New owners for Westport Shipyard

Westport Shipyard announced Friday it has new ownership., a Louisiana-based family forming a new ownership group called Westport LLC.

General Manager Dave Hagiwara said the company will maintain all the current employees and management.

“The facility will remain open and active and with the Chouests’ interest, we’re going to be looking at, hopefully, introducing some new boat models and looking to ramp up our employment,” he said.

The Chouest family (pronounced shwest) also owns several business in the oil and gas marine transportation industry as well as American Custom Yachts in Florida. Gary Chouest has also been a customer of Westport Shipyard.

Family business

“Similar to the history of the Chouest family business, Westport began five decades ago to focus on a commercial fishing fleet and has diversified into other core businesses, but maintains an emphasis on customer satisfaction and the pursuit of excellence,” Gary Chouest said. “We are pleased to join the Westport family, and look forward to pursuing the synergies that exist between the Chouest companies, ACY, and Westport. We will continue to pursue the employment of skilled local workers, and will remain an active participant in the communities Westport serves.”

“Gary has always been passionate about our industry, and we are honored to count him as a customer, and now our majority owner, as well,” said Daryl Wakefield, Westport’s president.

The Chouests bought their shares from John Orin Edson, who will retire.

“Mr. Edson has expressed his interest to retire for a couple of years, so we’ve been pursuing companies that would be a good fit for us,” Hagiwara said. “They’re a family business as well and they have a long history in the marine trades industry.”

Overall, Hagiwara said, Westport Shipyard’s business is in good shape, and the new owners hope to expand the company’s offerings.

“We’ve been impacted by the economic downturn just like everybody, and while we’ve probably not been as active as we have in the past, we have continued to build boats and we have never not built boats, so we’ve never shut down,” he said.

“We’ve just had to cut down our production a bit to meet the market demand. We have continued to be in business through all of it.”

The company is celebrating its 50th year in business, with three locations in Washington, as well as a marina and sales office in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. It has built more than 140 yachts since 2000.

At this point, there will be no local presence from the new owners.

“They’re going to kind of leave us to continue the business and support us from Louisiana,” Hagiwara said.

“The Westport family is excited about joining forces with the Chouest family, but we also must acknowledge the wonderful contributions of Mr. John Orin Edson, our majority shareholder since 1997,” Wakefield noted.

“It’s a great day for Westport and we’re really happy for the employees and the jobs that they bring to the community,” Hagiwara said. “Certainly, we wouldn’t be here without having Mr. Edson as our majority shareholder for so long, so we owe him a debt of gratitude. But we’re looking forward to moving on.”


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