The Grand Bahama Shipyard had two dozen cruise ship dockings in 2010 and this year has received orders for another 24 cruise ship projects. It expects to equal or surpass two dozen dockings in 2012.
Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean each own 40 per cent of the shipyard, while Grand Bahama Port Authority, a private entity, has a 20 per cent stake. The shipyard has three floating docks. Two are about 1,000 feet long while the third is 880 feet. Dock number 2 has the greatest lifting capacity – 54,000 tonnes.
Peter Fetten, Senior Vice President, Corporate Ship Refit, Carnival Corporation, said in a statement that its investment in the Bahama shipyard is "in line with Carnival's refit strategy to work towards defining repair/upgrade processes and reinforcing success by implementing what works best across the entire fleet". The decision to put a shipyard in Grand Bahama dates to the early 1990s. At the time, the Caribbean's cruise ship industry was taking off, and cruise ship companies realised they needed a repair and maintenance facility just 100 miles from Miami.
Even though Carnival and Caribbean are fierce market competitors, they cooperate with each other and other companies seeking to use the dry dock. "When it comes to agreeing on docking slots, it works well. They are also determined that other cruise lines are to have an opportunity to use this facility," says Mr Rotkirch, the Chairman and CEO of Grand Bahama Shipyard. "Some people in cruise lines keep questioning if we are serious about letting them come. But we've tried to show we consider every client as important." Today, Freeport is attractive to cruise fleets mainly because of its status as an international shipping hub with a deep-water port and container facility. The Bahamas has also relaxed its immigration policy. Companies are allowed to pay for temporary workers on a project basis.
To keep up with increasing demand and attract new types of customers, the shipyard spent USD 20 million to create new dockside work areas and double its steel repair facilities four years ago. It then spent another USD 50 million on additional cranes and its third dry-dock to accommodate larger ships.
Originally constructed for USD 70 million, the shipyard has spent an additional USD 30 million since then to increase 'capacity and capabilities'. This included putting its second and biggest dry-dock into operation in March 2002. "That was the motor of growth, and we grew our revenue from USD 11 million in 2001 to over USD 70 million in 2005. We increased almost seven fold," says Mr Rotkirch. Freeport has benefited, too, with the shipyard pumping USD 45-50 million annually into the economy.
Text: George E. Jordan