BREWER, Maine — The Columbia Boston, a 94-foot-by-354-foot black barge loaded with six steel module pieces, each about four stories high, was the backdrop of Wednesday’s send-off ceremony for the first shipment of such structures to leave Brewer for a Texas refinery.
Hundreds of workers wearing white hardhats and safety glasses stood or sat on the shore during the gathering, surrounding a group of local and regional dignitaries and representatives from the companies that hired Cianbro to build 53 modules to expand the refinery.
Peter G. Vigue, board of directors chairman, president and chief executive officer for Pittsfield-based Cianbro Cos., was all smiles as he thanked workers and city and state leaders for their hard work to make the endeavor a success “during a recession, in what seems to be a remote region.
“With their minds, hands and sweat, this is a new beginning for this site,” he said.
Cianbro chose the site of the shuttered and contaminated Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill, which closed in January 2004, for its Eastern Manufacturing Facility and spent 10 months transforming the abandoned mill site into a module-producing facility providing an estimated 500 jobs that pay well.
Motiva Enterprises LLC hired Cianbro to deliver 53 refinery modules — heavy-duty industrial steel frames filled with pipes, pumps and electronics — for Motiva’s $7 billion expansion of the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery in Texas.
Some didn’t believe the Maine construction company would be able to overcome barriers, including working outside during the state’s bitterly cold winters, Vigue said.
“We developed solutions for seasonal problems,” he said. Adding later, “The proof is before your eyes.”
Behind Vigue, a huge United States flag was tied to one of the modules, and a Cianbro sign with the words “Why not Maine?” was mounted below it. That question resurfaced several times as Vigue spoke proudly about Cianbro accomplishments in recent years.
Four Cianbro workers, who recently won awards for their skills in welding, pipefitting and as a millwright, stood on the deck of the barge.
To mark the occasion, Gov. John Baldacci, Brewer Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow, Bangor Mayor Gerry Palmer, and James Owens, regional U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representative, spoke during the ceremony.
“Over the years we have been fortunate that men of vision have come to this site,” Verow said, telling a story of how the 41-acre riverfront site has been used for a sawmill, a paper company and now a module manufacturing facility. “It’s important that we recognize and show our appreciation for Pete Vigue and his excellent team for bringing back this place of prominence to the city, region and state of Maine.”
Vigue also thanked U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Rep. Michael Michaud for their support along with Motiva company leaders Wayne Holman, Velit Seyfittin and Jim Hartsock and Bechtel Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. representatives Greg Chittum, Tom Aldinger and Scott Hemstead,
“It is these individuals and their companies that have entrusted their project to us here in Maine,” Vigue said. “We will not disappoint you.”
The Texas refinery, which produces Shell Oil brand products, processes about 275,000 barrels of fuel a day and will more than double production once the expansion is complete in 2010 or 2011.
While Vigue spoke, welder Aaron Maheau added a ceremonial final weld to hold one of the modules in place on the barge.
Afterward, he gave a thumbs-up to indicate he was done.
The barge is scheduled to leave the Cianbro Eastern Manufacturing Facility’s deep-water bulkhead at 9 a.m. today for the trip to the Gulf Coast. The barge trip between Brewer and Port Arthur, Texas is expected to take 15 to 20 days. The remaining modules will be shipped out over the next 14 months.