New PPG coating helps revive historic warship
PSX ONE coating restores ‘Battleship of Presidents,’ now an interactive naval museum.
The USS Iowa protected America for nearly 50 years. Now PSX® ONE coating, an advanced marine coating introduced last year by PPG Industries, is protecting the ship.
Known as the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” and the “Big Stick,” the 887-foot-long, 45,000-ton USS Iowa was first deployed in 1943. It is also called the “Battleship of Presidents” because it hosted more visits by U.S. presidents than any ship of its kind, including its historic escort of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the secret 1943 Tehran Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
After serving during World War II in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets – and being the radio ship that transmitted news of Japan’s surrender from a berth in Tokyo Bay back to the U.S. – the USS Iowa fought battles in the Korean War, served as a bulwark against the Soviet Union during the Cold War and helped deter hostilities as late as 1987 in the waters of Central America and the Persian Gulf.
For most of the past two decades, though, the storied ship languished, most recently amidst a ghost fleet of more than 100 retired naval and merchant marine ships in northern California’s Suisun Bay.
When the Pacific Battleship Center was awarded the USS Iowa through the U.S. Navy’s ship donation program on Sept. 6, 2011, it had been more than 20 years since the ship was last removed from service. The nonprofit group sought to give the ship new life as an interactive naval museum at the Port of Los Angeles, but it required extensive work – and help from an advanced marine coating developed by PPG – to get the 70-year-old war veteran back into “ship-shape.”
Restoring an Aging Giant
After so many years of neglect, Mike Getscher, chief engineer and operations director for the USS Iowa, knew the task of restoring the tarnished behemoth to its former glory would require an effort as mammoth as the ship itself.
In addition to revitalizing more than 1,000 staterooms and compartments, the restoration team had to inspect – and often replace – more than 1 million rivets, 16 miles of ventilation ducts, 80 miles of pipe, 900 electrical motors, 5,300 light fixtures and 250 miles of electrical cable.
Externally, Getscher and his team had to replace the ship’s rotting wooden deck and repair its rusting metal hull. The task of repainting the giant ship was made even more challenging by the need to address layers of old, flaking paint that had accumulated through many recoatings.
PSX ONE to the Rescue
To refinish, seal and protect the deteriorating hull, Getscher researched a number of coatings suppliers before talking to Julio Mojica, a sales representative for PPG Industries’ protective and marine coatings business (PPG-PMC). After touring the USS Iowa with Getscher, Mojica suggested painting the vessel with PSX ONE coating, a single-component acrylic-siloxane coating PPG-PMC had recently introduced.
Mojica said the size of the ship was one reason for his recommendation. “The original plan was to repaint the ship in dry dock, but it was simply too big,” he said. “If we had to repaint the ship in the bay, we knew we wouldn’t be able to sandblast or hydroblast the hull for environmental reasons. That made PSX ONE coating an easy choice because it could be applied to the surface of the ship without any pretreatment.”
Four Months of Painting
Getscher said PSX ONE coating was ultimately chosen for its durability and application ease. “We selected the coating because it has unlimited coatability and because it will keep its sheen longer than traditional epoxy coatings without chalking up,” he said. “As a single-component coating, it was also faster and easier to apply than a two-coat system that would have required measuring and mixing ingredients before the paint could be applied.”
In addition to these advantages, PSX ONE coating’s low-VOC (volatile organic compound), non-isocyanate formulation makes it a more environmentally-responsible option than many other marine finishes.
Painting of the USS Iowa began in March 2012 and continued through May. Using brushes, rollers and sprays, a crew of up to 20 painters from Bay Ship & Yacht in Alameda, Calif., applied nearly 900 gallons of PSX ONE coating to the hull and infrastructure of the ship. PPG supplied the coating in five custom-mixed colors, including the U.S. Navy’s standard Haze Gray as well as black and small amounts of red, white and blue used to paint an American flag on the ship’s main gun turret.
One More Historic Journey
Over Memorial Day week, the warship was towed from Richmond, Calif., to Southern California. Along the way, it participated in the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, where its 15-story mast barely squeezed under the landmark crossing.
On June 9, the USS Iowa made a 3.4-nautical-mile final journey to Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles with hundreds of people on board, such as elected officials, financial supporters, reporters, veterans and former crew members.
Getscher and Mojica both took part in the ceremony and could not have been more pleased with the ship’s finished appearance. “She looked beautiful,” Mojica recalls. “Mike was happy. I was happy. Everybody was happy.”
More importantly, the pair expects the ship to retain its glossy sheen for years to come. “We’re expecting to get 15 years out of [the coating],” Getscher said. “The fact that it has unlimited recoatability should make it much easier to for us to maintain.”
On July 7, after years of work and planning, the USS Iowa opened in San Pedro, Calif., as a naval museum. In addition to touring the ship and virtually experiencing life at sea during active duty, visitors can look inside the ship’s powerful gun turret, climb inside its armored pilothouse and visit President Roosevelt’s stateroom.