That ‘other’ Newport News shipyard? It’s expanding, too

22 June 2018


Hugh Lessig
Daily Press
Newport News, VA, 22 June 2018

The second-largest shipyard in Newport News is getting even bigger.

To be clear, Fairlead Integrated’s shipyard on the southern tip of the city still needs another 20,000-plus employees to overtake its upstream neighbor, Newport News Shipbuilding.

That minor detail didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who gathered Friday to celebrate Fairlead’s expansion.

The yard, formerly known as Davis Boatworks, is undergoing a multipronged expansion that targets military and maritime work.

It feeds off the Navy’s plan to expand its fleet of warships plus the constant need to maintain smaller military watercraft. It also seeks to expand work with fishing trawlers and other commercial vessels, often word-of-mouth jobs that require a faster turnaround.

Jerry Miller, company owner, said he sees “tremendous opportunities” at the Newport News site.

“I don’t believe there’s ever been a time like we’re getting ready to experience in the next 10, 20, 30 years,” he said.

Technically, Friday’s ceremony was a groundbreaking that brought together company officials and city leaders, including Mayor McKinley Price. But plenty of ground has been broken already. Piles of dirt and the distant noise of construction vehicles were evidence of work in progress.

Expansion at Fairlead Integrated Shipyard - Fairlead News and Events
Fairlead Integrated owner Jerry Miller, right, talks with Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday June 22, 2018. Fairlead Integrated is expanding to seek more work in military and commercial shipping. (Jonathon Gruenke / Daily Press)

Expansion details

The $5 million expansion is expected to create at least 25 new jobs. The yard currently employs 126 full-time and 16 temporary workers, according to Fred Pasquine, president of Fairlead Integrated.

The yard itself is known as Fairlead Boatworks, a division of Fairlead Integrated.

One segment of the expansion involves purchasing a new heavy lift.

The current one can pull a 220-ton vessel from the water. The new one, not yet delivered but expected to be operational by the fall, will have a 485-ton capacity. It will expand the company’s reach into the fishing/maritime area.

“We are buying that specifically for the commercial market,” Pasquine said.

Other plans call for a 10,000-square-foot facility for blasting and painting, and an 11,200-square-foot structure for repairs and fabrication.

An inlet allows smaller boats and barges to dock at Fairlead, and the final piece of the puzzle will be adjacent to the water. It will be a 17,000-square-foot platen — essentially, an engineered concrete platform with embedded steel — to allow for fabrication of large structures.

This will allow Fairlead to handle more work from Newport News Shipbuilding, which has expansion plans of its own.

The Newport News shipyard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is hiring some 400 people a month to handle ongoing work in the construction of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines.

Diversified business

A tour of Fairlead’s shipyard reveals the diversity of its work.

Jeremy Jeffreys, waterfront operations director, pointed to various vessels undergoing work that included a Navy dive boat, an amphibious landing craft and a small boat used to transport Navy SEALs. The existing paint facility, known as the “white house,” was occupied by a Navy landing craft and covered with a coat of red primer.

As a small defense contractor, Fairlead doesn’t have the resources of corporate giants such as Newport News Shipbuilding. As it competes for smaller jobs, keeping a steady workflow is always a challenge.

But Pasquine said he’s seen enough indications from the Navy that it is serious about expanding the fleet. And the company already has a decent handle on the commercial fishing market, so this expansion is not merely a leap of faith.

Miller, the company owner, said he sees potential for more growth at the small yard. He praised city officials for working with the company.

Florence Kingston, the city’s director of economic development, called Fairlead “a committed and engaged community employer, whose work benefits both the local maritime industry and the overall regional economy.”

Meawhile, the company is secure in its ranking.

“We like to tout it as the second-largest shipyard in Newport News,” Pasquine joked, “second by like 21,000 employees, but we’re still number two.”


This article was originally published in Daily Press,