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Nichols hires back workers

Work restarts on new tugboat

Nichols rehired 50 of its employees Friday night and put them back to work Monday morning on Baydelta Maritime’s tugboat, company officials said.

The yard has been silent since Nov. 2 when the company laid off the bulk of its workers, citing lack of financing due to litigation with Hornbeck Offshore Services.

“The workers are back to work on Baydelta Maritime’s tugboat,” said Nichols’ President Bryan Nichols.

“It’s great to hear the sounds of boat building again and we are looking forward to getting more of our workers back,” he said.

Meanwhile, Washington State Ferries has implemented changes in the wake of its issues surrounding the loss of its four Port Townsend-Keystone ferry boats to repair or replacement.

The ferry system has stepped up its steel inspections and scrutiny on all the vessels in the ferry fleet and implemented passenger-only service on the Port Townsend/Keystone run.

State ferry officials have also been brainstorming about ways to get ferry service returned from between the Olympic Peninsula and Whidbey Island in the fastest way possible.

The state organization recently hosted a round table meeting with consultants and Puget Sound shipyard officials, including company CEO Matt Nichols.

During that meeting, Matt Nichols said the Freeland boatyard could build a small ferry within a year to serve the Port Townsend-Keystone route.

“It was fairly sudden. My dad told them we’ve already got a ferry designed and built,” Nichols said. “It is a quick solution to their problem and not a temporary one.”

“It is not a done deal,” he added. “But from our side, we could get that going pretty quickly.”

Even so, the proposal left some wondering how Nichols Brothers could complete the project on time given that the company has faced lawsuits in the past two years for not meeting deadlines on ship-building contracts.

Nichols said the company could build the ferry quickly because it would be following plans for a ferry it has already built.

“It could be completed quickly because we have the engineering done, all the purchasing items identified,” Nichols said.

“One-off projects that have not been completely engineered usually take a considerable amount longer than a project that is completely engineered and especially one that has been built before. Because this project has been done before, we have a much better understanding of the hours it will take to build it, what the material requirements are and therefore, we can make a much better projection on that,” he said.

For now, Nichols is looking forward to getting the remaining workers back to the shipyard to finish the other projects that have waited for more than a month.

“I am hoping that we have a majority of this done by mid-December,” he said. “But I am also hoping that by the end of next week, the second tugboat is done.”

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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