Mega Rust: Navy Trends in Shipbuilding & Corrosion Control
Mega Rust conference chairman Dave Zilber shares his views on shipbuilding for the U.S. Navy, contractor methods, materials, and specifications and "now-or-later" corrosion control trends.
Dave Zilber served as Chairman of the Mega Rust Naval Corrosion Conference beginning in 2011, when the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) took over responsibility for the conference from the U.S. Navy. In this role, he led the conference Planning Committee and acted as a liaison between the Navy and industry on developing corrosion control discussion topics and focus areas. He is a retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander and Surface Warfare Officer. He has been a Defense Programs Manager at 3M Company since retiring from the Navy in 2003.
Corrosionpedia spoke with Mr. Zilber at length about Mega Rust 2015 and U.S. Navy corrosion control trends. This are highlights from that interview.
What role does corrosion control play in new ship design and shipbuilding for the Navy Surface Fleet?
"Design for maintainability" and "design for affordability" are goals on the new construction side that have been thrown around a lot in recent years. We heard from a number of presenters during the Mega Rust conference on the status of acquisition program requirements. The government presenters said you have to include a corrosion control plan for all new acquisitions, and this impacts contract language and ultimately the cost of the ship.
Although the Fleet (the ultimate customer) wants "design for maintainability" with corrosion control improvements, the Program Executive Offices (PEO) push for affordability ahead of maintainability.
There have been a number of meetings held between Naval Sea Systems Command and the shipbuilders to ease some of the old specifications that put unnecessary restraints on how they do things. The goal is to make it more affordable for shipbuilders to use better corrosion-resistant materials, such as coatings in the tanks and voids. Shipbuilders want more options on the types of materials they can purchase and the freedom to decide how they’re going to paint a space, for example. They also want the Navy to simplify and standardize the colors used across the different ship classes. (Learn more about the design process in the article Engineering Ships for Better Coating Performance.)
There is now a lot of discussion on these existing specifications, and the shipbuilders are challenging any specification they think makes their processes cost more—without any value added.
At the same time, it’s very difficult when the program office has to bring a ship in at the lowest possible cost. It is very difficult to get a new material approved or a contract or process changed and moving forward. The tendency right now is to build it as inexpensively as you can, and kick that corrosion control problem down the road to the in-service maintainers. That’s the current trend.
The best win-win is if you can do it affordably in your process and give a better corrosion control solution to a customer down the line. The builders are listening to this reasoning. Unfortunately, their hands are tied somewhat by the difficult process of contract change and what the acquisition side will agree to pay for a change. No change comes for free—even if it’s mutually agreed to.
Were any new corrosion innovations announced at Mega Rust this year?
Most of the materials, products and solutions displayed and presented at Mega Rust each year are known options and solutions within the corrosion control community, but there is low awareness among government participants and military end users. For the government attendees, Mega Rust is the one time each year they can see what is currently available from the industry, as well as what academia and the research labs are working on for the future.
The way we find out about products and get some of these companies to participate at Mega Rust is by being involved in other organizations such as SSPC and NACE. We want to attract vendors who are interested in learning how to apply their technology to the Navy. We say, “Okay, so you did this for oil rigs; it should be equally of interest to the Navy, so why don’t you try to talk to them at Mega Rust?”
One of the things we’ve heard from exhibitors at Mega Rust is that they have good technology that would certainly work for the Navy, but the procurement process can be so daunting that it’s almost not worth it. Has there been any advancement to make it easier for the private industry to bring good products for government use?
In some ways it has become harder. The current trend of procurement is making it very difficult for new materials and tools to get purchased, particularly for military end users. It is sometimes easier to get a builder to buy and try something new, because they do not have to purchase through Federal supply channels.
It is particularly frustrating to the military maintainers that see something that will fix their problem, but their current supply rules and processes prevent them from getting it. The key barrier to solution implementation that we have identified at Mega Rust and other meetings has been the current procurement processes. We hope we can get some Navy supply and contracting leaders at the next Mega Rust to address the problem.
We often talk with manufacturers who have good ideas. We try to get them connected to the shipyards through programs such as the National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP), or ManTech, whose main purpose is to deliver new innovations and technical solutions to the builders and maintainers.