PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- The president of Bath Iron Works is retiring April 1 after six years at the Navy shipbuilder, one of the state's largest employers.
Dugan Shipway, a retired Navy rear admiral, made it a goal to boost the shipyard's efficiency.
The Navy once viewed Bath Iron Works as expendable because of excess shipbuilding capacity, but its improved performance under Shipway led to a reversal of that view. During an October visit, Adm. Gary Roughead, the Navy's top officer, declared the shipyard "an American treasure."
Because of the shipyard's track record, it was selected over its chief rival to build the first of the of the new stealthy DDG-1000 destroyers.
"A few years ago our role in the program was up in the air. Now we're building the lead ship," said Jim DeMartini, shipyard spokesman.
Senior executives received word of Shipway's retirement Wednesday night, DeMartini said.
"I assure you, this was not an easy decision. I know great opportunities lie ahead for BIW and I will greatly miss the challenge and excitement that come with them," Shipway wrote to the shipyard's 5,600 employees.
There's no immediate word on what Shipway's future plans involve. DeMartini says Shipway and his wife plan to stay in Maine.
Shipway spent 35 years in the Navy before going to work at General Dynamics' Electric Boat. He was named president of Bath Iron Works, another General Dynamics subsidiary, in 2003. His arrival in Bath came after the shipyard had spent $240 million aimed at improving efficiency.
Shipway was known for his affable and easygoing style, but he also ran a tight ship. Once, after getting called out for violating shipyard safety rules while making the rounds, he apologized to shipbuilders and docked his own pay for the mistake.
Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, said the real test of any leader is if they left the place in better shape than when they arrived. "Today, Bath Iron Works is respected by the Navy and recognized for its work culture in a way that most of the other Navy shipyards are not," Thompson said.
Shipway, 66, will be replaced by Jeff Geiger, the shipyard's senior vice president of operations. Shipway said Geiger is "fully capable and ready to lead BIW on the next leg of the journey."
The shipyard's new leader will face some big challenges.
While Bath Iron Works has begun construction of the first DDG-1000, there's no guarantee that there will be more of those ships to come.
Funding is set for the first ship being built in Bath and a second to be built by Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi. But funding for a third ship remains in question, and the future is also uncertain for the Navy's plans for future purchases vital to keeping Navy shipbuilders busy.
The DDG-1000, with a price tag that's more than double that of existing destroyers, was conceived as a stealth warship with massive firepower to pave the way for Marines to go ashore. It features composite materials, an unconventional wave-piercing hull and a smaller crew.