The People's Shipyard Moves Ahead

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
When MarineNews last visited Southeastern New England Shipyard (SENESCO) in December 2001, the yard was abuzz with barge construction activity. Upon our return however, almost one year to the day of our last visit, SENESCO, was yet again buzzing, but this time with its newest venture - the inauguration of its own drydock.

Located just down the street from the shipyard's main headquarters next to General Dynamics' Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I. lies the project that SENESCO has been focused on since late last year - a new drydock that will enable the yard to perform barge repair. At the time, of MR/EN's visit in October, the company was guiding the first vessel into the new drydock - a 240-ft. (73.1-m) barge from Boston-based Modern Continental. Several of SENESCO's workers stood on the dry dock's wing walls, slowly pulling in the barge via winches - leading to a smooth placement. At one point, the barge began to turn sideways, and workers had to pull and push in such a way that the barge would steady in. However, there was an obstruction blocking their field of vision, which therefore had to be removed - by none other than SENESCO's president and CEO, Bob Jarvis. Proof in that SENESCO lives up to its image as "the people's shipyard," - even the president of the company gets his hands dirty when a new job arrives. Also present that day on the "banks of SENESCO's drydock were newly-appointed vice president of Operations, Ed Kracunas; and CFO Gordon Fletcher.

According to president and CEO Jarvis, the drydock boasts a lengthy history beginning with its construction at Feeney Bros. in Kingston, N.Y., to its official launching last fall. With SENESCO fabricating the wing walls in-house in approximately, Feeney completed the pontoons in approximately nine months. Once the wing walls were completed in just four months, and Feeney delivered the pontoons upon completion, the 180-ft. (54.8-m) drydock, which measures 82 ft. (24.9 m) between wing walls was ready for business. Eventually, according to Jarvis, SENESCO plans to expand the dock to about 260 ft. (79.2 m).

New Construction Vs. Repair - A Happy Union?

While additional monies and support have been designated to the repair side, according to Jarvis, the yard does not plan to jump in at full force. "The key to SENESCO's success is not biting off more than we can handle," Jarvis said. "Our growth has always been well planned out. We're not looking at more than 15 to 20 percent of our current revenue to come from the repair side. We think there is a demand for repairs, but we plan to start out slow as we did with our new construction side."

Proof in that slow and steady wins the race, SENESCO has been taking in myriad of jobs. It is hard to believe that the yard, which was established on 25 acres that had been previously abandoned by GD's Electric Boat, would be known as one of the largest barge builders on the East Coast. In fact, the repair side of the business went from concept to reality rather quickly since SENESCO saw there was a need for a yard that could handle barge repairs.

Originally, the area where the drydock was located was used for launching of newly-constructed barges. Since a full barge construction takes approximately one year (check this), the area was stagnant. It was decided that it could be used as a drydock, thus aiding East Coast barge companies that required routine repairs. Because of SENESCO's close proximity to the New York and Boston hubs, owners save both time and money, as the yard has the capability to perform extensive bottom work.

While the addition of repair to SENESCO's workscope will bring in more revenue, it has also made way to grow the workforce. According to Jarvis, approximately 15-20 shipyard workers, who had been with the yard on the new construction side, were transferred over to repair, thus opening up spots for additional workers.

The yard is currently working on two 80,000 barrel barges - one for Don Church of Sea Boats - the second for an undisclosed customer. The barge for Sea Boats, which will measure 320 ft., is currently under construction at the yard, and will be the first to be launched via the new drydock upon completion. In addition, the yard is also working on a 171-ft. (52.1-m) hopper barge for Disch Construction of Summit, N.J. for transportation of dredge spoils. With a holding capacity of 2,750 cu. yds. the barge is expected for completion this fall. The yard also recently bid on a contract for a series of floats for a ferry service located at New York City's Pier 79. Supported via pilings, these "floats," which are similar to barges, provide floating mechanisms for ferry terminals.

Looking ahead, Jarvis is pleased with the success of the yard, and how it has grown since its inception. The company, is now a far cry from when it planted its roots with its first barge contract from a good friend of Jarvis' Jamie Cashman, of Boston-based barge rental company Cashman Equipment. Now, according to Jarvis, the yard received several inquires on a weekly basis from local barge owner along the East Coast.

While SENESCO is keeping with its "slow and steady wins the race" business mentality, that does not mean that Jarvis and his team are not open to markets other than barge construction and repair. While he declined to discuss specifics, Jarvis did not rule out the possibility that SENESCO will evolve into other niche markets say three- to-five years down the line.

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