NT marina gets federal grant

James Neiss/staff photographerJim Pfeil of Wheatfield gets his 41-foot Cruisers Yacht in ship shape at Smith Boys Marina in this 2018 file photo.

NORTH TONAWANDA — Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) announced this past week that Smith Boys Shipyard has received a federal grant totaling $317,641.

The grant is funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation Small Shipyard Grant Program. It's the first Small Shipyard grant awarded to a New York state shipyard or marina operator in the past 10 years.

In a letter supporting the grant, Higgins wrote,” Located at the mouth of the Erie Barge Canal, Smith Boys Shipyard is a valuable resource for the maritime industries in the region that rely on them for repairs and maintenance. In fact, they are the only shipyard in the eastern Lake Erie region that offers these services year-round. The next closest alternative is a shipyard in Canada.”

Higgins added, “The Lake Erie waterfront is undergoing a major economic revitalization and bringing with it an increase in commercial vessel activity. With the new equipment, Smith Boys Shipyard will be able to accommodate these larger workboats and extend their winter work season.”

The grant for Smith Boys will assist with the purchase of a vessel transporter and CNC plasma cutter. The vessel transporter will allow the transfer of large vessels into the facility's covered building space and facilitate repair work year-round.

The CNC plasma cutter will improve the shipyard's steel fabrication capabilities to accommodate repairs to steel hulls, railings and other features of the larger commercial vessel customers. The shipyard will pay for the remaining 35 percent of the project's costs.

"As one of the only essential facilities in the region that can offer emergency repairs for commercial and government vessels on the Great Lakes or Erie Canal waterways, Smith Boys Shipyards is pleased to receive this grant," said James Marinello, General Manager of Smith Boys Shipyards. "This grant will benefit the entire regional maritime community, and we thank our Congressional delegation for their strong support of the project."

In fiscal year 2020, nearly $20 million was made available to small shipyards that serve government and commercial vessel operators, to help them modernize through equipment acquisitions and employee training programs. Small shipyards employ more than 100,000 nationwide and support the movement of people and goods through our ports and waterways.

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