Insights: Gavin Higgins, CEO, Everett Ship Repair

Everett Ship Repair (ESR) is a relatively new name in the U.S. ship repair business. Established in October 2019, the Pacific Northwest shipyard is owned by Ice Cap Holdings, LLC, which is also the parent company to another shipyard not too far away: Nichols Brothers Boat Builders (NBBB).

Both ESR and NBBB are headed up by CEO Gavin Higgins, who is responsible for the development of new business opportunities and cultivation of new business relationships, including working with industry groups, naval architecture firms, subcontractor and suppliers, to ensure the two shipyards establish and maintain prominent roles in their respective operations.

An experienced shipyard executive, Higgins worked as a General Manager of Shelbume Ship Repair with Irving Shipbuilding, Inc. before signing on at NBBB in 2012. Previously, he served as Vice President and COO for Derecktor Shipyards in its Bridgeport, Conn. facility and as Chief Engineer at its Mamaroneck, N.Y. facility.

Higgins has a degree in naval architect from Southampton College and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. A Fellow of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects (RINA) and a Member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) in the United States. Higgins serves on The American Bureau of Shipping’s (ABS) Committee on Small Vessels and is a member of the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA).

Higgins brings us up to speed on the new repair venture, discussing how the yard’s strengths and capabilities will help Everett Ship Repair meet its goals.

What type of business is Everett Ship Repair targeting – commercial, government, both? And what are your top goals as head of the new yard?
ESR customer base will be commercial operators, government agency and federal operations. The drydock capacity allows for a wide range of vessel size, and with support from the existing Nichols Brothers Boat Builders management and experienced personnel, the diverse customer portfolio is ideal.
We aim to build a world class ship repair facility that can support the needs of private, commercial and government clients.  

(Photo: Everett Ship Repair)

What type of investment was required to acquire the site and then begin operations? Were major on-site modifications required?
The site is owned and leased out by the Port of Everett. ESR occupies approximately three acres of laydown area, 20,000 square feet of fabrication shop area and occupies pier three directly neighboring the Port of Everett. ESR purchased the Faithful Servant, an existing drydock that serviced the Puget Sound area in Bellingham, Wash. Following the purchase ESR transferred the drydock to the new facility and began operations. The drydock is capable of hauling vessels up to 436 feet by 110 feet.  

Please describe the research that went into buying the dry dock Faithful Servant, and why Everett ultimately decided to make the purchase.
We have been studying how to expand our service opportunities for a few years. The Faithful Servant has exceptional length and beam capabilities and large lift capacity. Mapping its capabilities to the market, we could see that this was an excellent opportunity to start the new venture.

(Photo: Everett Ship Repair)

The ESR website references “vast ship repair capabilities”. Will you please define this?
ESR is capable of hauling vessels up to 436 feet by 110 feet with simplistic to complex work-scopes.  ESR can schedule small maintenance work, extensive repair work, up to significant vessel conversions. The drydock also has capacity for double docking of smaller vessels to accommodate vessels out of season preparing for upcoming seasonal operations.

What makes ESR different from other repair yards?
Principally it will be the size range that the dock can handle. ESR is one of only three facilities that can dock vessels with beams greater than 90 feet.

What are the advantages to having ESR and sister company NBBB in relatively close proximity?
NBBB is a full-service shipyard that has all the skills required to build vessels up to 350 feet in length. The ability to share that resource to support work and utilize the apprenticeship program to support future growth if the yard is a giant asset.

With Everett now in existence, will NBBB’s repair, maintenance and conversion work shift to the new site and free up NBBB to focus on new construction exclusively?
Nichols Brothers will continue business as usual. NBBB has a great barge/ferry/tug repair customer pool who they will continue to serve. NBBB repair is limited to size constraints of vessels up to 275 feet in length with a draft maximum of 18 feet and vessel weight of 2,500 ST. This is only a constraint when hauling vessels into the yard, due to the unique hauling method.  

ESR’s repair capacity is much greater than Nichols’, accommodating vessels up to 436 feet by 110 feet by 32 feet. NBBB has a “sweet spot” repair size, if you will. Both facilities can accommodate vessels of all complexities; however, size does matter

(Photo: Everett Ship Repair)

Please give a brief rundown of the jobs performed at Everett to date. Were any of the scopes particularly challenging or unique?
The first docking was a double docking of a tugboat and fishing vessel. Both were in dock for owner-required maintenance. Second, a large oil barge came in for significant steel work. And lastly, a second large barge has come in for substantial repairs, maintenance and preservation. ESR targeted work-scopes that matched the capabilities as the facility ramped up operation. This allowed us to grow as a company while minimizing risk and offering our customers a positive first experience.

What does your current backlog entail? How far out are you booked?
ESR is booked now through the summer with work coming in rapidly.

Please describe the trade services that Everett and Nichols Bothers provide.
ESR and NBBB perform in-field service work. We have great relationships with our customers, and are very familiar with their vessels. Anytime a customer needs us we offer services.

How many employees work for ESR currently? Has it been a challenge to attract talent? Are there plans for expansion?
ESR has a complete management team, production crew and production support personnel consisting of about 45 individuals. As operation develops ESR anticipates a crew of 80, plus or minus. ESR currently is recruiting for talent and interested candidates should apply only through the ESR website.

(Photo: Everett Ship Repair)

Marine News Magazine, page 14,  Mar 2020

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