Derecktor Shipyards’ Bridgeport yard in troubled waters

Published on September 6, 2011 by

After 10 years of business, Derecktor Shipyards’ Bridgeport operation is in danger of closing. “The economy has killed us,” said owner Paul Derecktor.

If the Bridgeport yard – one of three locations operated by the firm – is to remain open, Derecktor will need to secure more work. “We need enough work to keep the doors open,” he said.

Last August, Derecktor Shipyards made headlines when the yard launched the 281-foot Cakewalk, the largest motor yacht to have been built in the United States.

Cakewalk is the last boat to have been built by Derecktor Shipyards. Since the completion of the mega yacht in 2010, the company has been doing mostly maintenance and service work on existing yachts. Some of the boats in the company’s shipyards aren’t being worked on at all; they’re in storage.

“When Cakewalk was being completed, we thought we would get another job,” said Derecktor, but said that the bottom had fallen out of the market.

“Basically our business was service work and new construction and there isn’t any new construction, “ said Derecktor. “We haven’t been able to land any new construction work.”

The walls of the company’s Mamaroneck office are covered with framed photographs of its yachts, but the company’s business hasn’t been restricted to luxury craft. The company built two high-speed ferries for the state of Alaska and in 2009 launched a tugboat for a company in Boston.

At the moment, however, the Derecktor is trying to expand beyond boats.
“We’re trying to get into woodworking but it’s very competitive,” said Derecktor.

His father, Robert Derecktor, founded the company in 1946 in Mamaroneck. His original shop is still in use as the company’s woodworking facility. The company added a second shipyard in Florida in the 1960s, said Derecktor. The Bridgeport shipyard was opened in 2001 because Derecktor needed a larger facility.

“All the custom boats were too big for this yard,” said Derecktor.

In its first year in Bridgeport, Derecktor Shipyards created 130 new jobs, according to the City of Bridgeport’s annual fiscal report in 2010.

At its busiest, the yard was home to 400 employees and subcontractors. Now, says Derecktor, between 20 and 30 employees work at the Bridgeport facility.

The Mamaroneck yard is also sparsely staffed; 15 employees now work in a yard that once employed 100.

“We’ve had to lay off guys who have been with the company for over 25 years,” said Derecktor.

Derecktor does not own the Bridgeport facility. Rather, the company leases space at the Bridgeport Regional Maritime Complex, which, according to Donald Eversley, Bridgeport’s director of Planning & Economic Development, is owned by the Bridgeport Port Authority.

“This is a Connecticut resource,” he said.

The construction of the Bridgeport shipyard was a public-private venture. Derecktor said that both the City of Bridgeport and the State of Connecticut were very supportive.

According to the website of the Connecticut Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development, Derecktor moved onto site of the Carpenter Steel Mill, and received state funding through the Manufacturing Assistance Act and the Urban Sites Remedial Action Program. Derecktor Shipyards also received state loans, and $1.2 million from the federal Economic Federal Administration and funds from the Connecticut Development Authority.

Derecktor Shipyards also put money into the new yard, constructing the largest travel lift in the Western Hemisphere.

“It was a public private success, except we never took anything out of it,” said Derecktor. “We invested millions.”

Eversley said that he had not heard anything about Derecktor leaving Bridgeport, but said that even if the company were to depart, the Bridgeport Maritime Complex would remain.

He pointed out that a hybrid ferry is being built by Hornblower, a national maritime company. According to a December 2010 post on Derecktor Shipyards’ blog, Hornblower contracted with Derecktor to make the ferry by rebuilding an existing cruise boat.

Derecktor Shipyard has been the long-term tenant at the site, said Eversley, but added that the Bridgeport shipyard is a unique facility that would be attractive to new tenants.

“New operators would be here in very short form,” he said. “It’s not like there would be a search needed. It would continue to be a viable facility.”

Derecktor has made no decisions about the fate of the Bridgeport yard. Derecktor is now keeping the yard open on a week-to-week basis, based on the work available.

“It may close temporarily or permanently. It’s hard to say,” he said. “But we’re not quitting. We’re trying.”

© The Fairfield County Independent