New shiplift in, construction underway at RMK

Feb 15, 2020 by Dorie Cox

Story and photos by Dorie Cox

Construction and upgrades at RMK Merrill-Stevens Shipyard are nearly complete, with a grand reopening of the North and South Yards expected before summer’s end, according to new updates from the company.

The North Yard’s transformation into Miami’s Superyacht Refit Center is in its final stages, which includes the commissioning of the new 2,700-ton shiplift. Built by Florida-based Pearlson Shiplift Corp., the lift will allow the yard to service vessels up to 225 feet, making it the largest in all of South Florida. 

The lift, which first arrived by barge up the Miami River in August, will haul vessels without the use of straps, decreasing the risk of damage and making the process more efficient.

RMK Merrill-Stevens has installed a new 2,700-ton Pearlson shiplift on the North Yard on the Miami River in Miami. The lift was transported up the river by barge last August and the system has undergone three test runs. The rail system is on site and will be installed before a final alignment of the lift. Photo by Dorie Cox

“As boats are bigger, this is a much better option,” said Jack Schneider, project manager on the North Yard during a site tour this week. “It is much less stress on the keel, and this type of lifting will be required more by insurance companies.”

Twelve separate winches will maneuver six beam sections for precision balance during lifts. Engineers have raised and lowered the lift three times during testing and now await the main power transformers. By March, the company expects to complete installation of the rail system before a final alignment of the lift, Schneider said.

Jack Schneider, RMK Merrill-Steven North Yard Project Manager explains the configuration of the new 2,700-ton Pearlson shiplift installed in the North Yard. Photo by Dorie Cox

The rail configurations can be adjusted to meet a variety of yacht configurations up to a 69-foot beam. The basin depth is 34 feet, which allows for yachts with 17-18 drafts when seated on the rail system.

The North Yard is also implementing a sewage and washdown system for yachts. In March, the North Yard will begin providing maintenance and classification society inspections. Later this year, the North Yard is expected to be available for major refits. The South Yard is currently available for service projects.

In January, RMK welcomed William Clewes as the company’s new CEO. Clewes is an experienced operations director with a history of working in the shipbuilding and manufacturing industry.

The new CEO of RMK Merrill-Stevens is William Clewes, who started in January.
Photo by Dorie Cox

“For me, the dream is to build a workforce,” Clewes said. “We will train locals and pull in from the outside.”

The investment in RMK has opened nearly 100 jobs, and the yard is seeking new mechanics, tradesmen and women, electricians, welders, technicians, painters, lift operators, detailers, managers, and more. Applicants can apply online at

RMK straddles the Miami River in the Health District, which is transforming due to new developments and investments. The new River Landing Shops and Residences is under development and located just to the north of RMK within walking distance. River Landing will bring new shopping, entertainment, and lodging options to RMK clients and their crews. 

“If you haven’t seen the revitalized Miami River, come down and have a look,” RMK Project Manager Greg Cox said. “We can offer a clean, brand new facility in Miami, close to downtown, so all captains south of Fort Lauderdale now have a resource, from 18 feet to 225 feet now.”

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


About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is a writer with Triton News.

View all posts by Dorie Cox →