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Study Finds St. Croix Right for Shipyard

A proposed St. Croix ship repair yard could employ 600, according to a new study. (Photo courtesy VIEDA/Royal HaskoningDHV)

St. Croix’s south shore is a good location for a shipyard that could repair mega-yachts and mid-size commercial vessels, according to a new study.

Commissioned by the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority and released Friday, the feasibility study found the South Shore Trade Zone, which stretches roughly 4.5 miles along the coast and a mile inland, was right for a shipyard able to repair vessels up to 574 feet in length.

St. Croix has not only the right conditions for a repair yard but is also geographically in the right place, according to the study by Dutch engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV.

Based on projected market growth, the study predicted roughly 17,300 appropriately-sized vessels would pass close by St. Croix in 2033 — up from 13,800 in 2023. Of those 2033 vessels, 5,600 would be likely to require annual dry docking while in the region. Roughly 430 vessels could have those repairs made at a St. Croix shipyard.

Depending on the dock’s configuration, a facility could potentially generate revenue ranging from $39 million to $73 million per year for the USVI, the study said.

A capital expenditure of roughly $62 million could yield $39 million in annual revenue, the study found, with financing paid back in 24 to 43 years. An investment of between $79 million and $103 million — adding a 175-meter floating dock — could churn out $73 million in revenue, repaying financing in under 37 years. The repaid yard could also directly employ 600 people.

The shipyard could be an important economic driver, said Wayne Biggs Jr., the EDA’s chief executive officer, in a written statement.

The study found that ship repair is a labor-intensive industry, which sustains employment and economic benefits,” Biggs said. “Shipyards also create significant direct and indirect income and multiplier effects, supporting local jobs and the economy. The findings of this study will enhance the South Shore Trade Zone’s attractiveness for investment in the U.S. Virgin Islands, particularly on St. Croix.”

There are plenty of regional competitors but most, like the Sub Base facility in St. Thomas, target the yachting market. Larger shipyards in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Venezuela are frequently busy.

A Curacao shipyard’s dock similarly-sized to the larger one proposed on St. Croix is busy 50 percent of the time repairing chemical and petroleum tankers, the study found.

The study considered a broad swath of St. Croix’s south side, from the container port to Breids Bay. The Krause basin was chosen as likely the best for the shipyard. It’s in the right spot, has a wide turning basin, and existing facilities like a machine shop and smaller cranes.

The 167-page study covered everything from dredging and other site preparation needs to potential sources of funding yet suggested more studies were needed.

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