Fire Down Below: US Navy Uses Contractors for Fire-Watch Support
British sailors on wooden warships used to sing a sea-shanty called the “Fire Down Below.” The song – sung while sailors were raising the anchor, pumping out the bilge, or hauling ropes – was about fighting a fire onboard a ship.
Ever since the era of wooden sailing ships, fires onboard ships have been a major concern for the world’s navies. In the era of steel ships, the fire danger might not be as ever-present. But it remains, especially when repair and overhaul work is being done.
That type of work requires the use of welders. And where welders work, there is a risk of fires starting. To monitor the welders’ work during ship overhauls, the US Navy uses fire watchers…
For example, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson completed a massive $3.1 billion refueling and complex overhaul in 2009. During the overhaul process, the ship’s fire-watch division [pdf] had 350 sailors performing fire-watch detail at the various “hot-work” locations where welding was taking place. The sailors logged a million work-hours keeping watch. Standard operating equipment for fire watchers are goggles, gloves and CO2 bottles.
With overhaul projects this big, the US Navy could use some help. That is why the service uses private contractors to provide fire-watch support. The Navy’s Norfolk Ship Support Activity in Portsmouth, VA recently awarded 3 contracts worth up to $72.9 million to provide fire-watch services at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
The fire-watch contracts were awarded to 3 small business qualifiers:
- Wright’s Engineering and Design in Portsmouth, VA (N50054-10-D-1007);
- LPI Technical Services in Chesapeake, VA (N50054-10-D-1008); and
- Virtual Technology Services in Midwest City, OK (N50054-10-D-1009).
Each contractor was awarded a time-and-material, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity multiple award contract worth up to $24.3 million. The 3 contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contracts.
Under the contracts, the companies will provide management, administration, and production services, materials, tools, equipment, and required support to provide fire-watch services in support of maintenance and overhaul work being performed onboard US Navy ships in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA. Some of the work may be accomplished at locations outside the shipyard.
The contractors expect to complete the work by January 2011. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site with 6 offers received Norfolk Ship Support Activity.