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FLIBS17: Century-old shipyards to meet yacht needs on the Miami River

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By Dorie Cox

One hundred years ago, a 100-foot private yacht was immense. Two Miami shipyards that serviced the large commercial and private boats on the Miami River during that era are still in business. And both are upgrading for megayachts.

RMK Merrill-Stevens and Jones Superyacht Miami announced plans at separate events at the 58th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on Thursday.

RMKMS CEO Aaron Leatherwood

The yard now known as RMK Merrill-Stevens began in 1885. Today, the company plans to invest more than $25 million for new infrastructure and a 2,700-ton rail transfer shiplift.

Aaron Leatherwood has been company president and CEO for more than a year and aims to work with today’s larger yachts.

RMK Merrill-Stevens showed an image of plans in a photo display. Photo by Tom Serio

“We’ll be able to easily lift a 200-foot yacht and, depending on the dimensions, some up to 235 feet, with the largest shiplift on the east coast of Florida south of Jacksonville,” he said.

The six-acre yard is split by the river; old structures on the north yard were recently demolished upland of the 450-foot continuous bulkhead. There is a 240-square-foot workshed and, when renovations are complete, the yard will house 30,000 square feet of workshops, ship’s store, offices and a crew lounge. The company also reopened its Merrill-Stevens Yachts sales and brokerage business.

Jones Boat Yard, now Jones Superyacht Miami, hosted a champagne toast to celebrate the company’s 100 years in business.

Fred Laporte, general manager and chief operating officer, said the name change reflects the the company’s five-year plan to rejuvenate the property. He said the company is training its employees on the newest technologies for modern yachts.

Jones Superyacht Miami employees celebrated 100 years in business during the show on Thursday. Photo by Tom Serio

“And we have a huge machine shop that does all work in house,” Laporte said. “Few yards have that capability.”

The yard has hauling and dry-dock capabilities for yachts to 300 feet and can do welding, carpentry, electrical, paint and more on most any of today’s yachts, he said.

“We’ve seen growth from 50 meters to — is there a limit?” Laporte said. “They get bigger, bigger, bigger.”

Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comments are welcome below.

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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