The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (Marad) announced in April the availability of $19.6 million in federal funding to support capital improvements and employee training at small U.S. shipyards.

Former Maritime Administrator, David Matsuda, told an audience at the Inland Marine Expo in St. Louis today to take advantage of the opportunities the Small Shipyard Grant Program offers.

“Started in 2008, it’s one of the lesser known Marad programs, but the money is there for those who take advantage of the program,” said Matsuda, who now runs the consulting firm of Matsuda & Associates.

Former Marad Administrator David Matsuda. Ken Hocke photo

Former Marad Administrator David Matsuda. Ken Hocke photo

One of the firm’s specialties is helping shipyards through the application process. People miss out because they wait too long to begin. “It’s a competitive program,” Matsuda said. “But there’s a preference at the agency for yards that are building commercial boats.”

And if you do get a grant, make sure you use all of it before you apply for another one. “If you’re still working on one, they’re not going to give you another one,” Matsuda said. “Don’t bother applying.”

The grant splits the cost of the project with Marad putting up 75% of the cost and shipyard covering the other 25%. It use to be that a yard that didn’t put up the entire 25% might get away with it, but not anymore. “Congress changed that last year, and the 25% is now a hard floor.” Matsuda said the Trump administration tends to smile upon applicants who can go beyond the 25% match. “Not sure what that means. It’s just that every time you have a new administration there are folks adding their two cents.”

Officially, there is no cost to apply, but “it’s a pretty time consuming task,” said Matsuda. And if you use a consultant or grant writer, it will cost you even more. But sometimes there is no one in the office who can put that much time into an application. It depends on the shipyard.

After 2014, Congress zeroed out the program. Matsuda, who had left Marad the year before, said he had people in the shipyard industry contacting him and asking why that happened. “We went over to the appropriations committee and talked to the staff and the guys said, ‘Well nobody asked for the money. We killed it.’”

So the Small Shipyard Grant Coalition was formed to keep that from happening again. Matsuda manages that group, and Marad started funding the program again in 2016. “In 2016, we got about $10 million. Last year they said, ‘How about $20 million? And when you come back next year, ask for more.’”

Applications for the grants were due today, May 22, and Marad intends to award grants no later than July 23. The grants are provided through the Small Shipyard Grant Program and help eligible shipyards modernize operations, increase efficiency and reap the benefits of increased productivity.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.