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Bahamas Approves Expansion of Grand Bahama Including Largest Lift Drydock

Grand Bahama Shipyard
Grand Bahama Shipyard will expand with new drydocks and capabilities to support the cruise industry and commercial shipping (file photo)

Published Oct 11, 2023 2:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of the Bahamas has approved a long-planned project to expand and revitalize Grand Bahama Shipyard. The project includes a $600 million investment for the construction of new drydocks as well as improvements to the facilities located at Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.

When the project is completed in 2026, the shipyard will feature two new floating drydocks which will be among the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The docks are being built at CSSC Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding Company in Qingdao, China, and will be delivered to Freeport and commissioned in 2025 and 2026. One of the docks will have the largest lifting capacity in the world meaning that the shipyard will be able to service all the cruise in-service and planned as well as a broader range of vessels in the global commercial fleet.

Planning for the project has been underway since 2019 in response to an accident with the shipyard’s then largest drydock. In April 2019, Grand was executing a partial lift of one of the world’s largest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, to undertake urgent repairs when the dock cracked and one of the cranes toppled over hitting the cruise ship. The vessel’s size was already pushing the limits of the drydock’s capabilities and with the large dock out of commission, the cruise lines were forced to send their big ships to Europe.

“For the past four years, re-establishing Grand Bahama Shipyard as a premier global ship repair facility has been the single-minded focus of all parties,” said Sarah St. George, acting chairman of Grand Bahama Port Authority. “We’re tremendously excited for this huge expansion.”

Conceived in response to the cruise industry’s need for a shipyard in proximity to its Florida and Caribbean operations hub, the Grand Bahama Shipyard was established in 2000 with a focus on providing maintenance and has expanded over the years its role in refurbishment and modernization projects for the cruise industry. The yard has also sought to increase its role in providing maintenance and repair work to other vessels in the commercial shipping industry.

Jointly owned by Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, the yard is already the largest private, non-tourism employer in The Bahamas. The expansion plans, which were first reported in 2022, are expected to expand shipyard operations and create a significant economic boost in Grand Bahama.

In addition to new floating drydocks, the project includes the construction of supporting marine works and infrastructure in Grand Bahama. The construction is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2023 and be completed in 2025. Additionally, the shipyard has agreed to expand its apprenticeship program, with a goal to have 16 to 20 new apprentices per year. The four-year program is in partnership with technical colleges and is designed to train Bahamians for the marine trade workforce.

The efforts to expand Grand Bahama Shipyard come as others are also working to create ship repair capabilities in the Caribbean. German investors are developing a smaller ship repair yard in Jamaica, while efforts are underway to revitalize the shipyard at the Panama Canal. Fincantieri at the end of 2020 also signed an agreement to establish a repair yard in Mexico, while in 2022 reports said Damen would be investing to expand the shipyard located in Curacao.