Staying Afloat

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Shipbuilders carry on despite virus shutdowns

  • Owner Steve Ganoe continues to operate his company during the coronavirus pandemic.
    Owner Steve Ganoe continues to operate his company during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • St. Johns Ship Building, located at Stokes Landing Road in Palatka, continues to build boats during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    St. Johns Ship Building, located at Stokes Landing Road in Palatka, continues to build boats during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Positively Putnam FL
    Positively Putnam FL
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Despite cruises across the globe being canceled due to coronavirus concerns, a local company continues to build vessels for businesses and groups around the nation.

St. Johns Ship Building, which is located in Palatka, continues to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re all here,” owner Steve Ganoe said in an email.

According to its website, St. Johns Ship Building is a full-service shipbuilding and marine repair company that specializes in constructing new vessels and fixing commercial vessels. The company recently completed an aluminum passenger ferry, which was sent to a New York-based operator.

Production assistant Marcia Ganoe said the company builds boats from scratch and has been doing so for more than a decade.

“We manufacture from the ground up, and it’s fascinating,” Marcia Ganoe said.  “Things come in here as flat steel pieces and float out of here two or three months (later) as tugboats.”

Marcia Ganoe said the company regularly builds 152-foot passenger ferries, which can carry up to 150 passengers and up to 30 vehicles at a time. Marcia Ganoe said they recently built such a structure for a Miami-based company.

“If you’re out in San Fransico and saw people being taken around on a boat, we build those,” Marcia Ganoe said. “St. Johns Ship Building has been defined by phenomenal craftsmanship and quality.”

She said her brother Steve Ganoe purchased the company in 2007. The company may work on several out-of-state projects, but the 98-acre Stokes Landing Road shipyard has been a proud employer of Putnam County residents since its founding.

Additionally, the company supports Putnam County by getting its supplies locally from businesses such as Palatka Thermal Logistics and Palatka Bolt.

Brian Bergen, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development, said St. Johns Ship Building employs about 120 Putnam County residents.

“Like any other manufacturer of that size and magnitude, they have a pretty significant impact on the county through their employment,” Bergen said.

Other companies may have laid off some of their employees during the pandemic, but St. Johns Ship Building has been able to avoid that due to its roster constantly revolving.

However, the shipbuilding company has run into some challenges in recent times.

Due to the pandemic, St. Johns Ship Building is having trouble contacting clients with which it has contracts.

“We were delivering a restaurant barge for a company up in New York, but they’re shut down,” Marcia Ganoe said. “Nobody is answering the phone.”

In addition to communication issues, the company has also found it difficult to get some materials due to COVID-19.

“We would typically order materials, have everything here and be ready to start at the jump,” Marcia Ganoe said. “But you can’t do that whenever you’re unsure if your customers are going to be able to complete their commitments in the way they intended.”

Despite the difficulties, the Ganoe family said they are grateful to still be operating.

Marcia Ganoe said St. Johns Ship Building has been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, with the shipyard practicing social distancing and increased sanitation for the past few months.

“We are affected by the uncertainty and certainly the steps we took to keep our customers and employees safe,” Marcia Ganoe said. “But we were deemed essential and we were allowed to keep working.”