USS Texas

Preparing a Dreadnought Battleship for Towing to Dry Dock

by Scott A. Williams

HOUSTON, TX – When she was launched on May 18, 1912, the USS Texas – a “dreadnought” battleship – was the most powerful weapon in the world. During a storied history, the Texas operated in all the world’s significant naval theaters. She served America in peacetime and war for 36 years. Today she is the only dreadnought that survives.

The Texas was decommissioned in 1948 and was brought to the San Jacinto State Historic Site, off the Houston Ship Channel, where she serves as a museum. Rust and the general deterioration of age have taken their toll on the once-proud battleship, but her future looks bright.

Texas voters approved bonds that earmark $12 million for her restoration at a yet-to-be-determined dry dock. Once dry-docked, repairs to theTexas are expected to take four to six months. Workers will replace and paint some steel plating on the hull, and the ship’s wooden deck will be replaced and painted. The ship will then return to San Jacinto and reopen to the public.

Even though the move to dry dock is not expected until 2004 or 2005, preparations for the next voyage of the Texas are well underway. Not surprisingly, the need to tow an enormous and deteriorating battleship calls for engineering solutions aimed at keeping the Texas afloat. The job of pumping out water taken on by the Texas, both before and during her move to dry dock, requires a team of marine engineering specialists.

The State of Texas hired Shiner Moseley & Assoc., Inc., a Corpus Christi-based marine engineering and consulting firm, to study the effects of towing the Texas. Shiner Moseley assessed potential problems, such as how much water the ship can hold and how hull deterioration would affect the ship under tow.

Shiner Moseley had three pump representatives survey the hull bulkheads and inner tanks of the battleship. Using results of the bulkhead study, Shiner Moseley designed a flood containment program. Despite the program’s complexity, its objective was simple: remove water from the hull, both at its current berth and during the tow.

Houston-based Southport Systems, which provides systems and maintenance services for specialty HVAC, marine, petro-chemical, offshore projects, and manufacturing processes, received a bid request for the Texas project in July 2001. During 2000 and 2001, Southport Systems had worked on the Texas on the condenser pumping system. Shiner Moseley sent Southport the job, knowing the firm’s vast experience on this and other pumping projects.

Ron Owings, Sales Engineer for Southport Systems, was assigned to head the project. Initially, the job called for electrical pumping systems. However, to gain additional flexibility, Ron recommended a system combining both pneumatic and electrical power. Ron consulted with his local pump rep who recommended Atlas Copco as the best compressor on the market. Since Atlas Copco is a state-approved vendor, Ron simply called Atlas Copco in Austin and was referred directly to the local Atlas Copco distributor, Tide-Air, Inc., of Houston.

Tide-Air Applications Engineer Nancy McNeil began working with Ron on the project. Ron’s bottom line was to purchase a screw compressor with low noise levels and a strong reputation for quality, longevity, and performance. After studying project requirements and working through several detailed meetings, Nancy recommended (and Southport purchased) the Atlas Copco GA55-125FF air compressor.

The GA Series of compressors are Atlas Copco’s WorkPlace Systems, designed with all key components in a single compact unit. To meet project specifications, the GA55-125FF was equipped with filters, dryer bypass, an oil water separator, phase sequence protection, digital remote monitoring, and weather protection, all fully integrated into a standalone system. The system was installed aboard the Texas and, on April 24, 2002, began providing compressed air to power the pumping system.

All parties involved, including the State of Texas, Southport Systems, and the workers aboard ship, have reported complete satisfaction with the compressor’s performance, reliability, and quiet operation.

The immediate goal is to have the Battleship Texas ready for tow to dry dock by 2005. With the help of Atlas Copco and the GA55-125FF compressor, the Texas is being readied for her next voyage.

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About Dreadnoughts: This class of battleships was built for many of the world’s navies during the early twentieth century. The first and defining ship of its kind was the HMS Dreadnought, built in 1906 for the British Royal Navy. Its design, featuring big guns on a fast, sturdy vessel, transformed the design of large armored warships. As a result, the name “dreadnought” came to classify over 60 ships which were built in her pattern. The last the dreadnought battleships in existence is the USS Texas. Today, the USS Texas is berthed at the San Jacinto Battleground And Battleship Texas State Historic Park in LaPorte, TX.

A Brief History of The USS Texas:

  • Authorized: June 24, 1910
  • Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Displacement: 27,000 tons
  • Launched: Newport News, Virginia, May 18, 1912
  • Commissioned: March 12, 1914
  • Decommissioned: April 21, 1948


This article originally appeared in Commitment. Republished with permission.
 Copyright © by Scott A. Williams. All rights reserved.