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The Bethlehem Shipyard - the People


When a vessel enters the yard for repair, it is dry docked, using one of the two dry docks at the facility. Prior to the docking and undocking of a vessel, however, a shipyard worker visually inspects the ship and dry dock for dirt and other garbage, such as paper and cigarette butts, so they do not pollute the water. The ship-holding blocks are also cleaned.

Historic view of ship under construction
Historic view of ship under construction

The floating dry dock (dry dock no.1) at Berth 240 is used to perform repairs, such as sandblasting, painting, or structural work, on the outside portions of the ship, which are usually under water. A large number of workers are needed to operate this facility. A shipyard worker controls and monitors the dry dock from the control house (which is located at the foot of the dry dock). A series of 24 tanks (12 per side) are located beneath the dry dock. Before the vessel enters the shipyard, workers fill the dry dock tanks with water, causing the dry dock to sink and enabling the ship to pull in. Once the ship is secure, workers pump the water out of the dry dock tanks to lift it above water. Approximately 5,000 gallons of water per minute are pumped into and out of the tanks. To hold the ship in place, it sits on a series of blocks which the laborers have built based on each vessel's unique configuration. Once the ship is raised above the waterline, the workers are ready to do their jobs.

Historic view of ship in dry dock
Historic view of ship in dry dock

It takes approximately 812 hours for ship workers to bring a large ship (weighing 15,000 tons) "high and dry." Once the ship is successfully dry docked, laborers remove ship parts, such as the rudders, before they begin repairs. After the repairs are complete, the workers reassemble the ship. Tests are then performed to make sure everything is in good working order before the vessel is returned to the water.