In 2009’s miserable economy, Jim Murray closed FreeportShipbuilding, a move that was “one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make,” he said.
The Freeport, Fla., yard, in business since 1978, had built a variety of boats though “passenger vessels are what we cut our teeth on,” said Murray, who retired and put the seven-acre property on the market.
Then along came Stuart Reeves, a close friend and former client, who wanted to build two more fast supply boats. As a result, the old Freeport yard last year became Gulfstream Shipbuilding LLC with Murray as general manager.
Reeves, president of Starfleet Marine Transportation Inc., Mount Pleasant, S.C., had asked Murray to help as a consultant for his newbuilds. So they went to several different yards, “and everything came back higher than what we anticipated,” Murray said.
“I said if you want to build a boat, the shipyard’s here, most of the equipment’s here, we could start it back up.” Reeves agreed. Murray would lease Reeves the yard and equipment and run the shipyard for him.
Murray contacted former employees and now has 25-28 people versus about 40 when the yard closed. They expect to deliver the first boat in September. Reeves said the staff is “a very skillful bunch of people.”
“I view us more as partners than anything. I have been a friend of Jim and a client of Freeport Shipbuilding since 1995,” Reeves said. “We intend to be a full service yard. We’re going to build everything. The situation he has is the perfect environment for us to do new construction.”
They’ve extended the fabrication shed from 180' to 230', so they can accommodate 200-class crewboats, and extended the launchway as well.
Murray and Freeport built four crewboats for Starfleet beginning in 1999. The boats ranged from 140' to 160'.
Murray said he enjoyed getting back into the business. “Our intent is to keep this thing rolling and go out and solicit new work.”