Ship repair company at Port Tampa Bay expanding, creating 250 jobs

November 20, 2015

TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay’s working waterfront is about to expand, not in physical size, but in the number of employees in its workforce.
International Ship Repair & Marine Services, Inc.’s acquisition of a 10th drydock, one that gives it the capability to repair massive new ships, will also enable the company to double its workforce over the next eight months or so.
The new drydock, shipped from Canada, when paired with another of International’s floating repair berths, will be 843 feet long with 125 feet of clearance between swing walls, making it the largest floating drydock on Florida’s West Coast.
Equipped with two 40-ton cranes, each standing more than 150 feet tall, this piece of equipment is capable of lifting then holding “Panamax” size vessels 1,050 feet long, for maintenance and repair.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had such an expansion” in workforce, said company President Dave Sessums. The company plans to hire up to 250 more people to add to its roster of about 250 employees over the first six to eight months of 2016, he said.
Even before hiring begins, welders, machinists and other trade professionals interested in getting in on the expansion can submit applications at
The new drydock arrived this week, floating under the Sunshine Skyway bridge with only about 5 feet to spare between the top of the dock and the bottom of the bridge, Sessums said.
The drydock, which arrived in two parts, will be assembled together to accommodate its first Panamax ship repair in early December, he said.
When Sessums came to work for the company in 1978, there were only eight employees, he said. “We were a traveling gang, a crew of people that could do anything on ships. We traveled the world” repairing vessels.
Then, George Lorton purchased the company in 1998 and International built its first two drydocks. “Now, we’ve expanded to this,” Sessums said.
The expansion comes at a time when Port Tampa Bay is working on what it calls its Channel District Plan — a plan to transform port property along Channelside Drive into a trendy strip on the edge of downtown filled with shops, apartments, a market, restaurants, a park and the marina. Development is expected to begin near the Florida Aquarium, so it could be years before it reaches the historic Banana Docks, close to International Ship at the head of Ybor Channel.
The marina, which would be constructed by the historic Banana Docks would be the last district developed near International Ship and 24 other acres Lorton owns.
He stepped forward in September to tell the port’s board of directors that he opposes the proposed filling of about 600 feet of canal at the marina site. Lorton, who said he pays about $500,000 a year in taxes for the land and his business, said no waterfront should be filled.
Port consultant Luis Ajamil, who designed the Channel District Plan, assured Lorton the port would meet with him to discuss the issue. He told Lorton the plan still has some flexibility.
Nothing firm has been decided to date on any changes that would affect International Ship Repair, said Ed Miyagishima, senior adviser to Paul Anderson, the port’s president and CEO.
“We’re excited for International Ship and the doubling of their workforce. They bring a vital service to the port, which has the largest ship building and repair facility between Pascagoula and Norfolk. It’s a vital part of what we have here.”
Miyagishima said the port is not looking to do away with its ship repair companies as it develops the Channel District Plan. While changes might occur, he said, they will be market driven, as will the entire plan, so there is no time certain on when any of it will be developed.
Port officials, when they unveiled the development plan in August, said they planned to take about a year to get more public input, work with the City of Tampa on zoning changes and to set up development guidelines.
By Yvette C. Hammett | Tribune Staff