Nichols Brothers Boat Builders returned to work after the company laid off 185 employees Nov. 2. Shortly thereafter, the company filed for bankruptcy protection, a move necessitated by a big lawsuit filed by a disgruntled customer.
While the bankruptcy issues are far from settled, Nichols Brothers was allowed to negotiate with individual boat owners to see that their projects, shut down on Nov. 2, could be completed.
Those boat owners are now paying the workers’ salaries, as Nichols Brothers as a company is broke and is up for sale.
The rehiring process will continue as more existing contracts are placed online though negotiations with individual companies. The 54 workers brought back Monday are working on two tugboats and one catamaran already started, and another catamaran that’s ready to start.
Nichols said a repair job is likely to arrive this week, and more jobs are expected in the next few weeks. “
Representatives from the prospective boat yard purchaser, Ice Floe, based in Alaska
, are scurrying around the facility on Holmes Harbor this
Ice Floe is owned by the Usibelli coal mining family, which has worked with Nichols Brothers for years. While they’re the likely purchasers and already put up some money to keep the boatyard afloat, Nichols said offers are also being solicited from other prospective buyers.
The plan is for the Usibellis to purchase all the company assets, leaving the burden of the pending lawsuit by Hornbeck Offshore Services (HOS)
on the Nichols family.
The asset purchase, if approved by the bankruptcy court, would not immediately include the land that the boatyard sits on in Freeland, or the property in Langley where boats are outfitted and christened, but it may in the end be sold to the new owners Nichols said.