PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — For more than two decades, a 15-acre site on the Elizabeth River serviced mega yachts. Now, its new owners are focusing on boats that make some of those yachts look like dinghies.
Friday afternoon, sparks flew inside the former Ocean Marine boat storage center off WAVY Street in Portsmouth. Roughly 30 employees of Fairlead Integrated were welding fabricated units that will eventually make up the gigantic hull of the CVN-80 to be named USS Enterprise.
“We’re helping to erect and construct the next generation of that great ship,” said Fred Pasquine, president of Fairlead, who recalled that his company’s predecessor helped decommission CVN-65.
While that type of work has traditionally been completed on the grounds of Newport News Shipbuilding, Pasquine said current U.S. Navy plans require more labor.
“The Ford aircraft carrier class, plus the Virginia Fast Attack submarine, plus a Columbia class all coming up is causing an increased demand,” Pasquine said. “This is what will meet the demand.”
Fairlead, owned by local veteran and businessman Jerry Miller, bought the former yacht repair facility in 2019. In total, more than $30 million has been invested in cleaning up the site and converting it to a place to repair and maintain equipment and systems onboard U.S. Navy ships.
“We knew we could make it more into what it was as a yacht repair facility,” Pasquine said. “It had all the infrastructure that we could quickly convert for a new market.”
The property has long had one of the largest boat lifts in the area, capable of hauling vessels up to 235 feet in length.
Upgrades have also been recently been made to a two-bay blast and paint facility.
While the majority of the business will be dedicated to military work, the Portsmouth-based company will also still service some commercial vessels — such as tugboats and tour boats — like it has done for years at its Newport News facility.
“What we’re really excited about … is returning the North Pier to use,” Pasquine said.
Recently, Portsmouth City Council signed off on a plan for Fairlead to buy the long-abandoned pier for $500,000 in order to construct a 38,000-square-foot warehouse as part of its expansion.
The Portsmouth Economic Development Authority has agreed to used half of the money from the sale to further invest in the neighboring Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion.
For Fairlead’s part, they have put forward a landscaping plan and have agreed to do no work during concerts.
“We’re going to be good neighbors,” Pasquine said. “We want to put a mural on that building, something we would work with the city to commission a local artist. To represent our company, the city and the Navy.”
Pasquine expects the building to be completed by 2023 or 2024, around the time they hope to have won contracts to do substantial work on the Columbia class submarines.
In total, the project will bring roughly 225 new jobs to the city.
“What makes me most excited is we have the opportunity to be a pillar in this city,” Pasquine said.