Signal International buys bankrupt Bender Shipbuilding & Repair

A company whose basic business is rig repair has purchased the core assets of Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Co. Inc., of Mobile, Ala. Signal International LLC, also of Mobile, paid $31.25 million for Bender’s six shipyards located on the Mobile River. Not included were a plate line and a shipyard in Mexico that will be sold later.

Bender Shipbuilding had been located in downtown Mobile for nearly a century and was a major force in new construction and repair of commercial and military vessels. At the time of the bankruptcy filing in July 2009, Bender’s assets were $98.2 million and liabilities were $110.7 million. Bender filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to prevent three major creditors from a forced liquidation of the company.

The purchase was finalized in January 2010. The 26-acre facility will be called Signal Ship Repair. “We hope to triple employment to 400 to 500 people in 18 months,” said Dick Marler, president and CEO of Signal. The company has 500 workers in Pascagoula, Miss., and 150 people at a Texas facility.

“We are going to quickly restore capability by investing $5 million in dock repairs and dredging,” Marler added.

Signal hired about 125 people from Bender, and about 10 people were let go from the administration side of the business, mainly due to duplication of jobs. “We are relying a lot on the people that were on the Bender payroll,” Marler added. Former Bender President Tom Bender is not with Signal and was not available for comment on the transaction.

Larry Pearson

By Professional Mariner Staff