Shipbuilding has been a way of life along the Kennebec River in Bath, Maine, since 1762, when the sailing ship Earl of Bute was launched on the site of present day Bath. The Bath Iron Works (BIW) shipyard, located on the west bank of the Kennebec, just south of downtown Bath, is the namesake of a brass and iron foundry established in 1826.
Brigadier General Thomas W. Hyde, US Army (Ret) took over the foundry in 1865, following service with the 20th Maine Regiment during the Civil War. Nearly two decades later, he incorporated his diversified marine business interests as Bath Iron Works, Limited in 1884 before expanding into shipbuilding with the acquisition of the Goss Marine Iron Works in 1888.The first vessel delivered by BIW was a coastal passenger ship named Cottage City built for the Maine Steamship Co. Since the completion of Hull #1 in 1890, BIW has been awarded more than 425 shipbuilding contracts, including 245 military ships (mostly destroyers and frigates for the US Navy) and over 160 private yachts and commercial vessels. BIW became a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Dynamics in 1995.
In terms of modern US Navy surface combatant programs, the Lead Ship construction contract for the Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG 7) Class of guided missile frigates was awarded to BIW in 1973, and 24 of these surface combatants were delivered over the next 15 years.
In 1982, the Navy selected BIW as second-source shipbuilder for the Ticonderoga (CG 47) Class of AEGIS guided missile cruisers. The company went on to win contracts for eight of these warships, delivering the final one in 1993. In 1985, BIW won the competition for detail design and construction of USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), the Lead Ship for the Navy’s most capable class of AEGIS guided missile destroyers. We still build Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) Class destroyers to this day.
Under General Dynamics’ ownership, BIW teamed with the City of Bath and the State of Maine to support a long-term capital investment plan. With the first phase of modernization completed in 2001, BIW began building ships in its new state-of-the-art facility. These improvements enable the company to offer improved productivity, quality and affordability to our customer. Further applications of lean manufacturing techniques and advanced modular construction are planned, and the yard has switched to 3D computer-aided design for its latest ships. BIW built the DDG 1000 class of destroyers, the Zumwalt class, using these advanced technologies.
BIW is a yard with a history, and a bright future. Throughout Navy circles — and especially with their current and former crews — it’s generally recognized that ‘Bath Built Is Best Built’, a legacy our shipbuilders bear with pride.
A more granular look at Bath Iron Works’ history is contained in our shipyard retrospective. Below is a timeline of major milestones in the company’s progress.
|Bath Iron Foundry is founded on Water Street in Bath, Maine
|Brigadier General Thomas Worcester Hyde, a civil war hero, purchases C. Bartlett Foundry and renames it Bath Iron Foundry
|General Hyde changes the name Bath Iron Foundry to Bath Iron Works
|The company is incorporated and becomes Bath Iron Works Ltd.
|General Hyde acquires Goss Marine Iron Works
|Passenger steamer Cottage City is the first hull delivered by Bath Iron Works Ltd.
|USS Machias, a patrol gunboat, is the first BIW-built US Navy ship
|City Of Lowell is the first BIW-built commercial steel vessel
|General Hyde creates Hyde Windlass Co., which built ship machinery
|BIW is acquired by United States Shipbuilding Trust, which fails a year later and BIW declares bankruptcy while still continuing its operations
|John S. Hyde, eldest son of General Hyde, purchases BIW from bankruptcy court
|USS Georgia, the only BIW-built battleship, is delivered
|BIW is sold to a syndicate of Maine investors upon the death of John Hyde
|BIW declares bankruptcy and operations are idled. Plant equipment is sold at a public auction and the company is sold to Keyes Fiber Co.
|BIW is purchased by William S. Newell and a group of investors, business is restarted as BIW Corporation
|BIW delivered 89 destroyers to the US Navy (19% of DDs built during WWII)
|BIW Structural Fabrication Facility (Harding) is built in East Brunswick, ME
|BIW builds two new shipyards in South Portland, ME which later merges into one company (New England Shipbuilding Co.), building a total of 274 liberty ships
|BIW delivered 67 destroyers over 3+ years (1156 days), an average of 1 ship every 17 days
|First of a new class of Navy destroyers, USS Forest Sherman, is delivered
|BIW opens first Structural Assembly Building
|Bath Industries, Inc. is established as a holding company for BIW, Pennsylvania Crusher and the Hyde Windlass Co.
|Bath Industries, Inc. acquires Congoleum-Nairn, a manufacturer of home furnishings
|BIW completes first section of Main Assembly Building and installs 220-ton level-luffing No.11 Crane
|BIW wins competition to design and build lead ship of the FFG Oliver Hazard Perry Class
|Bath Industries, Inc. changes its name to Congoleum Corporation
|Lead ship of a new class of US Navy guided missile frigates, USS Oliver Hazard Perry, is delivered
|BIW completes third and final section of the Maine Assembly Building that included a new panel line
|The BIW Portland Ship Repair Facility is opened in Portland, ME
|Tanker Falcon Champion is the last BIW-built commercial ship delivered
|BIW wins competition to design and build lead ship of DDG 51 Arleigh Burke Class
|BIW is acquired by Gibbons, Goodwin, Gibbons, Green, van Amerongen Ltd; principal shareholder is Prudential Insurance
|Final Oliver Hazard Perry class ship, USS Kauffman, is delivered
|First BIW-built guided missile AEGIS cruiser, USS Thomas Gates, is delivered
|BIW opens the Outfit Fabrication Facility
|The lead ship of a new Navy class of guided missile AEGIS destroyers, USS Arleigh Burke, is delivered
|Final BIW-built AEGIS cruiser, USS Lake Erie, is delivered
|Bath Iron Works is purchased by General Dynamics Corp.
|Groundbreaking for Land Level Transfer Facility (LLTF)
|Dedication ceremony for Land Level Transfer Facility (LLTF) and the Manufacturing Support Center (MSC)
|BIW Launches Mason (DDG 87), the last ship to slide down the inclined ways at BIW
|BIW details design subcontract for DD(X) Phase III program
|Navy announces DDX Program renamed DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class
|BIW awarded contract to complete class detail design of Zumwalt (DDG 1000) class destroyers
|BIW awarded construction contract for DDG 1000 lead ship of Zumwalt Class
|BIW opens the Ultra Hall, a large new climate controlled facility on the LLTF, capable of constructing ship sections weighing over 4,000 tons
|US Navy announces that DDG 51 Arleigh Burke class construction will be restarted and DDG 1000 Program will be limited to three hulls (all built by BIW)
|Keel laid for Zumwalt, lead ship of DDG 1000 class
|Fabrication begins for first of the DDG 51 restart ships, Rafael Peralta (DDG 115)
|Heaviest crane lift recorded at BIW – DDG 1000 Deckhouse (4 Cranes/1000 tons)
|Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is delivered to the Navy
|Fabrication begins for BIW’s first Flight III Arleigh Burke class destroyer Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG 126)
|The last of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002), sails away from BIW