Contract may double shipyard work force Bethlehem expects to renovate 2 ships

September 24, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

The work force at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point shipyard could soon be boosted to more than 1,000 from 565, thanks to a $27 million government contract the yard is about to receive to renovate two cargo vessels.

The contract, announced late Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, is for upgrading two 10-year-old, Polish-built ships. The vessels are to become part of the U.S. Ready Reserve fleet of cargo ships used for military operations.

The contract would come from the U.S. Maritime Administration but has not been formally awarded, according to Maritime Administration spokesman John Swank, who said he expected an announcement in the "near future."

Ms. Mikulski's office said the contract was pending approval by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

The contract would involve the Cape Washington and the Cape Wrath, which were formerly registered in Panama and called the Haul Transporter and the Haul Trader. They were bought from Leis Hoegh & Co. for $31 million each, Mr. Swank said. It will take 95 days to renovate each ship, he said.

The two ships are roll-on, roll-off vessels, commonly called ro-ro ships, which have side doors that allow vehicles to be driven on and off.

Bethlehem spokesman Henry Von Spreckelsen said the company has not officially received the contract. He said it would increase the shipyard's work force to more than 1,000 from the current level of 565.

The yard is now doing repairs on three cruise ships. In August, it finished a $60 million contract to fabricate sections of a tunnel being built in Boston's harbor.

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