Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and Washington Island Ferry Line have signed an agreement to construct a new, year-round passenger/vehicle ferry for service across Wisconsin’s Death’s Door Passage. To be named
Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding
under an agreement recently signed with the Interlake Steamship Company, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is to construct the first U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier to be built in more than 35 years The
JANUARY 23, 2019 — Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI, has delivered the newly-converted barge Commander to Port City Marine Services (PCMS) of Muskegon, MI. The Commander is a 495’ by 72’
AUGUST 6, 2018 —Dario Deste is to succeed Francesco Valente as President and Chief Executive officer of Fincantieri Marine Group, the U.S subsidiary of Fincantieri that operates three Great Lakes shipyards: Fincantieri
JUNE 27, 2018 — Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI, has inked a deal with VanEnkevort Tug & Barge, Inc. (VTB), Escanaba, MI, to construct a 37,512 dwt self-unloading barge for transportation of
JULY 31, 2017 — Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS) of Sturgeon Bay, WI, a subsidiary of Fincantieri Marine Group, has delivered the second of two Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) units to Houston-based Kirby
FEBRUARY 16, 2017 — The winter repair season is in full swing at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Sixteen Great Lakes bulkers of various sizes are in the shipyard for
NOVEMBER 15, 2016 — A National Transportation Safety Board Report finds that the probable cause of a fire that broke out December 11, 2015 on a 1942-built Great Lakes steamship while in
Considered the “forgotten borough” by some New Yorkers, Staten Island is on the verge of making its presence known in the city that never sleeps. The borough is a 25-minute ferry ride from the lowest tip in Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry terminal at Whitehall.
Staten Island’s plan for renewal includes a $1.2 billion investment that will see the construction of the New York Wheel at St. George—an impressive 630 ft tall observation wheel that will rival England’s infamous London Eye, and feature 36 pods with accommodations for 40 in each, on a 38 minute ride/revolution, giving passengers a spectacular view of New York Harbor. Alongside the New York Wheel, New York City’s first outlet mall, Empire Outlets, is currently being constructed at St. George. The mall will feature 350,000 square feet of retail, 100 different shops and a 190-room hotel. Both the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets are expected to be operational by 2018.
How will tourist, potential shoppers, and New Yorkers alike make their way to these new attractions? They’ll be taking the Staten Island Ferry of course. The fleet, currently comprised of nine ferries, carries 22 million passengers a year—second only to Washington State Ferries’ fleet which carries over 23 million passengers annually.
And come 2019, the Staten Island Ferry fleet will welcome a new class to its fleet—the Ollis Class ferries.
Designed by Seattle-based Elliott Bay Design Group, the Ollis Class will mix the new with a bit of the old, providing passengers with a faster, more efficient ride to help meet increased ridership demand.
Its design will give the 320 ft x 70 ft ferries a striking resemblance to the beloved John F. Kennedy—which was commissioned in 1965 and is one of the oldest ferries in the Staten Island Ferry fleet. The Kennedy is one of three-that will be retired once the new Ollis Class series is delivered—the S.I. Newhouse and Andrew J. Barberi, both commissioned in 1981 are the other two.
The new Ollis Class will be double-ended and have capacity for 4,500 passengers; and like the Kennedy, will feature plenty of open air space, enabling passengers to enjoy the harbor view. The ferries will be built to ABS class requirements and will be powered by Tier 4 EMD engines and Voith Schneider Propulsion Drives.
The first of the three ferries will be named in honor of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a native Staten Islander who died while saving another soldier in Afghanistan. He was only 24 years old.
The Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis ferry is expected to begin operations in 2019, with vessels two and three following later in 2019 and 2020.
Building the Ollis Class
As we were going to press, yards were putting in their final bids for the ferry project.
Among the yards that have expressed interest in the Ollis Class—at least according to the 2015 Industry Day attendance—are Conrad Shipyard, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, and Vigor. All are builders of a variety of vessel types including ferries.
Conrad Shipyard—which has won a number of newbuild contracts this year — has had its share of ferry projects in the past, and is looking to keep the momentum going.
As Dan Conrad, Conrad Shipyard’s Senior Vice President and Director, explains, “Conrad Shipyard has a great track record on deliveries to the Puerto Rico Maritime Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation, the State of North Carolina and the Alaska Marine Highway, among others.” And he assures that his team is committed to pursuing the ferry market for years to come.
Most recently, Conrad’s Conrad Aluminum, Amelia, LA, yard delivered the M/V Woodshole to the Steamship Authority. The 235 ft x 64 ft ferry was designed by Elliott Bay Design Group and has capacity for 384 passengers, 55 automobiles or 10 eighteen-wheel tractor-trailers.
Eastern Shipbuilding Group is said to have the inside track on building the Ollis Class ferries, according to our sources. It would be quite a month for the Panama City, FL-based shipyard, which recently secured the lucrative contract to build the OPC for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Meanwhile, Fincantieri’s recent expansion is helping it position its Bay Shipbuilding yard for larger projects that can be produced and worked on, year-round. The three-acre expansion will pave the way for additional covered fabrication and erection facilities, an indoor paint and coating building, and outfitting shop that will enable FBS to increase its pursuit of ferry projects.
“This expansion allows us to increase our capacity and positions us to pursue a number of new construction markets, including large passenger ferries,” said FBS Vice President and General Manager Todd Thayse. “Our experience in building ferries and other complex passenger vessels dates back to our origins almost a hundred years ago, and includes the New York Staten Island Ferry now operating (the Guy V. Molinari). We have the people, the experience, the facilities, and the global resources of Fincantieri to ensure that we can tackle the most challenging construction projects.”
As for the shipbuilding powerhouse in the Northwest, Vigor, it’s currently working on six ferry projects at the moment, including the final two vessels in Washington State Ferries’ new 144-car Olympic Class.
“Vigor has deep expertise in the ferry market with successful, on-time and on-budget deliveries of car ferries, passenger only vessels and catamarans. Six ferries are currently under construction at our Washington and Alaska yards and we expect ferry construction to continue to be a focus in our business development efforts, leveraging our considerable experience,” said Corey Yraguen, Vigor Executive VP of Fabrication.
Just last month the Chimacum, the third in the series was christened at Vigor’s Harbor Island yard. The fourth vessel in the series, the Suquamish, is currently under construction and scheduled for completion in 2018, with operations set to begin in 2019.
The 144-car ferries are the result of a combined effort from a consortium of Northwest based companies, including Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Freeland, WA, which has been in charge of building the superstructures for the144-car ferries.
In other Vigor ferry news, Vigor’s Ballard Facility (formerly Kvichak Marine) is building two 400 passenger ferries for the Water Emergency Transportation Authority of San Francisco (WETA). The Incat Crowther designed ferries will travel 27 knots and are scheduled for delivery Summer 2017.
And Vigor’s Ketchikan yard in Alaska has taken up the task of constructing the highly anticipated 280 ft Day Boat ferries for the Alaska Marine Highway System. The ferries, designed by Elliott Bay Design Group, are scheduled to be completed Fall 2018.
Vigor’s Executive VP of Business Development, Keith Whittemore, will be discussing Vigor’s ferry projects and more at the Marine Log Ferries Conference & Expo November 3 & 4, 2016, Seattle, WA. Attendees of the event will also have the chance to tour Vigor’s Harbor Island yard after the conference’s conclusion. Learn more at www.marinelog.com/events
Staten Island Borough President, James Oddo sparked additional interest in the Staten Island Ferry system when he requested the New York City Department of Transportation explore the feasibility of extending the Staten Island Ferry’s route north of the Whitehall Terminal, possibly extending the service into midtown.
While the idea sounds great in theory, and will certainly foster a sense of “transit equality” for Staten Islanders who have a grueling commute (just ask our Editor-in-Chief, John Snyder), the route extension could prove problematic as there is currently no operating terminal in place in midtown, with the right infrastructure to handle such large vessels.
New York’s Ferry Boom
Of course, the Staten Island Ferry isn’t the only New York City ferry operation making waves. Operated by Hornblower NY, Citywide Ferry Service’s new fleet of ferries are currently under construction at Louisiana-based Metal Shark Boats and Alabama’s Horizon Shipbuilding. The contract catapults both yards into new markets—propelling Metal Shark into the commercial market in a very big way, and introducing Horizon to the ferry market.
A large portion of the Incat Crowther-designed ferries are expected to be delivered in time for Citywide Ferry Service’s launch Summer 2017. The service, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation is projected to make 4.6 million trips annually.
The 85 ft ferries will have capacity for 150 passengers, as well as space for bikes, strollers and wheelchairs. The Citywide Ferry Service is expected to add five new routes on the East River.
Meanwhile, another well-known ferry operator in New York harbor is upping its stake in the market. Seastreak says its “raising the bar in fast passenger ferry service” with the addition of a new, high-speed, 600-passenger, catamaran in 2017. The ferry will be the highest passenger capacity USCG K-class high speed ferry in the U.S.
The addition of the new ferry will help Seastreak meet growing passenger demand on the New Jersey to New York route.
Designed by Incat Crowther, the ferry, the first in Seastreak’s new Commodore class, will be 147 ft 8 in x 39 ft 5 in. The vessel was designed to provide Seastreak with an operational advantage. The ferry’s boarding arrangement will include large forward and aft side gates as well as an adjustable bow ramp. This will help facilitate turnaround times at terminals.
The first vessel in the series will be built at Gulf Craft Shipyard, Franklin, LA. Construction is to be completed by 3rd quarter 2017. Meanwhile, Seastreak expects a keel to be laid for a second Commodore class vessel before the end of 2016.
The Commodore Class ferry will be powered by four MTU 12V4000 M64 EPA Tier III main engines, each delivering 1,875 hp at 1,800 rev/min and driving Rolls-Royce KaMeWa 63S4 waterjets. The vessel will also feature LED lighting and an advance energy efficient HVAC system.
The ferry’s main deck will hold 234- passengers; mid deck will seat 271 passengers inside and 52 passengers outside; and the third deck features 160 exterior seats as well as the vessel’s wheelhouse.
Seastreak is also initiating the upgrades and repowering of several members of its current operating fleet. First one up will be the Seastreak New York, which is expected to enter into drydock this coming winter. At press time, the bids were out to multiple yards. The repowering project is expected to be completed by the end of the 1st quarter 2017.
Florida gets in the game
New York isn’t the only city getting its ferry action on. This month, service officially begins on the Cross-Bay Ferry system—connecting St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fl. The service is part of a pilot project intended to introduce residents and visitors to water transit services in the area.
The route will be operated by the 98 ft twin-hull aluminum catamaran, Provincetown IV. The ferry was originally built for Bay State Cruise Company, Boston, MA, by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, the Duclos Corporation, Somerset, MA. Designed by Incat Crowther, the 149-passenger ferry can operate at a top speed of up to 30 knots on the 50 minute route.
“We only have one vessel, and one crew, so we cannot do everything, but we do mean to showcase this technology to a lot of people and test ferry service in a variety of ways and markets,” said Ed Turanchik, policy advisor for the project.
Organizers of the project are testing the service on a variety of different market segments including tourist and local commuters, and the entertainment and sports markets. Learn more about the project at CrossBayFerry.com.
VDOT accepts ferry bids
Last month, the Virginia Department of Transportation was accepting bids for a new 70-vehicle ferry based on a design by Alion Science. The boat would be a replacement for the VDOT’s oldest ferry, the Virginia, built in 1936. Construction on the steel-hull ferry is to start this fall with completion in 2018.
Gladding Hearn delivers high-speed ferry
Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, the Duclos Corporation, recently delivered a new 493 –passenger, high-speed Incat Crowther designed ferry to Hy-Line Cruises, a division of Hyannis Harbor Tours, Inc., Hyannis, MA.
The all-aluminum ferry is 153.5 ft x 35.5 ft and is powered by four Cummins QSK60-M, EPA Tier 3 diesel engines each delivering 2,200 bhp at 1,800 rev/min. Each engine will power a Hamilton HM721 waterjet through a Twin Disc MG61500SC horizontally-offset gearbox.
Incat Crowther says the ferry represents an evolutionary step from its previous designs built by Gladding-Hearn. According to the designer, the capacity increase had to fit within docking constraints, enforcing upper limits on both the length and beam of the vessel. To meet the requirements, it moved the wheelhouse to a third deck, freeing up the front end of the second deck for VIP passengers.
The restructuring shifted boarding arrangements, with the addition of a middeck boarding door and both forward and aft stairways improving passenger flow and turnaround times, says Incat.
The ferry will provide year-round service between Hyannis and Nantucket Island. It will top speeds of over 34 knots when fully loaded at a deadweight of more than 64 tonnes, said Peter Duclos, President of Gladding-Hearn.
The new ferry is also outfitted with a Naiad Dynamic trim-tab, ride-control system to help improve passenger comfort and safety. The system’s motion sensor measures the relative movement of the vessel and transmits a signal to the hydraulic device to counter the boat’s actions through the waves.
Europe’s Ferry Market
The European ferry market remains in the forefront of technology. The continent that gave the world emission-free, battery operated ferries, will now give forth, the world’s largest hybrid ferry.
Just last month, Norway’s Color Line reported that it would order the largest hybrid ferry ever built. The ferry, which will feature batteries charged via green electricity from dedicated shore side facilities, or recharged on onboard via the ship’s generators, would double the capacity of the vessel it will replace.
Tentatively named the “Color Hybrid, the ferry will be 160 m long and have capacity for 2,000 passengers and up to 500 cars. The ferry is expected to be put into service on the Sandefjord, Norway to Stromstad, Sweden route in 2020.
And not to be outdone, Damen says its ready to launch its first composites-construction Water Bus. As we were going to press, the prototype was prepping to begin sea trials.
The Damen Water Bus is the first vessel for public transportation produced at Damen Shipyards, Antalya, Turkey. Its benefits are plentiful—the vessel, which features a slender hull, making it lighter than a traditional aluminum vessel, requires less fuel consumption, less maintenance, will suffer from no corrosion or fatigue problems. It can travel at speeds up to 21 knots and has capacity for 100 passengers.
Damen’s Design & Proposal Engineer, Fast Ferries, Marcel Elenbaas, explains that the Water Bus is built using high quality vacuum infusion technology that creates a “difficult to penetrate closed cell, epoxy sandwich structure.”
Damen says the vessel is ideal for highly congested urban areas, and is a simple and efficient way for using a city’s natural waterways system.
The Water Bus is equipped with two, forward facing, double-screw podded propulsion units—helping to reduce vibrations. Damen says the vessel can be easily adapted to customer specifications, and because of the nature of the composites’ production process, delivery to clients will be quick.
Anyone needing reassurance that the shipbuilding sector in the United States is alive and well need look no further than the Great Lakes. While yards along the U.S. Gulf reshuffle business strategies to help during the down oil market, yards along the Great Lakes continue to work on a number of projects, investing in infrastructure and leveraging partnerships to diversify portfolio offerings.
Perhaps the busiest group of all is Fincantieri Marine Group (FMG)—the U.S. subsidiary of one of the world’s largest shipbuilders in the world, Fincantieri. The Fincantieri Marine Group is comprised of three Great Lakes shipyards—Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS), Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM), and Fincantieri ACE Marine (FAM).
Since acquiring the Wisconsin yards in 2008, Fincantieri has invested well over $100 million to build a shipbuilding group that will provide flexibility for its customers, and provide construction and repair services to both the government and commercial sectors.
Sturgeon Bay, WI-based Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS), which is one of the last boat builders remaining in the Bay, has been essentially non-stop the last couple of years. The yard currently has numerous projects under various stages of construction with a backlog that extends through 2018. Most notably, the projects include newbuilds for one of the most active sectors in the country, the ATB market.
This past May, the yard delivered the Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) unit Barbara Carol Ann Moran and the 110,000 barrel ocean tank barge Louisiana to Moran Towing Corporation, New Canaan, CT. The unit was the third delivery to Moran under a 2014 contract.
The 5,300 HP, 121 ft ATB tug Barbara Carol Ann Moran is certified ABS Class +A-1 Towing Service, +AMS, and is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation and communications technology.
What made the delivery of the unit so impressive was that it was delivered on the exact day called for by the contract—emphasizing FBS’ high standards of meeting customer requirements, building a quality vessel and delivering on time.
Currently, FBS is under contract to construct two ATB tugs and two ocean going tank barges for Kirby Corporation; one ATB tug and one oceangoing tank barge for Plains All American Pipeline, LP; and one ATB tug and one oceangoing tank barge for AMA Capital Partners.
“We continue to be optimistic about the future of the industry we serve,” says, Todd Thayse, Fincantieri Bay Shipyard Vice President and General Manager.
To keep the momentum going, Fincantieri recently purchased the Palmer Johnson facility adjacent to the Bay Shipbuilding yard. Bay Shipbuilding has extensive expansion plans set for the 3-acre site, including the construction of new indoor Fabrication/Erection facilities, an indoor Blast and Coating building, outfitting shops and additional office facilities.
“This recent acquisition of the former Palmer Johnson facility has been well received by the industry and will allow us to pursue several new construction projects, which may include fishing vessels, ferries and landing crafts, while continuing to serve our core ATB market. These purpose-designed buildings will increase our overall output and capacity and improve our ability to meet critical schedules,” says Thayse.
“We will also be able to move more construction indoors which will allow FBS to further provide cost-effective solutions for our customers,” he added.
Indoor facilities will enable work to be ongoing for both newbuilds and repair work—especially during the winter months when Great Lakes fleet repairs are vital and time sensitive.
Earlier this year, FBS had 17 vessels at the yard undergoing winter repairs well into April. The vessels ranged from thousand-foot long bulk tankers, to medium-sized ships, to tugs and barges. Work included large-scale scheduled maintenance repairs, scrubber installations, repowering and structural steel renewal, in addition to electrical automation enhancement and ABS and U.S. Coast Guard inspections.
Additionally, Keylakes Shipping’s 768 ft bulk carrier John G. Munson is currently undergoing conversion at Bay Shipbuilding. The vessel is the tenth steam-to-diesel, or diesel-to-diesel repowering project that FBS has been awarded since 2009. The freighter, built in 1952 will undergo a complete repower at FBS. It is expected to undergo sea trials in 2018.
Meanwhile, FMG’s two other Great Lakes shipyards are busy constructing the next generation of warships for the U.S. Navy.
Earlier this summer, a keel laying ceremony was held at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Marinette, WI, for the U.S. Navy’s 17th Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the USS Indianapolis. The ship is one of six in various stages of construction at FMM, with an additional three ships in long-lead procurement. The yard has already delivered four LCS ships to the Navy—the USS Freedom (the lead ship in the Freedom variant), the USS Fort Worth, the USS Milwaukee and the USS Detroit.
The Lockheed Martin-led team is made up of Fincantieri Marinette Marine, along with naval architectural firm Gibbs & Cox, and more than 500 suppliers across 37 states. The U.S. Navy’s LCS construction program is divided between two groups—the Lockheed Martin team, building the Freedom variant, and the General Dynamics-led team, with Alabama-based Austal USA building the Independence class LCS.
Fincantieri Ace Marine, Green Bay, WI, also has a hand in producing the Freedom variant of the LCS. The yard, which specializes in the design and construction of high-speed coastal intercept and patrol vessels, most notably the builder of the Response Boat-Medium (RB-M) for the U.S. Coast Guard, produces the aluminum superstructures and additional aluminum components for the class.
To top off FMG’s three shipyards success, all three received the annual “Excellence in Safety” award from the Shipbuilders Council of America earlier this year. The award recognizes a shipyard’s commitment to safety, and the hard work and dedication put forth from shipyard employees.
The Great Lakes Group Eyes Expansion, Partners with Damen
FMG isn’t the only regional player seeking to further develop. This past June, the City of Cleveland authorized the sale of property adjacent to the Great Lakes Towing company headquarters. The acquisition of the property will enable the Great Lakes Shipyard, part of The Great Lakes Group, to operate at full capacity, all year round.
The expansion will include a 68,000 square foot facility that will accommodate a state-of-the-art 770-ton mobile Marine Travelift crane—the largest on the Great Lakes, and third largest in the world.
Great Lakes Group says that with the new facility in place, the Great Lakes Shipyard will be able to continuously provide all services for new vessel construction, as well as custom fabrication, ship maintenance and repairs.
Part of the services Great Lakes Shipyard will offer are those required for Subchapter M. Under Subchapter M regulations, towing vessels greater than 26 ft, or any vessel type moving dangerous or hazardous materials, must obtain a Certificate of Inspection documenting: Drydock inspection; Internal Structure Exam; Annual Inspection and Surveys; and Machinery and Electrical.
Just last month, the yard kicked off construction for the first Damen Stan Tug 1907 ICE. The tug is the first in a series of ten being built in compliance with the new Subchapter M regulations. The tugs are being built for The Great Lakes Towing Company (the Towing Company).
The tugs will measure 65 ft x 24 ft x 9 ft and will be powered by two MTU 8V4000 M54R engines generating 1,000 hp at 1,600 rev/min.
“This new construction program is further evidence of the innovative spirit the Towing Company has always embraced since its founding over 117 years ago, and reflects the commitment we have to our customers and the entire Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway marine transportation industry,” says Joe Starck, President of the Towing Company.
Under the construction program two new harbor tugs will be introduced each year for the next five years—helping to stabilize operations and improve day-to-day business, assures Starck.
“The tugs,” he added, “will be ideal for the long-term sustainability of our harbor towing activities, and provide our customers with an even greater level of reliability, performance, and safety, across our entire Great Lakes service network.”
The Great Lakes Towing Company’s fleet provides ship assist, cargo transportation and logistics, ice breaking, and emergency assistance for every kind of vessel, barge and marine structure on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Damen Stan Tug 1907 ICE are also the first tugs to be built in the U.S. under Damen’s Technical Cooperation program with Great Lakes Shipyard. The agreement, which was entered into at last year’s Workboat show, authorizes the Great Lakes Shipyard as an official builder of Damen designs for the next five years.
Burger Boat’s diverse portfolio
Since 1863 Burger Boat Company, Manitowoc, WI, has done everything in its power to meet the needs of its growing customer base. The boat builder, which has delivered countless vessel types in the range of 50 ft to 200 ft in length, implements what it calls a “lean” philosophy to its business practice, ensuring procedures are performed and completed on time, and vessels are delivered to customers on budget.
A builder of steel and aluminum vessels, Burger builds everything from yachts to passenger vessels, such as the 98 ft passenger vessel Chicago’s Classic Lady for Chicago’s First Lady Cruises—and patrol to research vessels, such as the 78 ft research vessel Arcticus which was delivered to the U.S. Geological Survey in 2014, just to name is a few.
Last year, Burger delivered a tour boat to Chicago-based Wendella Boats. The 340- passenger Lucia is an 89 ft steel vessel that was designed by Timothy Graul Marine Design, Sturgeon Bay, WI. The steel boat is certified USCG Subchapter K, and is powered by two Caterpillar C12 main engines and features two Northern Lights generators.
Most recently, Burger began construction on a custom 103 ft 6 in x 26 ft 5 in full displacement steel and aluminum Explorer Motor Yacht for an unnamed owner.
The expedition style motor yacht has a steel hull and aluminum superstructure. The vessel, designed by DeBasto Design, Miami, FL, will be launched Spring 2017. The ABS class yacht will be powered by two Cat C-18 ACERT main engines, and will be able to reach a cruising speed of 12 knots.
Fraser faces OSHA fine
Located in Superior Wisconsin, on the St. Louis Bay of Lake Superior, Fraser Shipyards, part of the Fraser Industries group which also includes boat builders Lake Assault Boats, provides full shipyard services from its sixty five acre site, featuring two dry docks and approximately 2,200 feet of berthing space. Since 1890, Fraser Shipyards has been a prominent fixture in the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, serving the Great Lakes shipping community. Most of its current 150 workers, 75 percent of which are structural welders, equipment operators, fitters and pipe fitters, are third generation employees for the company.
That kind of longevity and loyalty from workers can serve as a testament to Fraser’s commitment to the industry, the community and its employees, but recent findings have raised questions about the yard’s safety culture.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that sampling results taken during a recent retrofit determined that 14 of Fraser Shipyards workers were exposed to heavy metals and had lead levels 20 times higher than the exposure limit.
According to OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels, “Fraser Shipyards accepted a contract with a very low profit margin and penalties for delayed completion, but could not meet the schedule without endangering its workers.”
That contract, from Interlake Steamship Company, Middleburg Heights, OH, was for the modernization of the Herbert C. Jackson. OSHA stated in its report that Fraser Shipyards’ management was aware of the presence of lead and asbestos throughout the 1959 built vessel. The ship arrived at Fraser December 2015 for a six-month retrofit project and was required back in operation for the summer iron ore shipping season.
In a statement, James Farkas, President and Chief Operating Officer of Fraser Industries, said “We are a family-owned company that has been in Superior for 126 years. We see all of our employees, laborers and contractors as part of the family.”
He added, “We take the health and safety of our people and our community seriously. We acted to protect our people as soon as we learned of the problem. We have worked with all of our employees, laborers and contractors to ensure their health by bringing in medical experts, as well as the highest levels of testing, protective equipment and safe operating procedures. We strongly disagree with OSHA’s statement that any of the issues were caused or worsened by business or profit motivations.”
The agency cited 14 willful egregious health violations for each instance of overexposing a worker to lead, and cited five additional willful violations for failing to conduct monitoring to assess lead exposure and failing to implement a lead compliance or respiratory program.
Additionally, OSHA issued 10 serious violations to the company, and placed Fraser Shipyards in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). For companies on the list, mandatory follow-up inspections become the norm.
Since the findings, Fraser has taken steps to help mediate the matter, and protect its employees. According to a statement, as soon as the management learned of the high lead levels it halted work on the Herbert C. Jackson. Fraser Shipyards also went on to engage medical experts from the region’s two leading hospitals, and industrial safety experts from the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers union to advise the company and oversee health testing. And it purchased state-of-the-art safety gear and equipment to protect workers.
Additionally, Fraser engaged medical professionals, OSHA and union officials to develop and implement new safety procedures.
“We appreciate their responsiveness to getting this issue fixed and taking care our members,” said Mark Garrett, Director of Health and Safety Services for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the union that represents workers at the yard. “We don’t get many employers that step up like they did. They were straightforward, asked for our help and put in place our recommendations for safety.”
In total, Fraser could face close to $1.4m in OSHA penalties.