A new boat hoist in Portland, Maine, may show how relatively modest federal investments in shipyards' capacity can yield economic benefits for local maritime communities.

Portland Shipyard introduced its new 330-metric ton mobile hoist Tuesday, at a small dedication ceremony. Richard Balzano, deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration, was the keynote speaker.

Marad provided $990,500 from its Small Shipyard Grant Program to help Portland Shipyard obtain the hoist from Marine Travelift, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

Shipyard owner Phineas Sprague said the lift, and a planned 72'-tall maintenance building where it can fit with a boat, will allow the yard to fully service bigger local vessels sucha as Casco Bay Line ferries, and attract new business to the harbor from vessels that otherwise must travel farther for maintenance and repair.

The criteria for qualifying grant applications is that “capital and related improvements to qualified shipyard facilities ...l be effective in fostering efficiency, competitive operations, and quality ship construction, repair, and reconfiguration,” according to Marad documents.

Hitting those marks helped Yank Marine Services win a 2012 Small Shipyard Grant of $961,676 to help replace a 200-ton boat lift at its Tuckahoe, N.J., yard with a 300-ton capacity Travelift boat hoist.

At the time it was the biggest one in New Jersey. But there were even bigger plans for the company’s property in Dorchester, N.J., a historic shipbuilding community on Delaware Bay.

Within a few years, owners John and Bette Jean Yank traded in the old 200-ton machine to Marine Travelift as part of a $3.8 million lease of an 820-ton boat hoist. Arriving in late 2017, the lift’s first jobs included the 74.5’x25’x11.7’, 2,000-hp tug Petrel, and the 91.3’x36’x14.8’ Pacific Capes, a former Alaska crab vessel that had been acquired by a fishing company in Cape May, N.J.

Company president Bette Jean Yank said the big lift would let the Dorchester yard become a regional provider of maintenance and repair services, and hire many more workers.

“It’s the second biggest in the country, and the biggest between Norfolk, Va., and North Kingston, R.I.,” she said. “It means we can work on every commercial fishing boat in Cape May and Atlantic City. We have opened a whole new market here. We can work on the bigger Coast Guard vessels, like the 87' patrol boats.”

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.