In 1899, the Great Lakes Towing company acquired a steel-hulled tugboat named "America" that revolutionized the role of tugs in harbor ship handling. Last week, DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari was on hand in Cleveland as the company's Great Lakes Shipyard subsidiary dedicated a new mobile vessel hoist also named "America."
The new hoist, capable of lifting a ship, tug, or barge weighing 770 tons, was built with support from a 2009 Small Shipyard Grant from our Maritime Administration.
The "America" is the largest hoist of its kind on the Great Lakes and the third largest in the world. The company hopes the new hoist will stand "as a symbol of the country's commitment to revitalize its shipyard industry and manufacturing base for the economy and for national defense."
With the jobs created to build the hoist and the jobs the hoist makes possible in shipbuilding and ship repair, the America has already been quite a spark plug.
The hoist was built by Marine Travelift of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, shipped to Cleveland on 25 trucks, and assembled by Great Lakes Shipyard workers. Its size and technology make it possible for the "America" to accommodate the simultaneous repair or construction of 10 or more vessels. Its mobility also allows rapid emergency response for repairs.
It is clear this hoist adds a new dimension to the capabilities of the Great Lakes Shipyard and the Port of Cleveland.
The shipyard itself is located on a former underutilized brownfield site in an area of Cleveland with high unemployment. The company has spent more than $24 million to acquire property, remediate the former brownfield, develop seawalls, and acquire equipment--like the new mobile vessel hoist.
Great Lakes specializes in all types of marine construction and repairs for vessels, tugs, supply boats, ferries, barges, and research vessels. They have already partnered with two Cleveland high schools and two community colleges to help develop a skilled local work force through structured training programs. And there is plenty of work under contract to keep newly skilled workers employed.
From repair work on several vessels to new tugboat construction and a niche in 'truckable' barges, the Great Lakes Shipyard is making itself a competitive powerhouse in a global industry. In fact, they recently built the first tugboat ever constructed in Cleveland for export to a foreign buyer, outcompeting shipyards in countries like the Netherlands and Turkey. They also feature an advanced 'green' tug design.
The success of the Great Lakes Shipyard expansion means good jobs for Cleveland-area workers. And the new mobile vessel hoist is a key part of their expansion. That is exactly the kind of economic activity we hoped to jump-start with the Maritime Administration's small shipyard grants, and I'm happy to say it's working in Ohio.