UPPER TOWNSHIP — A Cape May County shipyard took delivery last week of the state’s largest boat travel lift, which will help the company hire as many as 40 more workers.
Yank Marine Inc., on Mosquito Landing Road in Tuckahoe, assembled the 300-ton boat lift after it was delivered on 10 tractor-trailers.
President John Yank Jr. said the bigger lift opens up new marine opportunities for the 45-year-old company. Yank Marine custom-builds boats and performs any needed repairs and maintenance on commercial-fishing boats, New York ferries, and vessels of the U.S. Coast Guard and the New Jersey State Marine Police.
The Coast Guard routinely performs boat inspections at the shipyard. Most commercial boats have to be inspected every 18 months, so tour operators and fishing captains often schedule repair work to coincide with the examinations, Yank said.
“Everyone is always anxious to get them back in the water,” he said. “The longer it sits in the yard, they’re not making money and it’s costing them more.”
The Tuckahoe shipyard has a rail track that can pull a single enormous boat out of the water. But the rail system has room for only one vessel. The busy shipyard typically works on 10 boats at a time using its smaller 200-ton lift, Yank said.
“The new marine travel lift will allow us to do multiple boats,” he said.
Yank, 73, of Upper Township, grew up working on boats after school in Petersburg. He learned the trade from a father-son duo of naval architects. He opened his business in 1967 with a small garage on the Tuckahoe River.
Today, he employs 54 people in a business that both repairs boats and builds many of its own, including tourism speedboats and charter fishing vessels.
The shipyard currently is refitting two New York Waterway ferries with new engines, carpeting and windows. Yank is doing work on Sea Dog, a scallop boat from Barnegat Light, and it recently started work on the construction of a new 150-passenger party boat.
The company bought the towering $1.8 million lift a year ago using a $961,676 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.
The agency awarded $10 million in grants in 2010 to 13 shipyards for new cranes and other equipment designed to keep America’s commercial fleet afloat. Shipyards employ 50,000 people in 30 states in the United States.
The agency received 118 grant applications in 2010 from across the country.
Yank credited his wife, Bette Jean Yank, and employee Peg O’Boyle with writing the winning grant application.
“We had been applying for the grant for the last five years. Our grant application had the highest score of anyone,” Yank said.
Cape May is the second-most lucrative fishing port on the East Coast. Gregory DiDomenico, spokesman for the Garden State Seafood Association, said support industries such as Yank Marine make this possible.
“The industry relies upon various support businesses, and we all complement each other to keep the coastal economy viable,” he said.
Yank Marine plans to move its 200-ton lift to its Dorchester boatyard on the Maurice River in Cumberland County. The new equipment is expected to open up new business opportunities for both boatyards, he said.
“We’ll hire 20 or 25 people more for that yard and probably with this big lift get another 15 people here,” he said.
Eventually, the company plans to perform all of its biggest jobs at its Maurice River Township boatyard, which is more accessible than the Tuckahoe site that’s upstream from four bridges.
Next year, the company will pursue a 600-ton boat lift for its Dorchester yard that will enable it to work on even bigger vessels.
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