Marine Group Boat Works Invests in Innovative Equipment to Modernize San Diego Shipyard

The multi-million-dollar investment will support environmental sustainability goals and enhance capacity to serve the superyacht industry.

CHULA VISTA — Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW) announced it is launching a multi-million dollar modernization project at its 15-acre shipbuilding and repair facility on San Diego Bay in Chula Vista. The focus of the project will be the addition of a new state-of-the-art mobile boat lift, the only sideways-crawling travel lift on the West Coast and the largest in the U.S.

MGBW has contracted with Cimolai Technology, based in Veneto, Italy, to custom-build a new 820-T Mobile Telescopic Boat Hoist that will combine two essential benefits – mega-capacity and flexibility. The giant lift will be able to haul a superyacht out of the water and transport it forward, backward and sideways on wheels that can turn 90 degrees. Another key feature of the machine is its variable width, allowing the crane to expand up to 18.5 feet or collapse for vessels with smaller beams. The powerful machine also will include a Tier 4 low-emission power source.

Tier 4 is a classification used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate emissions from non-road diesel engines. The Tier 4 standards aim to significantly reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel engines.

The new versatility provided by the lift will allow MGBW to make more efficient use of its one-million-square-foot facility by optimizing the space between vessels when blocked on shore. The build-out in Chula Vista is expected to take 12 months, with delivery in Fall 2024.

This is the second significant investment in expandable lift equipment MGBW has made in 2023. In April, the firm announced it had purchased a 75-T Marine Travelift to increase capacity at its yacht repair and dry-dock facility in Los Cabos, Mexico. MGBW was among the first shipyard facilities in Mexico to experiment with this innovative new design. The investment has allowed the company to overcome space constraints and meet increased demand for regional repairs. MGBW is bringing this proven concept to San Diego on a much larger scale.

The high-capacity lifts needed to haul out large vessels like superyachts typically take up much valuable real estate within a shipyard – the flexibility of the 820-T Mobile Telescopic Boat Hoist will help with this problem. When vessels are blocked in the yard, the spacing between them is determined by the overall width of the lift, not the boats. With standard boat lifts, the width is fixed, locking the operators into a larger footprint even when it is not required for a specific craft. This wasted space results in lost dry-docking capacity for the shipyard, creating a backlog of boats waiting for an open slot and significant scheduling disruptions – particularly in the busy off-season – that can force work to be turned away.

When the 820-ton lift arrives at MGBW in San Diego, it will be one of the U.S. market’s largest and most innovative machines. It will replace a 660-ton Marine Travelift that MGBW purchased in 2007, which was featured on The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” series as the single largest lift of its kind at the time.

MGBW’s boatyard modernization project plans are currently in environmental review per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The state law was enacted in 1970 with the primary goal of enhancing and protecting the quality of the environment. CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the environmental impacts of proposed projects and take steps to avoid or mitigate those impacts wherever feasible.

In addition to the new boat lift, the construction project will include the largest solar panel installation on the San Diego waterfront, which will provide 500 kilowatts of renewable energy to power yard equipment and supply shore power to docked boats. The project also will include replacing and reconfiguring all docks and dredging to restore deep-water access.

The modernization project supports MGBW’s ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, including lowering craft emissions and reducing noise on the Chula Vista waterfront. The facility will remain fully operational during construction, which is expected to take 10 months to complete.

MGBW was awarded a Small Shipyard Grant worth more than $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) earlier this year. The grants aim to help shipyards modernize, increase productivity and expand local job opportunities.

MGBW shares the Port of San Diego’s goal of being a zero-emissions boatyard and continues to lead the industry in sustainable boat repair and construction. In 2022, the company repowered its most significant piece of equipment, the 665-Ton Travelift, with Tier 4 engines, which exceed state and national diesel engine emissions standards. The upgrade made MGBW’s boat lift the most environmentally friendly in the world. MGBW’s entire facility is 100% stormwater contained, with not a drop of used water entering the bay. Additionally, MBGW runs a robust recycling program, and approximately 85% of its fleet of vehicles, forklifts and manlifts are electric-powered.

The new 820-T Lift and modernization efforts will allow MGBW to operate more efficiently within its existing footprint by working on additional boats simultaneously, enabling the company to have an even larger impact on the local economy.

About MGBW:

Marine Group Boat Works is a family-owned, full-service maritime vessel construction and repair company founded in 1986, with two waterfront facilities on San Diego Bay and in Los Cabos, Mexico. Its largest shipyard in Chula Vista has more than 2,000 feet of dockage and a 665-ton Travelift (soon to be replaced with an 820-ton lift), rough terrain cranes, a machine shop, metalworking equipment and a propeller shop. Its sister boatyard in San Jose del Cabo features more than 300,000 square feet of land and water, with a 150-ton and 75-ton Travelift. Since redeveloping their boatyards in 2007, MGBW has grown from 25 local employees to approximately 200 highly skilled team members comprised of ABS-certified welders, shipfitters, pipefitters, mechanics, electricians and painters between the two facilities.

MGBW’s is the only team in the world with a specialized group of cross-trained boatbuilders and re-fitters to service various vessels, from tugboats to patrol crafts to mega-yachts.

MGBW is recognized as the premier superyacht refit facility on the West Coast, with approximately one-third of its business devoted to this sector. Another one-third comprises commercial vessels (including ferries, tugboats, barges, workboats and research vessels), with the final third focused on shipbuilding and repairs for the U.S. military and other governmental agencies. As of 2023, more than 30 vessels worldwide were built by MGBW, with contracts totaling more than $100 million.

The Superyacht Industry:

The global superyacht industry, valued at more than $35.9 billion, supports more than 6,000 companies, 260,000 jobs, while making an economic contribution equivalent to nearly half of the cruise line industry. While superyachts are large, generally between 120 and 200 feet long, the businesses they support are primarily small. Approximately 80% of superyacht businesses have fewer than 80 employees.

According to the U.S. Superyacht Association, big boats also mean big business for the local economy. One 180-foot vessel generates more than $4 million in expenditures each year, including $1.4 million in maintenance and repairs, $400,000 in fuel, $350,000 in dockage and port fees and $110,000 in food and beverage provisioning, with $250,000 injected into the local economy by guests and crew.

In a 2021 report titled “Economic Importance of the U.S. Shipbuilding and Repairing Industry,” MARAD found that every dollar’s worth of goods and services spent leads to another $3.48 injected into the broader economy.

MGBW estimates its local economic impact at $1.2 billion in the last five years, from 2018-2022. In 2022 alone, the company spent more than $4.7 million with Chula Vista-based businesses and an additional $2.3 million with businesses in the greater South Bay region.

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