Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fidley Watch: Shovel Ready

As this month’s Shipyard Issue goes to press, Vigor Industrial has announced its intent to purchase Ketchikan- based Alaska Ship and Drydock Inc. (ASD)from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA)

Pending approval of the deal by AIDEA, ASD and Vigor were expected to complete the transfer of ASD’s business and assets to Vigor by March 1st.

In February of last year, Vigor completed its $130 million purchase of Seattle’s Todd Pacific Shipyards. With ASD and the former Todd Shipyards facilities, the company will own and operate seven yards, allowing Vigor to offer shipbuilding, repair and modernization services in seven facilities throughout the Pacific Northwest, in Alaska, Washington and Oregon, with ten drydocks and more than 17,000 feet of pier space. The combined companies will employ close to 2,500 workers across the Pacific Northwest.

Vigor’s purchase of ASD comes on the heels of an announcement by Alaska Longline Company that they will build a new 136-foot factory longline fishing vessel at ASD to a Jensen Maritime Consultants design. The new vessel, yet to be named, will be one of the first to be built after the American Fisheries Act was modified in 2010 to allow Bering Sea vessel owners to replace or rebuild their fleets.

The federal legislative amendment, along with actions taken or under consideration by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, could see billions of dollars of capital investment in shipbuilding and conversion work for West Coast shipyards over the next 25 years—a generation of workers stand to benefit.

Another longline contract to build a similar, but larger, vessel has been awarded to J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corporation of Tacoma, Washington. The new 184-foot Northern Leader is expected to have one of the largest freezer hold capacities of any longliner vessel, and will have diesel-electric propulsion with azimuthing stern drives.

Other yards along the West Coast are bidding on similar projects and it’s high time the Bering Sea fleet was updated. The average age of the approximately 36 vessels currently operating in the freezer longline fleet is 40 years old, and many are more than 50 years old. Replacement vessels will be safer for the crew, meet international class and loadline requirements and be more fuel-efficient.

Most of the newbuild yards on the West Coast are capable of building these vessels, and the quality of construction offered by US West Coast yards suggests that most of the vessels will be built in the area. The $20 to $40 million per vessel of private capital invested in the new ships will provide much needed economic stimulus to the communities served by the shipyards building them, without borrowing from China or dipping in to our grandchildren’s retirement accounts.

We understand that catcher boats, trawlers and even the fishing industries behemoth factory trawlers are also planning for replacement of their aging fleets. Industry experts predict as many as 400 new vessels could be built in the next 25 years.

These vessels are being built in American yards by American owners with no subsidies, tax incentives or public financing.

That’s what true economic stimulus looks like.

To learn more about the fleet upgrade program, attend the Philips Publishing Group’s 2nd annual Bering Sea Fisheries Conference on April 24th –www.beringseafisheries.com.
Chris Philips, Managing Editor