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DeepFlex Moving Ahead At Port Of Pensacola

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DeepFlex
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Houston, Texas-based DeepFlex is busy these days at the Port of Pensacola on two fronts: paying off liens against the project, and moving forward with building its facility to make underwater pipe for the oil and gas industry.

In June, DeepFlex secured emergency funding through its parent company in Brazil. One factor in the slowdown has been oil prices dropping to or below 40 dollars per barrel. But Port Director Amy Miller says construction is inching ahead with a small crew that’s enclosing the building.

“They hope to then continue with the full construction,” Miller said. “They have a lot of machinery that will have to be installed. And they hope to do that over the next year or so. The current plan is for them to up and producing pipe around this time next year.”

There are two other obstacles the project has to tackle. Contractors who have filed liens totaling 200 thousand dollars, and a possible sale of DeepFlex by year’s end. John Myslak with Construction Management Advisors in Pensacola – which represents DeepFlex locally, says the liens are a procedural matter. He adds all are concerned about the state of the incomplete facility.

“We’re in hurricane season, and that building needs to be completed,” Myslak said. “It could be at-risk if a storm were to hit Pensacola.”

Meantime, the word’s going out that Offshore Inland Marine – the firm which will operate the DeepFlex plant – is beefing up its workforce. Miller says there are up to 30 positions to be filled, which are not related to the pipe-manufacturing operation.

Another development being watched by Miller and other port officials is what the thawing of relations between the U-S and Cuba could mean for business. Prior to the 1961 embargo, Pensacola had a very lucrative relationship with Havana, going back centuries.

“Product moving out of the Port of Pensacola to Havana was probably the majority of the Port’s business back in those days,” said Miller. “The embargo could be lifted tomorrow, and you’re still looking at a Cuba that has no buying power. My personal opinion is that their tourism sector is going to grow first.”

The Mobile City Council is expected to vote next week on bringing back a Carnival Cruise Line ship to homeport there. Officials have said that Cuba would not be part of the itinerary. Carnival is planning a new line offering trips to the island nation next year. That raises the question, could Carnival’s cruise line to Havana be convinced to homeport in Pensacola?

“That’s always a possibility; who knows that the future holds?” Miller said. “The Cuban government is converting the Port of Havana to their primary cruise port. They’re building their new, ultramodern commercial seaport facility in Mariel. Like I said, who knows?”

As far as bringing a cruise line to Pensacola with service to other venues in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, Miller says that would be a decision made by the cruise line company.

And that big red ship now at the Port is the “Lewek Connector” – specializing in underwater construction and laying cable. She’s making her first visit to Pensacola for a change in crew and refitting, which is expected to take about two weeks. 

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