Marine Group Boat Works in multi-million dollar modernization project

Written by Nick Blenkey
Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW) boatt lift

Versatile 820-ton boat lift will be central to MGBW modernization project [Image: MGBW]

Family-owned Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW), which earlier this year was awarded a Small Shipyard Grant worth more than $1.1 million, is to undertake a multi-million dollar modernization project at its 15-acre shipbuilding and repair facility on San Diego Bay in Chula Vista, Calif. Central to the project will be the addition of a new 820-ton state-of-the-art mobile boat lift, which will be the only sideways-crawling boat lift on the West Coast and the largest in the United States.

Superyacht refits account for approximately one-third of MGBW’s business. Another one-third comes from commercial vessels (including ferries, tugboats, barges, workboats and research vessels), with the final third coming from shipbuilding and repair work for the U.S. military and other governmental agencies.

The new 820-ton boat lift, ordered from Veneto, Italy, based Cimolai Technology, will be able to haul a superyacht out of the water and transport it forward, backward and even sideways on wheels that can turn 90 degrees. Another key feature of the machine is its variable-width, which will allow the crane to expand up to 18.5 feet or collapse for vessels with smaller beams. The powerful machine will also include a Tier 4 low-emission power source.

Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW) yard after modernization
Image: MGBW

The new versatility provided by the lift will allow MGBW to make more efficient use of its one-million-square-foot facility by optimizing the space between vessels when blocked on shore. The build-out is expected to take 12 months, with delivery in fall 2024.

The high-capacity lifts needed to haul out vessels like superyachts typically take up a large amount of valuable real estate within a shipyard. When vessels are blocked in the yard, the spacing between them is determined by the overall width of the lift, not the boats themselves. With standard boat lifts, the width is fixed, locking the operators into a larger footprint even when it is not required for a specific craft. This wasted space results in lost drydocking capacity for the shipyard, which in turn creates a backlog of boats waiting for an open slot, significant schedule disruptions (particularly in the busy off-season), and work being turned away.

This is the second major investment in expandable lift equipment MGBW has made in 2023. In April, the firm announced it had purchased a 75-ton Marine Travelift to increase capacity at its other, smaller, shipyard in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Plans for MGBW’s modernization project are currently in environmental review in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In addition to the new boat lift, the construction project will include the largest solar panel installation on the San Diego waterfront, which will provide 500 kilowatts of renewable energy to power yard equipment and supply shore-power to docked boats. The project will also include the replacement and reconfiguration of all docks and dredging to restore deep-water access.

The facility will remain fully operational during construction, which is expected to take 10 months.

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