2017-04-06 / Front Page

Newport Shipyard Expansion Approved

By Bob Rulli

The Newport Shipyard received final approval for a dock expansion on Tuesday, March 28 from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). The approval allows the shipyard to add 560 feet of dock space to the existing 2,833 feet by extending four existing finger piers, and by adding two piers on the southern side of the yard.

The owners of the shipyard worked with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Protection and commercial fishermen at the state pier to develop the expansion plan.

Eli Dana, general manager of the shipyard, told the planning board earlier this year that the additional space would bring an estimated $500,000 in revenue to the yard and add $3.5 to $4 million to the local economy.

The dock expansion comes almost one year after the shipyard received a $774,990 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration to purchase a 200-metric ton travel lift, which allows the shipyard greater flexibility and more opportunities for bringing boats in and out of the water for repairs. Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, who was instrumental in the shipyard receiving the grant, championed the economic vitality that Newport Shipyard contributes to the local economy.

“In addition to the revenue that the new docks will create, the facility was already generating $14 to $15 million in direct revenue and injecting approximately $100 million into the local economy through sub-contractors and boat owners, their guests and crews spending money in the area,” Dana said.

At its peak, the shipyard employs 75 people, with subcontractors bringing another 225 employees to the 8.83-acre site, Dana said.

Dana’s father, Charlie, purchased the American Shipyard Corporation from bankruptcy in 1998, along with two partners. The 1990s were difficult times for shipyards in the area, with the Robert E. Dereckter Shipyard in Middletown forced to close. Sensing a change in the yachting industry, the new owners directed their focus on catering to private yachts, a decision that in hindsight proved to be brilliant.

The shipyard contributed nearly $1 million towards the purchase of the new travel lift, which was preceded by another $1 million in improvements to the surface area at the facility to accommodate the new equipment. The 200-ton lift will bring to four the number available to haul boats. The shipyard already owns a 100-, 300- and 500- ton lift.

Work is currently being performed on the interior of two buildings that are 25,000-square-feet and 7,200-square-feet, respectively. Dana said that further expansion would be difficult due to the area required to maneuver the large lifts around the complex and the number of boats that are stored and repaired.

Some of the most expensive and sophisticated private yachts in the world have visited Newport in recent years. Among those docking at the shipyard have been the 288- foot Maltese Falcon, the 295-foot Athena, and the 300-foot Limitless.

“[I hope these] technologically advanced yachts will lead to some opportunities to work more closely with the International Yacht Restoration School, particularly in the areas of composites, mechanical, and systems for job training and internships,” Dana said.

The site of the shipyard was once under the control of the Redevelopment Agency of Newport, and although its predecessor failed, the shipyard is now fulfilling the original goal of providing economic stimulus to the city. In addition to providing dock space and repair facilities, the shipyard is home to the popular Belle’s Café restaurant, a retail ship store, showers and laundry for guests and crew, a fitness center, and office and brokerage space for local and international maritime-related businesses. The Newport City Council voted unanimously to approve the expansion at its March 22 council meeting.

With a full calendar of sailing events this summer and the conclusion of the America’s Cup in May in Bermuda, Dana anticipates many of the larger yachts will head to Newport following the Cup. The owners have also capitalized on their distinctive logo, using it on apparel, hats, decals, cups, and shipping merchandise all over the world.

“Even with the dock expansion, we are at 90 percent capacity with reservations,” he said.

Return to top