Twelve stories tall and powerful enough to lift 1,200 tons, the Goliath Crane at the old Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Mass., is not exactly something people are lining up to buy.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), which owns the shipyard, found out the hard way last year when it asked for bidders on the rusting crane, not used since the mid-1980s, and no one responded.That's what is so frustrating to Peter Pawlyn, managing director of the British firm Global Rigging Ltd. Mr. Pawlyn represents a major West European shipbuilder that may be willing to pay $1.5 million to $2.5 million for Goliath and another $3.5 million to haul it away.
But the MWRA isn't interested, refusing to let Pawlyn's client, whom he prefers not to name, even inspect the South Shore landmark to prepare an offer.
"The Goliath Crane is not for sale at this point," said Bernard Hennessey, MWRA inventory manager.
He added that the agency is waiting for a report due next June on the shipyard's future. Municipal officials still hold out hope that the crane could be made useful, perhaps even as a tourist attraction.
Mr. Pawlyn, whose company transports shipbuilding equipment worldwide, can hardly believe the MWRA's decision.
"To turn away a buyer for that crane, it seems a nonsense to me," he said. "There can't be too many buyers in the world for this type of crane. If they turn away, they may never find another one."
Shipyard observers point out that two other would-be buyers of Goliath in the past few months have turned out to be poorly financed pipe dreamers. But Mr. Pawlyn and his American partner in the deal, Tom Talmage of Talteck in Marlton, N.J., said this proposal is different. The shipbuilder is financially solid and already has begun rehabilitating a former Communist bloc shipyard that would get Goliath.
"We're not playing games with these people. We would bring the customers in. We're talking about substantial people," said Mr. Talmage, who has appealed for help from Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass.
Goliath is one of the most specialized pieces of equipment in the shipbuilding industry, constructed by former yard owner General Dynamics in the 1970s to lift giant segments of liquefied natural gas tankers into place. Other major shipyards, such as Bath Iron Works in Maine, don't have such a large crane.
After General Dynamics shut down in 1986, the MWRA bought the yard and later built a sludge treatment plant on the site. The agency has leased space to a small ship-repair business, but the repair operation doesn't use Goliath. As a result, Goliath's motors and electrical controls are rusting, slowly raising the cost to operate the crane again.
Since the authority failed to attract bidders in April 1992, the MWRA has reversed course from its earlier plan to sell Goliath. Instead, the agency set up a panel including officials from Braintree, Quincy and Weymouth, the three communities that surround the yard, to come up with a plan for the yard's future.
Bernice Mader, who represents Quincy Mayor James Sheets on the study group, said the panel is reluctant to part with Goliath unless they are sure it has no use locally.
"The question is, can it still be of use? Once the resource is gone, it's gone," Ms. Mader said.
Realistically, Ms. Mader said there is not much chance that shipbuilding could come back to Quincy. Defense budget cutbacks mean fewer ships to build, and the low price of steel in Europe allows yards there to underbid American shipyards for commercial shipbuilding contracts.
At the first public meeting on the Fore River Shipyard's future last month, in fact, few people even talked about shipbuilding, Ms. Mader said. Most of the 90 people who attended agreed that the 10-acre yard could best be used for some form of manufacturing, retail business, or tourism promotion.