Shipyard looks to finalize loan for Building 6 by summerLargest building to date would make way for ferries, other large vessels
Belfast — Front Street Shipyard is hoping to break ground on a massive workshop this summer if financing comes through. Building 6, as it is known, would allow the business to take on larger projects that Shipyard President JB Turner said would probably go a long way toward reassuring lenders.
The problem is, without a building, those projects are harder to secure.
The 21,700-square-foot workshop was first proposed in 2013 and was delayed several times while the shipyard settled in and settled debts with early investors.
The city granted the shipyard a construction extension in 2015 and Turner said the plans haven't changed since then. Building 6 would be built over the Front Street municipal parking lot. It would stand 69 feet tall, rising 11 feet above the adjacent Building 5, which is currently the largest structure on the property.
The added height would allow the larger of the shipyard's two travel lifts, a 485-ton-capacity machine purchased in 2013, to move vessels from the water directly into the building. Additionally, Building 6 would be able to fit longer vessels under its roof than is possible at any of the shipyard's other buildings.
All of this hinges on financing, which Turner said is in the hands of a lender's credit committee. Meanwhile the clock is ticking on a summer groundbreaking.
"In order to not have it be a winter build, it would have to be pretty soon," he said, adding that engineering and groundwork will have to be done before the structure goes up.
"That all takes time," he said, "so I have to know roughly where I'm headed by June."
The problem, Turner said, is that final approval for financing may hinge on contracts the shipyard cannot get without Building 6.
"The financing is sort of tied into the ferryboat project or some other large project," he said, referring to the shipyard's partnership with the Norwegian company Brødrene Aa in Hyen to make and sell carbon fiber ferries under the name Arcadia Alliance.
"It's sort of been this chicken and egg thing," he said. "We can't sign a contract for a ferryboat without a building, and we can't get a loan for a building without a contract for a ferryboat."
The shipyard is also chasing down several large debts dating to 2014. Turner said the largest, $1.2 million owed by Trefoil Marine Ltd. for composite catamaran hulls manufactured by the shipyard for a line of military, police and emergency patrol boats, is close to a resolution, which he said involves taking over assets from the company.
That collaboration prompted the shipyard to open a 15,000-square-foot shop in Bucksport in 2014. Turner said the shop is still open and is now being used to build hulls for SW Boatworks of Lemoine.
The shipyard is also seeking damages from W-US-1 LLC for $54,084 of work on Wild Horses, a 76-foot “W” class racing yacht, and from A Squared Aviation for $21,327 of work on GADGET, a 64-foot recreational sailing vessel.
In the business of yacht repair and shipbuilding, Turner said there are always a few debts that go unpaid. Once a boat leaves the shipyard, he said there's almost no other recourse but the court system.
Meanwhile, the shipyard is clearing the decks for late spring and summer arrivals. Turner said two big boats, a 96-foot sailboat and a 72-foot power boat, are on their way from the Caribbean now. This summer, he said, the shipyard is expecting a 134-foot steel-hulled schooner.