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China to Build Large Drydocks to Expand Grand Bahama Shipyard

Chinabuilding drydocks for Grand Bahama Shipyard
Two new dryddocks built in China will expand Grand Bahama Shipyard's capabilites (GBS)

Published May 24, 2022 5:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

China’s Beihai Shipbuilding Co., a division of China State Shipbuilding Corporation, has received the order to build two floating drydocks that will be used to restore and expand the repair and overhaul capabilities of the Grand Bahama Shipyard. One of the docks will be the largest floating drydock in the western hemisphere giving the shipyard the ability to service the largest cruise ships in the world.

The order, which was jointly placed by Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group as the two lead investors in the shipyard, calls for the construction of a 125,000-ton lift floating dock and a second 93,500-ton lift floating dock. Work is expected to start on the docks at the shipyard in Qingdao, China in June of this year for delivery in 2024 to the shipyard located in Freeport, Bahamas.

“The lift capacity of the two floating docks meets the lift capacity requirements of existing and currently planned cruise ships and most ship repair jobs in global trade,” said Beihai announcing the order. A virtual contract signing reportedly took place on May 9.

The government of the Bahamas and Carnival Corporation confirmed nearly a year ago the plans for the shipyard. The Prime Minister of the Bahamas reported that the two cruise corporations would be investing $350 million into the shipyard’s operations. The largest portion of the investment will go into the addition of two large drydocks capable of handling the newer generations of cruise ships. 

The two major cruise corporations, which each own 40 percent of the yard, developed Grand Bahama Shipyard in response to the industry’s desire for a shipyard facility close to its base of operations in Florida and the Caribbean. Grand Bahama Shipyard started in 2000 with one drydock capable of handling ships up to 27,000 tons displacement. The yard added a second drydock in 2001 capable of handling ships up to 50,000 tons displacement and by 2009 a third drydock was added, giving the yard a lifting capacity of up to approximately 82,500 tons displacement.

As the cruise ships have grown larger, the shipyard lacked the capability to fully lift the largest ships. In April 2019, Grand Bahama’s largest drydock was damaged in an accident. They were doing a partial lift of one of the world’s largest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, when the dock cracked and one of the cranes toppled over hitting the cruise ship.  

With the large dock out of commission, the cruise lines were forced to send the big ships to Europe, which resulted in longer downtimes during the repositioning of the ships. In July 2019, Carnival Cruise Line hired a semi-submersible heavy lift ship from Boskalis, positioning the vessel at Freeport to lift the Carnival Vista so that Grand Bahama could complete an unscheduled repair to her azipods.

Discussing the plans for the new drydocks, Carnival’s Giora Israel, senior vice-president for port and destination development, said they had determined that they would have to be built in Asia. Beihai Shipyard reports that it has built multi-types of floating docks giving it the expertise to complete the new contract for Grand Bahama Shipyard.