Oakland’s Waterfront Takes Center Stage at PortFest 2003
Oleta Adams to Star at PortFest 2003
Grammy-Winning Oakland Interfaith Choir on PortFest 2003
Bay Crossings Journal
Bay Crossings Poetry
Freeway Service Patrol Logs 1 Million Assists
Wine Festival by the Bay
How Do Bus Drivers Feel About Golden Gate’s Financial Problems?
Paving the Way for Buses – The Great GM Streetcar Conspiracy
Port of Call: Cayenne, French Guyana
Opening of Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Changing of the Guard at San Francisco’s Last Shipyard
The Port Of Oakland Needs Your Help!
Taste of Oakland
East Bay French-American School To Host Annual "La Place Du Marche"
What the AC Transit Bus Driver Knows
The Iraq war reader
Judge Orders Carnival Cruise Line to Stop Illegal Dumping
On the Oakland Waterfront, Seafarers Club Breaks New Ground
Year of the Salmon!
WTA: For Whom the Bridge Tolls
New Ferry Building Sunday Garden Market Opening May 4th
San Francisco Bay
Vermeer Chocolate Martini
Oakland Arts Focus
Music Calendar - May 2003
In appreciation: David Clark
Water Transit Authority  WTA

Changing of the Guard at San Francisco’s Last Shipyard

Roots Stretch Back to California’s Gold Rush

Did You Ever Wonder

What Happened To That Errant Floating Drydock That Broke Away From Its Moorings In A Heavy Storm Last November And Almost Hit The Bay Bridge???

You may recall that during last winter’s first big storm, an almost forgotten, rusty old World War II floating drydock belonging to the Port of San Francisco broke away from its moorings at Pier 70 and headed out into the Bay on its own. This was no small drydock, for it measured 654 ft in length, 128 ft wide, and 45 ft high, and was capable of doing considerable damage to whatever lay in its path.

No one was onboard as the big hulk gained speeds up to eight knots and headed straight for the Bay Bridge. The Coast Guard took immediate charge, and finally a fleet of five tugs was able to nudge this steel hulk onto a beach at Yerba Buena Island. Eventually, provisional repairs were made, and it was towed back to San Francisco and into the yards of San Francisco Drydock, where it remains today.

What’s going to happen to the rusty old hulk? Tow it out to sea where it could be sunk? Not likely, for it might not survive that towing or even a towing to one of the Bay Area’s scrap yards. It appears that no decision has been made, but it will most likely be cut up for scrap right at San Francisco Drydock … to everyone’s great satisfaction

By Wes Starratt, Senior Editor

First, it was San Francisco’s famed Union Iron Works established in the 1850s for building heavy machinery for California’s gold mines. As mining waned, however, the Iron Works cast about looking for other markets. Railroads and shipping seemed to be good answers, and in 1885, Union Iron works launched the first steel ship ever built on the Pacific Coast. As the years went by, ship repair work took center stage over shipbuilding, and the focus was on Navy as well as commercial ships. The old Union Iron Works became San Francisco Drydock, first on its own and more recently as a part of SouthWest Marine, which operates dry docks in San Pedro and San Diego. Later, Southwest Marine became part of US Marine Repair, Inc., with ship repair yards on both coasts and the Gulf. In spite of changes of ownership, but still operating under the name of San Francisco Drydock (SFD), the old iron works is still very much alive and well today.

For many years, 30 to be exact, the name of Managing Director Carl Hanson was synonymous with San Francisco Drydock. But this year, there has been a changing of the guard. Carl "sort of" retired to become a consultant to SFD, while his protégé, Joe O’Rourke, has taken the helm as president and general manager.

Joe O’Rourke is young and full of energy and ideas. He is a certified public accountant with lots of experience in shipbuilding and ship repair, as well as with mergers, acquisitions, and taxation. A native of Oregon, he holds a BS degree in Accounting as well as a Master of Taxation degree from Portland State University. He first worked for what was the North West Marine shipyard in Portland before transferring to SFD, initially as controller to Carl Hanson and later as vice president of finance. In 1994, Joe also became vice president and general manager of South West Marine’s San Pedro Shipyard, which also specializes in commercial ship repair work. He still holds that title, and now has the added responsibilities of managing SFD. As a result, Joe commutes back and forth between San Francisco and San Pedro on a weekly basis, while spending weekends with his family in Los Angeles.

What is Joe’s vision of the future of San Francisco Drydock? Positive indeed, for Joe is that kind of guy. The facts warrant his optimism, and the Port of San Francisco appears to share this vision as evidenced by the recent signing of a five-year lease extension to the year 2017 for the 52 acres of waterfront property at the foot of 22nd Street "on very favorable terms," according to O’Rourke.

San Francisco Drydock has a steady stream of maintenance and repair work from the US Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve ships and the Military Sealift Command, which comprise Navy ships, such as supply ships, operated by civilian crews under the Dept. of the Navy.

The big note of optimism is the growing volume of cruise ship business. Because of the world situation, cruise ships are now turning to domestic runs along our coasts. Thus, there are a growing number of Pacific Coast cruises with an increasing number of departures from San Francisco, which provides added emphasis to the need for the long-delayed San Francisco Cruise Ship Terminal. These cruise ships also need to be maintained and repaired, and SFD is in the best position on the Pacific Coast to provide those services. The firm not only has the largest floating drydock on the coast, but has an open door to the business, since the shipyards in San Diego are too heavily booked with Navy work to handle cruise ships. The result is that SFD is now getting four to five dry-dockings of cruise ships per year, thus doubling its cruise-ship business. In fact, SFD is now doing its second cruise ship this year, and already has a Norwegian Cruise Line ship scheduled for May.

But what about the Water Transit Authority’s proposed new fleet of ferries? This year, for the first time, SFD will be doing maintenance and repair work on some of the existing ferries: first, Alameda’s Encinal in April/May and later, Golden Gate’s Del Norte. Nevertheless, SFD’s traditional work has been with steel-hulled ships, and the yard lacks facilities to do extensive work on aluminum-hulled boats. That work has traditionally been done across the Bay in Alameda by Bay Ship & Yacht, which has an extensive facility devoted exclusively to aluminum fabrication. SFD is tracking developments, and can be expected to move more extensively into aluminum work as the ferry fleet grows and as the volume of business warrants that move.

Joe O’Rourke is optimistic not only about future business but about the future of San Francisco Drydock in San Francisco. "We have a union work force of about 350, and 55 percent of it is minority. That is good for the community and good for us. Furthermore, the Port of San Francisco is supportive and does more for its ship repair business than any other port on the Pacific Coast."