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Shipbuilder Is Busy with Plenty of Work

FDNY fireboat
Among Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s recent projects is FDNY fireboat Three Forty Three, which was launched on Sept. 11, 2009 — eight years after 343 firefighters and rescue personnel died in the World Trade Center terrorist attack.
Eastern Shipbuilding
Bay County’s largest employer has contracts for 29 boats.
Jean Pierre Lab, an oil supply vessel, and the Paula Ruble, an inland river transporter, sit stern to stern at Panama City’s Nelson Street Shipyard as Eastern Shipbuilding Group workers add finishing touches to the vessels.

Moored next in the dockside assembly line fronting Watson Bayou is an iconic red and white replacement fireboat for the Fire Department of New York christened Three Forty Three as a memorial to the 343 firefighters and rescue personnel who died eight years ago in the attack on New York’s World Trade Center. The boat, now being outfitted with its interior systems, is the world’s largest and most technologically advanced fireboat, says Eastern project manager Lisa Barnes. A second FDNY fireboat is scheduled.

Despite the economic downturn, the shipyard is bustling, fulfilling contracts signed when the economy was more favorable.

With nearly 900 employees between its two Bay County shipyards — the 11-acre Nelson and the 140-acre Allanton yard — Eastern Shipbuilding is Bay County’s largest private employer. Launched in 1977 by CEO and owner Brian D’Isernia, the company has contracts for 29 boats, each of which can take six months to two years to build.

The bulk of Eastern’s work is making supply vessels for companies that lease to the oil industry. “Because Hurricane Katrina cut off a lot of opportunities for shipbuilders in Louisiana, we picked up a lot of that,’’ says Barnes.

Those companies will come back on line, but in the interim, Eastern Shipbuilding has had a chance to prove itself, Barnes says.