Walsh Marine takes over Westman Marine site

Published on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 by By Tara Nelson

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Walsh Marine owner Norm Walsh stands in front of a 58-foot purse seiner currently being repaired. Photo by Karl King

A long-time shipyard worker has taken over the former Westman Marine business at the end of Marine Drive in Blaine.

Norm Walsh, of Blaine, said he is seeking a long-term lease with the Port of Bellingham and hopes to be serving the local community and commercial industry for years to come.

Walsh said he has worked at the shipyard since 1977 when he was hired by Westman Marine’s original owner, Carl Westman, and comes from a “long line of shipwrights.”

His father Ron Walsh and grandfather Bob Walsh worked many years for the Alaska Packers Association, repairing their fishing fleet. Together, they were known as “the Beach Gang.”

The business is a full-service boatyard including boat haulouts, repairs to wood, steel, fiberglass and aluminum; boat painting, sailboat mast stepping, engine replacement, shaft alignment, shipwright repairs, sandblasting, welding and fabrication.

Walsh added he has maintained many of Westman Marine’s former crew, including office manager Brian Forsyth, and welders Chris Walsh and Jeff Olson.

He said he plans on hiring additional help – as many as 10 employees – during the busy summer months and is looking into expanding operations to include small aluminum boat building because, as the salmon runs grow and fishers are able to make more money, the demand for new fishing vessels has increased.

“It sort of has  a trickle down effect,” he said.

Walsh said he has maintained Westman Marine’s equipment but wouldn’t disclose the price of the business because a long-term lease agreement was still pending. Two other local businesses have also submitted proposals to operate the site and port officials are scheduled to make a decision by next week, he said.

Former Westman Marine owner Bob Gundmundson closed the business December 31 after state environmental regulations required him to spend an estimated $500,000 to clean up a marine sediment and in-water chemical contamination surrounding the site.

The sale was part of a settlement agreement with the port, and the agency is now developing an environmental clean-up study that will cost approximately $300,000.

Port of Bellingham environmental director Mike Stoner said the entire projected cost of the clean-up is about $1.5 million and that Gundmundson and his co-owners were only responsible for one-third of the cost.

As the new tennant, Walsh won’t be held liable for any pollution created by the former business.

Walsh Marine is located at 218 McMillan Avenue and can be reached by calling 332-5051.