A Behind the Scenes Look at DonJon Shipbuilding and Repair

April 30th, 2013

It takes hard work and a little luck for the staff of DonJon Shipbuilding and Repair to turn a worn down ship into a vessel that runs like new.

From the outside looking in, you wouldn't realize all of the effort that goes into running a successful company like DonJon, but after taking an inside look at the shipyard, the work they need to accomplish in a short winter season is no easy fete.
It's a tedious task.

DonJon is a full service repair and new build facility.
John Witte is the general manager of DonJon. He took over this facility four years ago.
Traditionally every winter before the lakes are iced over, ship owners bring their enormous vessels into the shipyard for regulatory checks and repairs.

John Witte, DonJon GM, says: "But in the past, historically it's always been servicing the needs of the great lakes community, both in the new build and repair prespective. Certainly thats our focus. That's what we think were best at."

Every season, crews work on 7 to 10 vessels, and DonJon's 150 employees get to work different departments to work on different parts of the craft.

"Welding equipment, wheel repair, a lot of physical activity, crane service, welding, cutting."

Jason Reynolds oversees the work that is being done. He took us on a walking tour of the place.
If you look around, each department leads into the next to help move the work along.

Jason Reynolds, Safety Advisor, says: "Come here for the whole winter typically ... takes the whole season to finish a repair."

For a vessel that needs a repair, crews take certain pieces, like raw steel products, and run them through blasting and priming procedures.
They also have state of the art robotic equipment that cuts the pieces down to assist the staff.
Towards of the end of the process, a 100 ton crane picks up the pieces to set them on dry dock.
But Reynolds says you'd be surprised how old some of these vessels are. Crews work to keep them in tip top shape.

"They added a pin system over the years, but actually it's only a few years older than the Titanic."

Witte says this is the result of hard work, dedication and a willingness to spend time and effort on each ship so they uphold their reputation.

"What does it take to run a successful business like this? Luck! Sometimes. DonJon Marina was started by my father in 1960. What he taught us is companies like this require dedication and luck."

Reynolds tells us the staff at DonJon have never come across a ship that they couldn't repair.
Right now they're looking to branch out to other markets to build for whomever and wherever the vessels are needed.

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