AUGUST 6, 2013 — Remember the "Hughes Mining Barge," HMB-1? It is now serving at Bay Ship & Yacht's Alameda, CA, shipyard as a covered floating dry dock. That's a pretty peaceable retirement job for a one-time CIA asset that was built in the 1970's, ostensibly for manganese nodule mining operations, but, in truth, as a vital element of Project Azorian, the Cold War covert operation that saw the U.S. secretly salvage the remains of the Soviet submarine K-129 from the ocean floor.
After the conclusion of Project Azorian, the HMB-1 was mothballed at the Todd Shipyard in San Francisco until November, 1982. The Navy then towed it to Redwood City, where it became a floating dock for the construction and sea trials of the stealth ship Sea Shadow.
The Sea Shadow trials continued until 1986 and the General Services Administration subsequently offered the HMB-1 and Sea Shadow for sale as scrap. They were bought by Bay Ship & Yacht for $2.5 million in June 2012. Under the terms of the sale Sea Shadow was required to be scrapped, but Bay Ship has refurbished the barge to use as an enclosed dry dock.
In its new role, the unit can accommodate vessels displacing up to 6,300-long tons with a maximum beam of 76 feet. It is the only dry dock on the West Coast to be fully enclosed by a retractable roof. This unique facility offers several major benefits:
- The dry dock's 69 ft high roof prevents loss of workdays due to inclement weather, helping projects stay on time and on budget.
- The covered facility ensures maximum quality control for paint and other marine coatings applications. Bay Ship & Yacht has earned QP-1 certification from the Society for Protective Coatings, a nationally recognized standard.
- Projects carried out in the enclosed dry dock are "greener," since the facility keeps materials, fluids and emissions that may be potentially hazardous to the environment safely contained inside.
The HMB-1 facility has expanded Bay Ship & Yacht's dry dock capacity by 18 feet in width, while its lifting capability has more than doubled. This allows the yard to service commercial and pleasure vessels that are much larger, beamier and heavier than ever before.
"Under the direction of Alan Cameron, Bay Ship & Yacht's General Manager, the HMB-1 dry dock was completely transformed in almost every aspect, meeting all environmental requirements with minimal impact on marine life," said Anthony Del Gavio, Business Development Manager. ‚"The ability to close its roof makes working conditions ideal for delivering the best-quality product Bay Ship & Yacht is known for, and it is something our painting and vessel refinishing will surely benefit from. I am quite proud of this new facility of ours, and I know our customers will be delighted with our new expanded capabilities."