Businesses hope to cash in from Splendor repairs

The arrival of Carnival's Splendor means an economic gain and jobs for hundreds of people in San Francisco.

January 24, 2011 6:38:31 PM PST
The cruise ship Carnival Splendor is in San Francisco for repairs, after its disastrous trip off the coast of Baja after an engine fire knocked out power late last year. That misfortune is now San Francisco's economic gain because the repairs mean hundreds of jobs.

The cruise ship Carnival Splendor was guided into the dry dock facility at Pier 70 on Sunday for repairs. This vessel ruined the vacation for thousands of passengers in November when the engines caught fire off the coast of Baja California. The Splendor's misfortune is a blessing for San Francisco union workers like Joseph Romero.

"Glad to be back, work started today. Last year, I worked only a month the whole year. It's been really rough," he said.

Sheet metal workers, welders, plumbers, electricians and others are expected to work for about a month, getting the 113,000-ton ship ready to sail. The total financial payoff is unclear, but officials with the Port of San Francisco call it a big deal for the local maritime industry.

"The Carnival Splendor will generate hundreds of jobs while it's in port the next month. This will be new work for a number of people who are not working right now," Port of San Francisco Maritime Director Peter Daily said.

Rich Smith of Westar Marine Services has a contract to send a tug out to pick up a generator block for the cruise ship.

"Any kind of work is great in this economy, and so we're happy to get the work," he said.

Five of his employees will benefit and surrounding businesses like the Dogpatch Cafe are also hoping to get a boost from workers who will come in to grab coffee and snacks.

"Next week, were going to be opening our hours a little later, and hopefully some of this work with the cruise ship will coincide," Dogpatch Cafe manager Jason Corpora said.

According to port officials, Pier 70 is the only dry dock facility on the West Coast large enough to handle a massive ship like the Splendor. At 950 feet long and 120 feet wide, it's even too much for the Panama Canal.

"More ships are being built so we anticipate that this is just the start of a new lucrative business for San Francisco," Daily said.

Juan Mendoza came from Redwood City to apply for a job.

"Unemployment is running out. I've got a family to support and we are trying everything we can," he said.

One labor leader is skeptical about the claim that hundreds of new jobs will be available, and added that only two plumbers with his union have been called in for work so far. The project will cause about $56 million.