Nichols Brothers Boat Builders’ recent expansion across Puget Sound could veer the family-grown company into bigger shipping lanes of the marine industry.
Ice Cap Holdings, the parent company of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, opened a ship repair business in Everett last month to accommodate bigger, heavier boats and broaden its customer base.
“It’s an expansion of our capabilities,” CEO Gavin Higgins said. “This gives us a much greater business profile.”
Called Everett Ship Repair, the site is located at 2730 Federal Avenue, north of Pier 3 at Port of Everett Seaport. It offers dry dock and pier-side services for vessels under 430 feet in length with a beam of 110 feet and maximum draft of 32 feet. Lifting capacity is 7,800 tons.
The new company will focus on repair, maintenance and conversion of commercial, government and military vessels. Ice Cap Holdings purchased the Faithful Servant, a floating dry dock formerly located in Bellingham, to base the repair facility.
Building new ships, such as tractor tugs, small cruise ships and ferries will continue at Whidbey’s homegrown ship yard in Freeland. The company will also continue to use its dock in Langley, where vessels often get finishing touches or undergo small repairs. But the location at South Whidbey Harbor in Langley is limited to boats up to 250 feet in length.
“Everett Ship Repair gives us a much bigger working space,” Higgins said. “With the two locations, we will offer outstanding shipbuilding from new construction to service and repair.”
The site of the original Nichols Brothers that opened in 1964 on the water’s edge of Holmes Harbor is squeezed to capacity. Its work force is squeezed as well in keeping up with a rising tide of boat business.
Freeland will support the Everett repair facility as needed but ultimately the two sites will have their own work forces, officials said. The two businesses are considered sister companies, Higgins said. He oversees both enterprises.
“We’re shipbuilders,” he said. “We’re planning to use the same culture, same skill base as we have in Freeland, and we’ll be taking our apprentice program to Everett as well.”
The apprentice program touts a “living wage” during on-the-job training that can result in journeyman status and higher wages after three years.
Nichols Brothers is currently under contract to build two new catamaran Kitsap Transit passenger-only fast ferries and four new Foss Maritime tractor tugs. The company is also completely overhauling the four-decade old 630-passenger Sonoma of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Ferry fleet.
Nichols Brothers estimates contract obligations will keep it busy through 2021.
“We still have the need for more employees in Freeland and now we have additional needs for Everett,” Higgins said.
Those interested in working for Nichols Brothers Boat Builders or Everett Ship Repair can see job postings and information at www.nicholsboat.com.