PORTLAND (AP) – Using the experience it gained in building two oil rigs in Portland Harbor, Cianbro Corp. hopes to break into the ship outfitting business and land projects to rebuild two of America’s classic cruise ships.

If successful, Maine’s largest construction company could bring millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to the city’s waterfront.

Cianbro plans to bid on upcoming retrofits on the SS United States and the SS Independence, U.S.-flagged vessels that were bought this year by Norwegian Cruise Lines.

The SS United States is a 51-year old, 990-foot legend of the trans-Atlantic cruising era that has been laid up for years in Philadelphia. The SS Independence is a 689-foot vessel that cruised Hawaii until its former owner went bankrupt in 2001. The 53-year-old ship is now in California.

Norwegian Cruise Lines also owns the SS Norway, which was damaged last spring after a boiler room explosion killed four crew members while the ship was docked in Miami.

Last month, Cianbro made an 11th-hour bid to repair the damage, but lost out to a German shipyard.

The process, however, may have opened the door for Cianbro to be a more competitive bidder on the upcoming SS United States and SS Independence retrofits.

“The SS United States and the Independence are projects that they want to accomplish and we hope to be considered,” said Peter Vigue, Cianbro’s president. “We are in hot pursuit.”

Cianbro reached beyond its traditional expertise last year when it won a contract to finish two giant oil rigs begun by a bankrupt shipbuilder in Mississippi. Cianbro, which is based in Pittsfield, didn’t have any experience with oil rigs.

But after making a case that the electrical and mechanical outfitting was similar to its bread-and-butter work of building power plants and upgrading paper mills, Cianbro won the $100 million job. It currently has 850 skilled workers completing the rigs.

As the oil rig work comes to an end, both Cianbro and city officials are eager to keep marine-related construction on the waterfront. Such work provides a source of income for the city, with Cianbro paying Portland $1 million a year in rent for the waterfront workspace.

AP-ES-07-19-03 1211EDT


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