In Seward, Alaska, the rain and snow season starts in September and ends roughly seven months later in April. It is understandable, then, when D.J. Whitman of Seward Ship's Drydock and Ship's Chandlery talks about the shipyard's new covered area for its ship repair and conversion facilities, that there is a certain glee in his voice.
"Covered ship repair facilities in (northern climate) European shipyards are pretty common, but not so in the U.S.," said Whitman. The company recently completed a yard upgrade with the installation of a 110 ft. high, 220-ft. long coverered facility, an investment that should pay off handsomely as it will allow work to proceed when weather conditions otherwise might shut them down.
With an 11-acre facility, three working berths and a 5,000-ton Synchrolift and the new covering, the facility is now well prepared to handle just about any emergency or planned maintenance. In mid-October Crowley's PRT Attentive was in for a Z-drive refurbishment. "We give priority to the response vessels, because without the them oil tankers can't operate," Whitman said.
With a staff of 45, Whitman counts intricate propulsion system repair as one of the yard's specialties, as accrued experience and support from manufacturers helps keep work flowing smoothly.
Seward Ship's opened in 1973 to answer to the growing need for vessel repair services close to the fishing grounds. By 1974, the demand and the increasing work load led to the construction of the current home for Seward Ship's Chandlery in the Leirer Industrial Park. In 1979 Seward Ship's leased and rebuilt a 300-ton marine railway facility at Lowell Point. This facility operated until 1985, when Seward Ship's began drydocking and servicing vessels at the Seward Marine Industrial Center, utilizing the new 5,000-ton Syncro-Lift. In 1988 Seward Ship's leased two acres at the Seward Marine Industrial Center, the present site of Seward Ship's Drydock, Inc. operations.
Since that time Seward Ship's operations have expanded to an 11 acre full service shipyard that includes over 20,000 sq. ft. of covered work area and buildings plus total operating control of the Syncro-Lift Drydock facility. Construction is presently underway for a covered work station capable of. totally covering a 200 ft. vessel.