The region’s shipyards stay busy with work and expansion ambitions.
Through good times or bad, the shipyards of the Pacific Northwest service the commercial fishing fleet. By no means a comprehensive account, herein is some regional scuttlebutt from a few of the notable yards.
Everett Ship Repair/Nichols Brothers
Everett Ship Repair (ESR) is a rising star of the Puget Sound shipyard scene. The yard opened at the Everett, Wash. working waterfront in 2019 and is owned by Ice Cap Holdings. Ice Cap also owns Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, a legacy boatbuilder based out of nearby Freeland, Wash. on Whidbey Island.
“I’m a naval architect by training,” Ice Cap CEO Gavin Higgins said. “Graduated when Christ was a cowboy and came over here from England and started working for (a) shipbuilder in Newport, Rhode Island.”
Higgins spent around 30 years working on the East Coast in the maritime industry before striking out west. He was involved with many notable projects including the fastest speed ferry and largest yacht built in the U.S. He has been working with Nichols Brothers for about 12 years.
“In doing that, (I) recognized pretty quickly the limitations with Nichols. It’s a great place to build ships, but it is a tough place to service vessels from,” Higgins said.
The facility in Holmes Harbor doesn’t have a pier next to it, so to service a ship they had to do so at Langley or bring it up to the yard, which could be complicated. The solution—ESR across the water in Everett.
Five years on and ESR currently has two drydocks, Faithful Servant (460-foot by 110-foot vessel accommodation, 8,000 standard tons-plus lift capacity) and Emerald Lifter (220-foot by 62-foot vessel accommodation, 2,000 standard tons-plus lift capacity). The company also has picked up an 800-foot pier to expand its waterfront footprint.
Their efforts, the company has said, have brought over 100 jobs to Everett.
“We do factory processors, and we do Washington state ferries, and we do lots of tugs. We’re hitting that broad spectrum of ship repair now that we wanted to be able to get to,” Higgins said.
The sister companies, Nichols Brothers and ESR, have been complementing each other well. Components are often fabricated at Nichols Brothers and shipped to ESR for installation. Refits are also ongoing at the Nichols Brothers location.
Project examples include adding shelter decks, building moonpools, upgrading water treatment systems, and pretty much anything working vessels could need. One recent example was a refit of the factory seafood processor Excellence with a refrigeration system upgrade. Higgins said they finished the project ahead of schedule.
“We target to supply first-class labor and support to meet people’s schedule and budget, for whatever the target is they’re trying to do,” Higgins said of the company ethos. “Get it done. Happy customer, happy client. On time. That’s the mission.”
Commodore’s Boats is a full-service boatyard based in Richmond, B.C. that specializes in marine restoration, ship repair, traditional wood boats, yacht repair and working vessel maintenance.
“I’ve been here for eight or nine years, and prior to that I was always in a management position with other operations, not necessarily in the shipyard business,” said Ryan Galovich, business development manager of Commodore’s Boats. The yard just completed a sponson and lengthening project for an Alaskan fishing boat that arrived at 36 feet in length and left at 50 feet in length thanks to their work. The beam was also expanded by eight feet.
“We’ve done sponson and lengthening jobs before, but we’ve got a reputation for it,” Galovich said.
Another recent project was lengthening the crabbing vessel Sea Lady. The boat’s beam was also expanded by six feet.
“We’ve also done some Canadian prawn boats recently, where we lengthened and sponsoned them as well,” Galovich added.
All the projects have been aluminum, with similar projects scheduled for later this year, according to the company.
Seaspan Shipyards has operations in Vancouver Shipyards, Vancouver Drydock and Victoria Shipyards in British Columbia.
“At Vancouver Drydock, it was a busy start to the year,” Seaspan ULC spokesman Adam D’Agostino said. Six vessels were docked simultaneously in January to allow for repair work on BC Ferries’ Malaspina Sky, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier and more. Relevant to commercial fishing professionals is a potential expansion.
“We are running at near capacity on commercial repair and refit projects, and we anticipate this level of activity to continue for the foreseeable future,” D’Agostino said. “However, we are currently awaiting a decision from the Port of Vancouver on our proposal to extend our water lot and add two new smaller floating drydocks and a work pontoon to our existing drydock operations.”
The additional floating drydocks should increase the number of projects Seaspan can take at any given time, the company has said. As of press time, the company was still waiting to receive a decision from the port regarding its expansion proposal.
Fred Wahl Marine Construction
It’s no secret that we live in a challenging era for new commercial fishing builders. But Fred Wahl Marine Construction (FWMC), based in Reedsport, Ore., has bucked the trend with their popular 58-foot by 26-foot and 58-foot by 28-foot in-house commercial fishing boat. The company built and delivered the steel-hulled Dungeness crabber/shrimper/salmon tender f/v Uyak this year. The boat, named after Uyak Bay of Kodiak, Alaska, is the 50th new hull designed, built and delivered by FWMC.
“The design considerations for the f/v Uyak were built upon years of experience and feedback from constructing the 58-foot combination vessels that FWMC is known for,” the firm’s marine designer Kendall Blake told Fishermen’s News earlier this year. “The design of the f/v Uyak is unique when compared to the 58 in various ways, both in aesthetic and in functionality.”
FWMC has a 685-ton boat hoist that can haul vessels up to 165 feet in length and 40 feet in breadth. The company also operates an additional facility with 900-ton capacity marine ways and 1,200 feet of river frontage with loading and floating docks.
The keel of the f/v Uyak was laid on March 1, 2022, but heavy construction didn’t begin until May 30, 2022 due to supply-chain delays. The vessel was launched last December.
FWMC continues to service the commercial fishing fleet, notably the Western Seas, which received new forward bulwarks and more.
Norris Comer is a Seattle-based writer and author. His debut memoir, Salmon in the Seine: Alaskan Memories of Life, Death,
& Everything In-Between is now available wherever books are sold. You can find him on Substack, Instagram and at norriscomer.com. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.