Reinvigorating Portland’s shipyard: Vigor’s massive new dry dock could mean hundreds of jobs

Drydock Artists' Rendering
An artist’s rendering of the new dry dock, holding a cruise ship. Image courtesy of Vigor Industrial.

Thirteen years after America’s largest floating dry dock floated off to The Bahamas, the company that sold it is bringing a new one to the same spot in Portland’s Swan Island industrial area.

Vigor Industrial — formerly known as Cascade General — has expanded greatly since 2001, when it sold Portland’s Dry Dock 4 for $26.5 million to satisfy a lender that called in a loan. In the last decade, the company has purchased shipyards in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and Ketchikan. Now it’s investing $40 million for a new dry dock —  960’ long, 186’ wide between the wing walls, and capable of lifting 80,000 long tons. That’s just 22’ shorter than Dry Dock 4, which is now in use at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in The Bahamas.

This represents the resurgence of the maritime industry in Portland.” — Vigor Industrial spokesperson Brian Mannion 

The new dry dock, under construction since early 2013, is being made by Daoda Marine Heavy Industry Company in Jiangsu Province, China. Vigor spokesperson Brian Mannion said it will be brought up the Columbia River in three parts some time in late summer 2014 and assembled where the former Dry Dock 4 was. There’s a 661’ dry dock there now which will have to be moved to another location, either in Portland or elsewhere. Mannion said the new dry dock will be in operation by the end of this year, at which point it will be the largest floating dry dock in the United States.

“This represents the resurgence of the maritime industry in Portland,” Mannion said.

Vigor has nine dry docks currently, including three in Portland. The company, led by owner and CEO Frank Foti, has annual revenues of around $500 million, and is confident enough about its ability to win contracts for big ships that it was willing to make the investment in the new dry dock, Mannion said. Most of the business will be in repair contracts, but the dry dock could be used to launch newly fabricated ships also.

The biggest job impacts will be on members of the boilermakers and other unions affiliated with the Portland Metal Trades Council. The new dry dock will also be large enough that Vigor could work on cruise ships, which would open up job possibilities for commercial painting, glazing, floor-covering, and drywall. One local union leader said it could add over 400 jobs to the shipyard. The company isn’t announcing any jobs estimates thus far. Shipbuilding and repair is a cyclical business, and Vigor’s workforce can fluctuate by as many as 500 people in a year, Mannion said.

Portland Yard with new dry dock

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