BELFAST, Maine — A Belfast shipyard could start the first stage of a major expansion this fall after receiving insurance on a significant portion of its financing.
The Finance Authority of Maine, a quasi-independent state agency aimed at supporting business investment and growth in Maine, announced last week that it approved insurance on a pair of Androscoggin Bank loans totaling $3.6 million to finance an expansion at Front Street Shipyard in Belfast.
“The FAME loan insurance is crucial to financing our expansion,” shipyard president JB Turner said Monday. “This financing will help our company grow and add jobs in one of Maine’s most historic industries.”
The shipyard purchased a new 485-ton lift to haul large boats out of the water back in 2013, but that lift is too big to fit inside Building 5, which is currently the shipyard’s largest building. So, the shipyard plans on building Building 6, a 21,700-square-foot structure that will stand about 11 feet taller than its predecessor.
The total project, including the construction of the new building and the purchase of the land it will sit on, is expected to cost about $5.8 million. The shipyard currently leases that land from the city.
The expansion initially was expected to start last spring, but was delayed as shipyard officials worked to shore up financing and waited to see whether they’d be awarded a contract building carbon fiber ferries for New York City. The contract hasn’t been awarded yet, but the extra workload would allow the company, which currently employs about 100 people, to hire an additional 40.
“While expanding our facility will certainly provide us more room for construction projects like carbon fiber ferries, the expansion isn’t contingent on a ferry contract, nor vice versa,” Turner said.
Regardless of that contract, the larger building could attract larger private and commercial vessels from around the world for servicing and maintenance work.
In May 2016, the city and shipyard ironed out a deal in which the shipyard would pay $600,000 to acquire a city-owned parking lot next to Building 5, where Front Street plans to construct its new building. That sale will go through after Front Street secures financing and building permits. The city and shipyard started discussing this project back in the spring of 2013.