KITTERY, Maine — The outgoing commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is encouraging workers and management to continue to “think big” after the hiring of more than 2,100 workers along with $338 million of critical repairs and upgrades over the past three years.

Capt. David Hunt called the hiring of so many workers “an absolutely incredible feat."

"This expansion means that we are no longer a small yard," Hunt said at a change-of-command ceremony. "We need to continue to think big."

Capt. Daniel Ettlich, who became the shipyard’s commander on Friday, previously served as the military deputy for shipyard operations at the Naval Sea Systems Command at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., the Portsmouth Herald reported.

"It is a humbling and great honor to be standing before you as the 86th commander of this prestigious and historic institution," Ettlich said during brief remarks, where he also thanked his wife, children and family members who joined him.

Ettlich's job will be to keep the momentum. The shipyard has managed to maintain speed and efficiency despite all of the changes and new workers.

Sen. Maggie Hassan makes congratulatory remarks at the ceremony as Capt. David S. Hunt passes command of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to Capt. Daniel W. Ettlich. (Jim Cleveland/Navy)
Sen. Maggie Hassan makes congratulatory remarks at the ceremony as Capt. David S. Hunt passes command of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to Capt. Daniel W. Ettlich. (Jim Cleveland/Navy)

The shipyard delivered the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine Oklahoma City on-time and $4 million under budget. Also coming in on budget: sister boats Providence — 23 days early — and Key West, 37 days early.

And the shipyard’s detachment in San Diego achieved a 95 percent on-time delivery rate.

"If there is one thing that is clear today, it is that the future is bright," Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, said. "Each of you plays a vital role in protecting our national security."

Hassan called Portsmouth Naval Shipyard "the finest shipyard in the world," crediting its workforce with becoming the "Navy's center of excellence."

“It has been a wicked awesome tour,” Hunt said at a change-of-command ceremony, thanking his wife Cheryl and his children, calling them the “ultimate Navy family.”