Australian boat company reverses course, won't be opening in Bellingham

Aluminum Boats Australia, a aluminum and composite boat manufacturer based in Queensland, Australia, will not be opening its new U. S. operation in Bellingham as planned, due to delays in securing a foreign contract and ship launching issues.

In April, the company entered into a 30-day due diligence period with the port for a 30,000-square-foot site at the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park.

The boat maker asked for the time so it could fully inspect the property and determine how it would launch its vessels after manufacturing them.

The port, along with other Whatcom County and state partners, worked to attract the foreign company to create new jobs and economic opportunities for the region.

“The port and our community partners have worked with ABA for nearly seven months, and we certainly are disappointed that they will not be operating in Bellingham,” port real estate development manager Shirley McFearin said in a May 1 press release. “But we are hopeful that they will secure their foreign vessel contract and still will choose to invest in our region at a different site.”

Company officials said Bellingham was their first choice, but noted that the inability to directly launch vessels from the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park added insurmountable costs to their business by requiring that they instead transport their vessels by land to the Fairhaven Shipyard and pay to launch from that facility.

Protection of sensitive salmon habitat and tidelands alongside the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park restricts the ability to construct in-water launch facilities at that site. Although ABA found a privately owned site in Anacortes with direct launch capabilities, it is delaying its expansion until it secures its new business contract with an African country.

“ABA is disappointed that we will not operate in Bellingham,” Karen Whitewood, the company’s co-owner, said. “The decision was an economic one based on the extensive costs in launching vessels from the building site. ABA Ltd. would like to thank the Port of Bellingham for all of their efforts in trying to accommodate our needs. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Bellingham and Fairhaven communities for their welcoming spirit. ”

Since learning of ABA’s decision, the port has begun working with another potential site tenant that also is interested in leasing Building 7 in the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park.

The port’s board of commissioners is expected to consider a lease with the other business later this spring.

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