With new ammunition pier open, Seal Beach can help surge warships to Pacific hot spots

The guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) prepares to moor.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) prepares to moor at a new ammunition pier at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach on April 9.
(Gregg Smith / Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach)

A U.S. Navy destroyer recently sailed into Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, becoming the first warship to dock at a new $154-million ammunition pier that would fill a key role in future conflict over controlling the Pacific Ocean.

Guided-missile destroyer Paul Hamilton crew members arrived in Seal Beach on April 9 to unload ordnance on their way home to San Diego, Navy spokesman Gregg Smith said. The landmark visit essentially decommissioned the base’s World War II-era pier.

Capt. Jessica O’Brien, commanding officer of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, first visited the base in 1999 on her first ship while stationed out of San Diego.


“To be the lucky commanding officer that gets to see this wonderful project come to completion, it’s very humbling and it just makes me really proud to still be in the Navy and doing what I do,” O’Brien said.

After the last pier segment is completed this summer, two destroyers will simultaneously dock in Seal Beach for the first time. An 844-foot-long amphibious assault ship, capable of launching the F-35B Lightning II and carrying over 2,900 sailors and Marines, could also make the first port call this fall, O’Brien said.

“A ship like that brings a lot more sailors and if they have Marines embarked that’s a whole other level of support and coordination that we’ll need to do with the city of Seal Beach and Seal Beach Police Department that we have good relations with and we’ll have good communications leading up to that,” O’Brien said.

Navy officials have been working on the ammunition pier project plans for over a decade. Since breaking ground in December 2019, contractors dredged over 700,000 cubic yards from Anaheim Bay, poured more than 16,300 cubic yards of concrete and will have driven over 900 steel piles into bedrock.

A barge-mounted crane at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach on April 12.
A barge-mounted crane takes a break from driving piles for the final segment of the new ammunition pier at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach on April 12.
(Daniel Langhorne)

“I could not be prouder of the work that people have done well before my time,” O’Brien said. “I’ve only been in command here for two years so there’s a lot of people who have invested their careers in seeing this project come to completion.”

Considering the next closest Naval Weapons Station is in Washington, over 1,000 miles from the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s hub in San Diego, the new ammunition pier raises Seal Beach’s strategic importance for the Navy.

Big deck ships that once had to anchor off Camp Pendleton to have arsenals of missiles carried in by helicopters can now sail into Anaheim Bay, saving the military fuel and time.

Since Huntington Harbour was developed in the 1960s, civilian boats have passed through the Navy’s jurisdiction while entering and exiting the harbor. Navy security forces would close the harbor while warships arrived or departed the ammunition pier.

In 2021, the Navy finished a new civilian boat channel and causeway that separates pleasure craft from Navy operations. Base officials are still running a public relations campaign to educate boaters about the harbor’s reconfiguration.

“That’s been a game changer because it’s allowed us a better security posture, better safety and everything that I have heard from the local boaters is that they like it better too,” O’Brien said.

A U.S. Navy security boat crew stands watch for intruders in Anaheim Bay on April 12.
(Daniel Langhorne)

Developing the new pier has been a years-long process, and it’s reassuring to see it finally coming to fruition, said Dean Grose, chairman of the Regional Military Affairs Committee, a group of civilian volunteers supporting service members in Seal Beach and Los Alamitos.

“It will be very beneficial to the military and beneficial to Seal Beach and the surrounding communities because Navy personnel will be able to get off ships and go into town to patronize businesses,” Grose said.