Fairhaven Harbor & the Shipbuilding Industry

Fairhaven Harbor

Fishing, boating, and shipbuilding were active enterprises in Fairhaven’s early years. In 1936, local voters approved a port-sponsored bond measure of $75,000 for the construction of a harbor in Fairhaven, while the Works Progress Administration provided the necessary labor. The small marina became the home of numerous local fishermen, until the harbor was destroyed by a terrible storm on January 30, 1947. The storm completely disintegrated the log breakwater, washing log booms onto the shores and damaging or displacing almost all of the 200 pleasure and fishing boats moored in Fairhaven.

Dry Docks

Although Fairhaven would never again act as a marina, shipbuilding soon emerged as a thriving enterprise. Since then, the site has been home to a number of different shipbuilders. In 1983, looking to revamp the former dockside site of Pacific American Fisheries (PAF), the port bought a 2,800-ton capacity dry dock from government surplus and placed it in Fairhaven to attract shipbuilding companies.

A dry dock is essentially a vessel that can be alternately drained or filled with water, allowing it to partially sink so that ships can be pulled in over it. After the ship is carefully positioned, the dock can then be floated to the surface to allow dry work on the bottoms of ships. When the port first tested the dry dock, it immediately failed and sank to the ocean floor. Thankfully, it was insured, and was thus re-floated and retrofitted with modern controls.

Later Occupants

The new dry dock was instrumental in attracting Maritime Contractors Inc. (MCI) to the site in 1986. A major shipbuilding company, MCI gained numerous contracts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Navy. After MCI closed its doors in April of 1998, Bellingham Bay Shipyards briefly occupied the site between 1998 and 2002. From 2005-2019, Puglia Engineering operated Fairhaven Shipyard until financial challenges related to the company's operations in California caused the shipyard to shut down.

Current Activities

Fairhaven Industrial Marine Repair has used the site since 2021 for a variety of purposes including marine construction and repair.

Next: Transportation