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St. John Ship Building Acquired to Build Offshore Jones Act Ships

Libra Group buys US shipbuilder due to offshore wind demand
Libra Group sees opportunity in shipbuilding for Jones Act offshore vessels (St. Johns Ship Building)

Published Jun 21, 2022 6:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Demand from the emerging offshore wind sector and the need to build and maintain Jones Act compliant ships is driving new opportunities and investment interest in U.S. shipyards. Libra Group, a privately-owned business group owned by the Logothetis family, announced the acquisition of Florida-based St. Johns Ship Building and the formation of a maritime subsidiary American Marine to support and strengthen the U.S. shipbuilding industry to meet the perceived need for Jones Act-compliant vessels.

Based in Palatka, Florida near Jacksonville, St. Johns Ship Building provides new construction and repair for a wide variety of steel and aluminum vessels, including ferries, tugs, deck and tank barges, landing crafts, and general cargo vessels. Significantly, according to Libra Group, it is also one of the few U.S. shipyards that builds vessels that support and service offshore wind farms. In April, the yard received an order to build some of the first vessels specifically to support the operation of U.S. wind farms. WINDEA CTV, which is a newly launched operation from a partnership between MidOcean Wind, Hornblower Group, and Ems Maritime Offshore, ordered two Incat Crowther-designed CTVs to be built at St. Johns.

“There is huge demand for Jones Act vessels to be built and there are not enough yards to do it,” Libra’s chairman and chief executive George Logothetis, told Reuters.

With facilities including a 100-acre inland campus with an 850-ton floating drydock, St. Johns Ship Building, Logothetis says, is positioned to accelerate the production of Jones Act-compliant vessels, particularly the construction and maintenance of offshore wind supply and support vessels. Last year, the yard received a $1.3 million grant from MARAD as part of the Small Shipyard Grant Program to support the construction of a new drydock. 

"Americraft Marine is proud to acquire St. Johns Ship Building, which has the right leadership and skilled workforce to accelerate the future of U.S. shipbuilding and advance the urgent need for Jones Act-compliant, future-focused U.S. vessels," said Omear Khalid, CEO of Americraft Marine. "Our goal is simple: to build a best-in-class Jones Act-compliant shipyard.” Americraft Marine reports that it intends to further bolster capacity at St. Johns Ship Building through workforce training, leveraging the yard's proven expertise with the goal of creating a best-in-class future-focused shipyard.

The production of vessels in the U.S. has declined in recent years explains Americraft Marine. The significant need for Jones Act-compliant vessels they said will require significant shipbuilding capacity over the next 10-15 years to support the upcoming demand for vessels that construct and service renewable energy infrastructure.

The acquisition is the first for Americraft Marine, which anticipates future organic and acquisition-based growth that addresses the dire need for modern, state-of-the-art vessels, including those that are eco-friendly as more Jones Act-compliant vessels age out of work. The company expects future expansions to prioritize investments that are sustainable and position the U.S. for leadership in the clean energy future by building and maintaining vessels that support renewable energy projects.