Fairhaven Shipyard to gain larger drydock

Coming to our Fairhaven waterfront - this magnificent floating drydock. The above aerial photo is of the Fairhaven Shipyard with the new drydock placed as a computer image at the end of the long dock. This new drydock is much larger than the old drydock - shown with the NOAA ship - and will allow the shipyard to bid on larger ships for repair, modification and maintenance. This is a real boon to our local economy.

We will now be able to bid and work on any of our Washinngton State ferries, including the jumbos. The drydock can easily handle them as well as the largest Coast Guard cutters and the largest NOAA research ships. The old, smaller drydock cannot handle large vessels. Indeed, this new drydock will be able to lift the standard size ocean barges that are 400 feet by 100 feet. The old, smaller drydock will continue to be used. The yard will now be able to work on two ships at a time - something that is very useful for maintaining a constant workforce.

The vessel will be towed into Bellingham Bay tomorrow, Saturday morning between 8 and 10 am. It will be moored to the dock at Georgia Pacific inboard of the Horizon ship that is there now. Over the next few months, it will be modified for its new job and in late spring will be towed to Fairhaven and put in place per the image above.

This drydock is actually, legally, a barge. It has been used for years to haul ships. The way it works is it sinks itself so a ship can be floated over it and then it lifts itself with the ship on the deck. It is ideally suited for ship repair as it can even go to somewhere else in Puget Sound, sink, take on a ship, lift itself, and return to Fairhaven to moor and allow the ship to be worked on.

See the photo at the bottom of this page of a different but similar barge that is shown hauling the damaged US Navy Ship, USS Cole, back to the US from Yemen a few years ago. Big is the word for these lifting barges.

The shipyard will be hiring more skilled workers for the increased work. South Bellingham residents have long supported a working waterfront for Fairhaven. The shipyard has been there for over a hundred years and is a valued asset to the economy of the southside. Over the years it has at times deteriorated only to be revived by new owners. Puglia Engineering of Tacoma bought the yard about seven years ago and has made constant improvements to it since.

The shipyard has been looking for a larger drydock since 2003. This was found in Asia and had been built in Japan about 1979. It was towed to Dutch Harbor in Alaska where it cleared customs in December. It is being towed by ocean tug to Bellingham. We welcome it and look forward to its use on our colorful working waterfront.

Update - Sat, Dec 3. The barge/drydock arrived on time today and is now berthed to the dock at the Georgia Pacific site. It may not look too huge until you see a person on the deck or a truck on the dock next to it.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Vince Biciunas

Jan 03, 2009

Thanks for the nice reporting, John.
I’m excited as well for the new job opportunities this drydock will create.