Q: How many small shipyards are there in the United States?
A: Over 300 shipyards currently operate throughout the country. The majority of these are considered small and local shipyards, and many of them are small and family owned businesses that serve a pivotal role in their local and regional economies.[i] Shipyards are primarily located in coastal states, but many are also situated on major inland waterways such as the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. They support strong paying jobs from engineers to pipefitters to accountants.
Q: How are small shipyards different from larger ones?
A: Most Americans are familiar with the work of larger shipyards operating in the United States, which build larger ships, often for the U.S. military. Small shipyards primarily build and maintain most of the country’s commercial fleet of 40,000 ships and barges.This includes fishing vessels, ferries, offshore service vessels, tugs and tows.These are often referred to as “workboats” and are essential to commerce.Many are small and family owned businesses that serve a pivotal role in their local and regional economies.
Q: What kind of work do small shipyards do?
A: Small shipyards build and maintain most of the country’s commercial fleet of 40,000 ships and barges. This includes fishing vessels, ferries, offshore service vessels, tugs and tows. These are often referred to as “workboats.” America’s small and local shipyards also build and maintain vessels critical to the maritime transportation system’s safe and secure operation. This includes Coast Guard ships, military vessels, and fire and rescue boats.
On any given day in a small shipyard, you may see a boat being hauled out the water via a lift or by a dry dock operator for a routine cleaning and inspection, welders and crane operators joining a new vessel’s hull segment, or technicians installing a newer more efficient engine on a boat.
Q: What do you mean by workboat?
A: A workboat is used for work purposes such as freight transportation, commercial fishing, passenger ferrying, tugs and tows, rather than for leisure or other noncommercial uses.
Q: Do small shipyards only do commercial work?
A: Small shipyards primarily do commercial work. However, they also do work critical to our nation’s national security. Many of these businesses build and maintain vessels critical to the maritime transportation system’s safe and secure operation. This includes Coast Guard ships, military vessels, research vessels, icebreakers and fire and rescue boats.
Q: What kind of jobs do shipyards support?
A: Like many small businesses, small and local shipyards create sustainable, high-quality jobs that often provide good benefits, and a steady and stable income. Jobs such as engineers, welders, diesel engine mechanics, pipefitters, accountants, and ones focusing on healthy and safety allow workers to support their families, and help create and maintain a strong, healthy middle class.
Q: Do small shipyards play a role in national security?
A: America’s small and local shipyards are critical to our nation’s national
security. While small and local shipyards primarily do commercial work, many also build and maintain vessels critical to the maritime transportation system’s safe and secure operation. This includes Coast Guard ships, military vessels, research vessels, icebreakers and fire and rescue boats. They also provide employment for skilled labor positions to help ensure that America can meet urgent shipbuilding needs if called upon to do so in a national emergency like during WWII.
Q: What is the federal Small Shipyard Grant Program?
A: The Small Shipyard Grant Program awards dollars to small shipyards to modernize their equipment and facilities, boost training for their employees and help improve their efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. The program helps create sustainable, high-quality jobs; bolsters local and regional economies and strengthen our middles class.
Congress created the program, which create sustainable, high-quality jobs; bolsters local and regional economies; and strengthen our middles class in fiscal year 2006.The program was reauthorized, but not funded, by Congress in FY 2014.Congress has failed to fund it since 2013.
Q: How have small shipyards used grants from this program before?
A: To date, the majority of grant recipients have used funding to purchase equipment and modernize their infrastructure. Many have used these dollars to purchase new, modernized equipment, creating an economic ripple effect for manufacturers and suppliers far beyond the shipyards themselves. Funds have also been used for workforce training.
Q: What are the benefits of the small shipyard grant program?
A: The Small Shipyard Grant Program pays outsized dividends in jobs and strengthens small businesses and our middle class. These grants also benefit more than just shipyards; they create jobs and new opportunities, and they strengthen local economies. These funds help improve and shipyards infrastructure, but they also strengthen the companies that supply the materials and equipment used in this process.
Q: What is the status of the Small Shipyard Grant Program?
A: The Small Shipyard Grant Program was reauthorized FY2018 for 3 years; Congress is expected to fund it in FY2018 at a level of $10 million.
Q: Is there still a need for the Small Shipyard Grant Program?
A: Yes. America’s maritime industry is critical to our nation’s economy and security. Our small and local shipyards serve an important role for the industry, by building and maintaining most of the country’s commercial fleet of 40,000 ships and barges—workboats. And according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute of Water Resources, roughly a third of this fleet is more than 25 years old.[ii]
Initiatives like the Small Shipyard Grant program demonstrates how moderate investments to modernize infrastructure and provide workforce training can help foster efficient and competitive shipyard operations. This is essential if they are to support an aging fleet.
Historically, the maritime industry has demonstrated an incredible demand for these funds. At its peak in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act (ARRA) when MARAD awarded $100 million, more than 500 applicants asked for assistance on projects worth more than $1.25 billion.[iii] In the most recent round awarded in fiscal year 2013, MARAD received $96 million worth of funds, but only $9.46 million was awarded.[iv]
Q: How do these grants benefit America’s middle class?
A: These grants benefit America’s middle class and working families because they serve as a catalyst for improvements that pay long-term benefits and create a positive economic ripple effect in the maritime industry and communities nation wide. This means more sustainable, high-quality jobs that often provide good benefits, and a steady and stable income not just in shipyards, but in the manufacturers and suppliers that support them too. Jobs such as welders, diesel engine mechanics, pipefitters and electricians allow workers to support their families, and help create and maintain a strong, healthy and prosperous middle class community.