Wednesday 27 April 2011

300 workers will be hired in wake of agreement

On the far east side of Bay County, hundreds of workers produce vessels that have attracted the attention of international buyers and the support of Washington.

The head of the U.S. Maritime Administration signed a $241 million federal loan guarantee Friday that will allow Eastern Shipbuilding Group to build five platform supply vessels, a contract projected to create 300 new local jobs.

A group of elected officials and community leaders were at the shipyard in the community of Allanton to commemorate the issuance of a commitment letter from the U.S. Maritime Administration to Eastern Shipbuilding’s customer Boldini S.A. with a loan guarantee for 82.5 percent funding of a $241 million project to create five new platform supply vessels in Bay County for export to Brazil.

“They are impressive vessels,” said U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. “We got to see a near finished vessel and most importantly people working out here. I think today’s signing is a sign that we are putting Northwest Florida to work and I think that is extremely important.”

Matsuda explained the loan guarantee puts the credit of the United States government behind the company to help it secure the loan, which would otherwise be unfeasible to get on the open credit market.

“This is a big deal for us, our employees and for our county and country,” said Brian D’Isernia, president of Eastern Shipbuilding Group.

Getting the guarantee was a two-year project. Normally a loan guarantee is not used for a foreign loan even though the money was coming in to an American shipbuilding company, said Sen. Bill Nelson.

“We are here about 300 jobs,” Nelson said. “(Eastern Shipbuilding) is at employment around 700 and this will take them up to about 1,000. As we are coming out of the recession, that is a great thing to celebrate, but there’s a lot more to celebrate. So much of shipbuilding has gone offshore; this is a homegrown company that keeps it in America.”

The 300 jobs created at the shipyard to fulfill this order are expected to have a multiplier effect that could add as many as 1,500 ancillary jobs to the Bay County economy. The jobs are expected to last for a period of three and a half years. Eastern Shipbuilding Group has built eight platform supply vessels since 2003.

“Only just a few months into my new job I was given an opportunity to fight for jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Steve  Southerland, R-Panama City. “This morning I’d like to credit Brian D’Isernia and the hard working men and women of Eastern Shipbuilding. If they could not produce a product that was desired around the world no one would be here today.”

After the pre-engineering work for the five vessels, within six months there will be a ramp-up to start hiring workers, D’Isernia said.

The 282-foot long supply ships will transport workers, supplies, parts and chemicals to offshore oil rigs and will also serve as rescue and emergency response vessels with salvage, firefighting and medical facilities.

The Maritime Administration currently guarantees approximately $2.2 billion in U.S. shipyard projects, including the construction of tugs, barges, dive support vessels, drill rigs, ferries, tankers and offshore supply vessels.

“President Obama has suggested and is focusing our government on exports and the opportunities they provide,” Matsuda said. “This is certainly evidence that we can be competitive in the world markets and that the federal government will be there to help support every one of those opportunities.”

Source: Walton Sun

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