BUSINESS is picking up at Fair Wind Shipbuilding and Docking Co in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's largest privately owned repair yard. After two years of flat growth, turnover was up 20 per cent last year, and general manager Wenbaa Kuo expects 15 to 20 per cent growth this year. The yard, spread over 36,000 square metres at No 6 basin, handles about 100 vessels, mostly ocean-going, every year. Facilities include a floating dock - Viva Island - which is 174 metres long, with a clear width of 30 metres, 7.3-metre draft and lifting capacity of 11,500 tonnes. Five wharves range in length from 140 to 180 metres, with draft of five to 11 metres. It can handle vessels up to 18,000 gross tonnes. Plans are in the pipeline to build another slipway and acquire a dry dock, bigger than the floating dock, at a cost of about NT$300 million (about HK$90.9 million). Taiwan customers, including the Navy, account for more than 50 per cent of the business. Owners in Japan, Hong Kong and Russia predominate the overseas client list. The yard employs 40 people on the repair side, backed by teams of part-timers when the going gets good, and another 40 in the administration and sales departments. Ms Kuo, said the yard's charges were five to 10 per cent lower than Hong Kong, but 10 per cent higher than South Korea. For the time being, Ms Kuo holds no fears about competition from mainland Chinese yards 'because they take longer to do the job'. Fair Wind was established by U C Cho, who was born in China and later moved to Hong Kong, in response to the government's invitation to overseas Chinese to invest in Taiwan. The deal involved a payment of NT$89 million to the customs authorities over a 10-year period as rent to use government land. The payment now is about the equivalent of US$100,000 a month. As a result, according to Ms Kuo, although Fair Wind became profitable in the second year of operations, it was unable to book a profit until 1986 and was unable to expand its operational base. Around the time the concession was granted to Fair Wind, the government decided to set up the China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) in Kaohsiung. 'Our main gripe is that because of outstandings to customs authorities, we could not get bank loans to expand in the first 10 years while our equipment was getting old and out of date,' Ms Kuo said. Only recently the government has moved to allow loans for medium-sized companies, but the amount has been restricted to 10 per cent of turnover, including purchases from state-run companies, such as China Steel Corp.