Puerto Rico's First Shipyard Launched With $9-Million Loan
Puerto Rico has won U.S.
Farmers Home Administration approval of a $9-million loan which paves the way for immediate construction of the Island's first shipbuilding yard, to be located at a 68-acre site on Guanica Bay.
This new venture into heavy industry is expected eventually to create about 800 direct jobs in job-hungry Guanica.
Establishment of the south coast shipyard, incorporated in Puerto Rico as Ocean & Inland Waterways Corporation, was hailed by officials of Fomento, Puerto Rico's Economic Development Administration, which actively promoted the project.
Fast installation of the most modern machinery and equipment will enable Ocean & Inland Waterways to begin small-scale production by summer 1977, building at first tugboats of about 105 feet in length, and employing about 450 workers by the end of its first year of operations.
Ocean & Inland Waterways has already developed a substantial seed order book.
Design and construction of the shipyard are being handled by A & P Appledore International Limited, a leading British firm which conducted a feasibility study of the project in 1975. Appledore has designed and is developing modern shipyards in South Korea, Southeast Asia, and South America, and is the market consultant for British Shipbuilders.
Clearing of the Guanica site is expected to begin immediately, followed by a 20-month construction program.
A total of $11.5 million in financing for the first phase of the shipyard is being arranged by Wertheim & Company, Inc., a New York investment firm. This includes a $9-million loan which will be 90 percent guaranteed by the FmHA.
The shipyard project is expected to provide a needed boost to the local economy. The official unemployment rate in Guanica is placed at 25 to 30 percent of the work force.
In its first phase, the shipyard will build tugboats, barges, supply craft and special lifeboats.
The company will also actively seek orders in the export market.
The Appledore study revealed that the U.S. coastal fleet is a sizeable sector of merchant shipping.
It is protected from the current depression in world shipbuilding by the requirement to build American-flag vessels in the United States (including Puerto Rico).
This market is estimated to have an annual demand of 200 vessels for fleet replacement and 400 vessels for growth tonnage.
Tugs and towboats constitute about 22 percent of annual tonnage requirements. Of the U.S.
coastal fleet of 5,700 vessels, the Puerto Rico yard would require only a fraction of the total market.
To help supply the shipyard with skilled workers, some 120 trainees will soon start three-tosix- month courses at a Fomento industrial building at Yauco, near Guanica. The training program will include courses for steelworkers, welders, pipeworkers, burners, chippers, grinders, marine fitters, electricians, and joiners.
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