I can understand why some of you may wonder if all workboat newbuilding and repair activity happens on the Gulf and West Coasts. I will be the first to admit that we are a bit top-heavy when it comes to covering activity in these regions.
But let me state this: The majority of second-tier yards are located along the Gulf Coast in the bayous of Louisiana and Alabama, and in Texas, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle. Also, it just so happens that senior editor Ken Hocke and myself are based right in the thick of it in the New Orleans area. Out West, yards there have garnered a reputation for building quality steel and aluminum vessels. Coverage of these yards doesn’t get shortchanged with WorkBoat technical editor Bruce Buls and his trusty Nikon domiciled in the Seattle area.
So with all this Deep South and Western flavor, I can understand when some of our online and print loyalists get the idea that the East Coast no longer builds or repairs many workboats.
However, we have always provided thorough coverage of all the newbuilds coming out of Northeast yards like Washburn & Doughty and Gladding-Hearn. But what about repair? Did you know that many workboat repair yards are flourishing on the East Coast?
Recently, WorkBoat’s Annapolis, Md.-based correspondent Kathy Bergren Smith talked to and visited several East Coast yards. The research produced a long-overdue cover story that will appear in the April issue of WorkBoat.
During her journeys and phone interviews, Kathy uncovered several interesting tidbits. Gladding-Hearn, known for its signature deep-V pilot boats and passenger cats, is once again targeting the repair business. The Massachusetts yard recently completed upgrades to its railway, and the increase in capacity enables it to go after bigger repair projects.
To the south in Connecticut, Derecktor’s recently completed drydock expansion is paying off. The yard is now flush with repair work and was recently awarded a five-year contract to repair small ferries in the Staten Island Ferry fleet.
Farther south in Norfolk, Va., a $10 million expansion at Colonna’s Shipyard, which included a new 1,000-ton boat hoist, has brought a bunch of work to the yard.
So while the East Coast may no longer be the thriving hub for shipbuilding that it once was decades ago, it is certainly a vibrant and important part of the workboat industry.