Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fidley Watch – The Final Yard

By Peter Philips, Publisher

At press time, Managing Editor Chris Philips was on vacation, so Publisher Peter Philips penned this month’s editorial.

Al Larson Boat Shop has been providing commercial ship and boat repair in San Pedro Bay for more than 110 years. Readers of Pacific Maritime Magazine will know the yard as offering the only large dry docking capacity for more than 100 miles on either side – 100 miles to San Diego and almost four hundred miles to the Bay Area.

Al Larson Boat Shop provides repair and maintenance to the tugboats and barges, workboats, marine construction crane and derrick barges, fishing boats and ferries that are essential to the operation of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s largest container port complex.

Business is very good at the yard. In fact, Al Larson Boat Shop has been profitable for the entirety of its long history of service to the industry, and prospects are excellent for continued profitability into the future. Al Larson president Jack Wall has ambitious plans to expand the yard to accommodate the anticipated growth in repair work over the next generation.

Wall’s expansion plans were developed to reconfigure the property and modernize the facility to make it more efficient, cleaner and better suited to the needs of the maritime community that so relies on Al Larson Boat Shop. Those plans were submitted to the Port of Los Angeles in 2008, after they had been vetted and approved by every licensing and regulatory agency in Southern California.

Jack Wall is a responsible operator, a leader in the maritime community, and Al Larson Boat Shop provides ship repair services that are essential to the long-term economic health of the port economy. But Jack can’t get a lease.

For almost 35 years, Al Larson Boat Shop has been forced to operate on a month-to-month lease in the same manner your college age kid rents his downtown studio. The Port of Los Angeles has refused to offer the long-term lease that would give the yard the predictability it needs to make the multi-million dollar reinvestment that will allow the yard to serve our industry into the future.

Absent this long term lease, Al Larson Boat Shop will shut down. The only shipyard in San Pedro Bay capable of serving the port’s workboat community will cease to serve our industry. The result to the economic vitality of the region will be pronounced and immediate as vessel operators are forced to travel south to San Diego or north to San Francisco Bay for even the simplest of repairs.

This crisis can be resolved tomorrow if the Port of Los Angeles offers Al Larson Boat Shop a long-term lease on reasonable terms.

Our industry must stand together to protect this valuable economic asset. Whether you operate a tugboat, or sell tugboat engines, or operate a container terminal, provide engineering services or maintain container cranes, move containers or move container ships, Al Larson Boat Shop remains essential to the vitality of our interdependent maritime economy in Southern California.

You can help us save this important Southern California ship repair facility.

Join me in urging the Port of Los Angeles to do the economically and ecologically right thing.

Please write a short note today to the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles at the address listed below if you value Al Larson Boat Shop. Urge him to sign Al Larson Boat Shop to the long-term lease they need to continue to serve the Southern California maritime community.

Gene Seroka
Executive Director
Port of Los Angeles
425 South Palos Verdes Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

Or email:Gene_Seroka@portla.org

Peter Philips is president of Philips Publishing Group and publisher of Pacific Maritime Magazine. Peter can be reached at peter@philipspublishing.com or (206) 284-8285.