Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Georgetown, downtown firms share in $74 million Navy contract

by October 19th, 2011

The downtown Seattle marine engineering firm Guido Perla and Associates and Markey Machinery in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood will share in a $74 million contract awarded last week by the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command to Dakota Creek Industries of Anacortes for a new oceanographic research ship. Perla will perform final design for the vessel, and Markey will provide four winches which are used to lower crucial research equipment into the ocean. The vessel will be built in Anacortes by Dakota Creek, and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. The contract has a $71 million option for a second such ship, which would go to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. Up to three or four more similar boats may be later commissioned by the Navy to continue replacing its aging research vessel fleet.

Blaine Dempke, president of subcontractor Markey Machinery, said, “for a company like ours, this is about a year’s worth of work. It’s quite significant in terms of adding and retaining jobs.” Dempke declined to specify how much the company will be paid from the contract but said the amount is “in seven figures.” Markey will supply two small winches of about 20,000 pounds each and two larger ones each about 50,000 pounds. They’re used to lower research packages and remote-operated vehicles into the ocean which take water samples, coring samples and do other work.

Alex Loudon, President of Guido Perla and Associates, said the final design his firm will contribute usually accounts for between five to seven percent of the cost on a contract like this one. He said, “It’s a real shot in the arm for the economy of this area – a high-profile contract for one or two ships, with potential for three or four more. If you talk to any of the scientists they’re very excited about getting new vessels” to replace models 25 years or older.

The vessel, called an Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) ship, is expected to be ready for sailing by 2014. According to the Naval Sea Command’s Special Mission Ships division, it will have room for a crew of 20 scientists, and will be capable of operating without restocking for up to 40 days at distances of up to 10,000 nautical miles. A statement from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s office adds, “AGOR is an oceanographic research vessel that will provide for a wide variety of ocean-based research conducted by academic institutions and national laboratories involved in oceanographic research. Equipped with onboard labs, AGOR will include seafloor mapping systems, current profilers for mapping currents in the water, networked sensors for monitoring atmospheric and ocean conditions, as well as precise navigational tools for instruments under the ship.”

The new vessel will be operated as part of the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), which provides for research institutions to lease and operate AGOR ships, yielding crucial oceanographic and geophysical data for a wide range of Navy programs, and, sources say, information about climate, fisheries and even seismic conditions. The University of Washington operates the RV Thomas G. Thompson research ship, owned by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, as part of UNOLS.

Dakota Creek competed with a Wisconsin firm, Marinette Marine Corp., for the final design and construction award. Each completed a preliminary design for $1.5 million apiece before the Anacortes company won the contract. According to the announcement from the U.S. Department of Defense, 41 percent of the work on the new boat will be performed in Seattle, 38 percent in Anacortes, and the rest in Hood River, Oregon, Texas and Sweden. Dakota Creek says the project will employ 258 workers at peak operation, and result in 800,000 hours of direct labor. In addition to final design and construction, the contract also provides for delivery of technical manuals, crew training, and technical and supply support.

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