which has already completed its sea trials, is the fourth vessel in a five-ship contract for American Petroleum Tankers.

NASSCO employee Ismael Solano with Rep. Juan Vargas. Courtesy NASSCO

Melissa DeVeau broke a bottle of champagne against the ship’s hull to officially christen the new vessel. DeVeau is the wife of David DeVeau, vice president and general counsel for Kinder Morgan, the parent company of American Petroleum Tankers.

“Shipbuilding is very much alive and well in the United States,” noted Rob Kurz, president of the tanker company.  He said the NASSCO tankers are ideal for transporting U.S. shale oil between domestic ports.

Vargas, whose district includes the shipyard, and Kurz both defended the century-old Jones Act, which requires cargo carried between U.S. ports to be transported on U.S.-built ships. They said the act ensures shipyards have the capacity and expertise to build naval vessels during wartime.

The Bay State is the seventh ship delivered by NASSCO in less than 10 months — the highest production rate in the shipyard’s history.

“We have upped our game to accomplish this,” said Kevin Graney, vice president and general manager, who explained that major changes were made in the handling of giant steel sections. “We transformed our understanding of our business.”

The Bay State can carry up to 330,000 barrels of oil or other petroleum products, and can be converted to run on clean liquefied natural gas. NASSCO says it will be among the most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly tankers in the world.

NASSCO operates the largest shipyard on the West Coast, employing 4,500 directly and as subcontractors.

A giant crane towers of the christening ceremony. Photo by Chris Jennewein
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