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Shipper closes Tampa yard

The troubled Tampa Shipbuilding Co. closed its shipyard at the Port of Tampa on Monday, citing lack of money to pay its 11 workers or its overdue bills.

And the sailing isn't getting any smoother.

The company, owned by Greek shipper Stelios Katounis, has a bond payment of nearly $170,000 due Aug. 1. The Tampa Port Authority, which owns the yard, will be responsible for the bond payment if Katounis defaults.

"He has paid $10-million to $12-million buying the yard, cleaning it up. Clearly, we want him to succeed," said port director Robert Steiner.

Tampa Shipbuilding has had a rocky past, with employment continually changing as work and funds were available. When Katounis bought the company last year from American Ship Building Co., industry observers were hopeful that the new owner would smooth out the employment woes.

The Port Authority agreed to lease the shipyard to Katounis last fall after he proposed a plan that would create 1,500 jobs over five years and keep employment constant.

But after months of his trying to attract new business, the repair and building contracts have yet to materialize.

Katounis could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Although Tampa Shipbuilding's workers were laid off, a ship will be in the shipyard for repair at the end of the week.

Another company, International Ship Repair and Marine Services Inc. is renting the dry dock from Tampa Shipbuilding to work on the vessel, said William S. Russell, vice president of administration for International Ship.

Russell said his company teamed up with Tampa Shipbuilding to land the work.