Monday, November 3, 2014

Vigor Christens New Drydock

By Mark Edward Nero

More than a thousand employees, customers and their families were hosted by Vigor Industrial in Portland on Oct. 25 as the company christened its new drydock, dubbed the Vigorous.

“This is a momentous day for us,” Vigor Chief Operating Officer Dave Whitcomb said during a speech at the christening. “Vigorous is here to support family-wage jobs for the men and women of Vigor as well as the marine community here in Portland.”

The 960-foot vessel, which cost $50 million to build and deliver, is now among the largest floating drydocks in North America and is expected to open Portland to new markets such as cruise ships and post-Panamax vessels.

Two Maritime Administration cargo ships are expected to be the first vessels in the dock this month, creating 130 jobs for Vigor workers. The company also has a cruise ship booked for repairs in March 2015.

The christening drew local dignitaries such as Portland Mayor Charlie Hales who has advocated the key importance of industrial jobs.

“Portlanders sometimes forget that there is a strong industrial sector in our economy,” Hales said in a news release.

The Vigorous is about the same size as a drydock that Vigor CEO Frank Foti was forced to sell in 2001 in order to repay millions of dollars that the company owed lenders. The sale of the shipyard’s largest asset led some to speculate at the time that it signaled the end of shipbuilding in Portland. But since then, Vigor has grown from the single shipyard to nine locations from Portland to Alaska.

“Over a decade ago many people here probably never thought a day like this would come for Portland or Vigor again,” Whitcomb said.

During the christening, Foti said that the choice to sell the original drydock in 2001 was a difficult decision, but that now, 13 years later, he was proud to welcome the Vigorous, which joins 11 other drydocks at locations across the Pacific Northwest, from Portland to Ketchikan.

The massive drydock, which will be used to lift vessels as large as cruise ships out of the water, was built in China by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries. It arrived at the mouth of the Columbia on Aug. 25 and made its way up to Vigor Industrial’s Portland shipyard on the Willamette River.

In addition of a length of 960 feet, the Vigorous has a lifting capacity of 80,000 long tons; an inside width: 186 feet; and a total width of 228 feet. It has a height of 70 feet and weighs 24,000 long tons, according to Vigor.