America First

TIMES-HERALD (Vallejo, California) - 23 June 2003

Ferry docks at Mare Island for repairs


  By Chris G. Denina, Times-Herald STAFF WRITER

The ship repair business is picking up at Mare Island.

The Fresno, a 242-foot ferry, docked Sunday at the former naval shipyard's Berth 8, joining the SS Independence for upgrades. And another ferry, the San Leandro, also is scheduled for arrival soon from Port Richmond, ship repair officials said Monday.

The former Hawaiian cruise ship's fate is unclear as owner Norwegian Cruise Line decides what to do with the steamship. But the owners of the 1926 classic ferry the Fresno know exactly what they want to do, said lead consultant Derek Conant of Intermediate Abatement & Disposal Co. in Oakland, which is managing the repair project.

The 1,500-passenger ferry will be dry-docked at Mare Island for repairs, then brought to San Francisco for use as a floating office, Conant said. The San Leandro and the Fresno were saved from being scrapped at Port Richmond, he said.

Grildey's Historical Ferry Boats Inc. in San Francisco plans to send the refurbished Fresno to join its sister ship, the Santa Rosa, at San Francisco's Pier 3, offering an alternative to traditional office space, Conant said. Grildey's also plans to bring the San Leandro to Mare Island for repairs, he said.

"For some, a lot of people, the attraction of the ferry boat is better than the building," Conant said. "It's going to have large open spaces for functions and things of that nature as well as office space, very similar to the Santa Rosa."

After the repairs, the Fresno will offer 24,000 square feet of office and retail space over two decks, he said.

Bruce Richmond, a carpenter at As You Like It Productions on Mare Island, took a moment to admire the boat Monday.

"Great idea, lots of work," Richmond said. "There's just so much potential. It's a fortune to fix them, but there's so much there."

He said he'd like to work in an office on the ferry.

"It would be beautiful, right on the water," Richmond said.

U.S. Coast Guard Chief J. Reeves stopped to check out the ferry while on security rounds at Mare Island. Reeves said it made sense to transform the boats into retail and office space.

"Here, you can rent pier space for a third of what you would buy on land," Reeves said.

While San Francisco may get the benefits of the retail and office space, Vallejo gets the economic benefits of the work.

Conant first inquired about repairing the boats at the Port of San Francisco but heard no response, so he turned to Vallejo, he said. "Mare Island is a better spot, definitely, because of the convenience of the slipways which is a necessary tool for this kind of project and location," Conant said.

The company has a two-year lease on the Mare Island facilities, he said.

The ship was built in 1926 to serve on the San Francisco Bay, according to Conant's company.

In 1936, the Fresno and the Santa Rosa were sold to the Puget Sound ferry system in Washington. The Fresno was used to transport troops in World War II.

In 1967, the ships were retired, then bought in 1969 and returned to the San Francisco Bay Area.

The renovated Santa Rosa, permanently moored at Pier 3, includes office space and room for parties and events.

E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.
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