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Crew/supply boats

Nov 5, 2014 11:10 AM

Making hay – and welding plate – while the oil flows

The 193-foot Fugro Americas dominated the waterfront in June at Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors in Lockport, La.

Brian Gauvin

The 193-foot Fugro Americas dominated the waterfront in June at Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors in Lockport, La.

There were some issues gnawing at the buoyant Gulf Coast shipyard scene in 2014, primarily the threat of vessel overcapacity and the unrelenting search for qualified welders, fitters and professionals to man the torches and desks of the boatyards.

However, worry did not extinguish the welding torches, which were burning plate into a plethora of new workboats. On a shipyard tour along the Gulf Coast in June, the mantra was cut steel while the oil flows.

The activity at Leevac Shipyards, on the bank of the Mermentau River in Jennings, La., is representative of that trend: It has platform supply vessel (PSV) contracts underway for Tidewater, Aries Marine and Hornbeck Offshore Services.

The first of two 300-foot diesel-electrics for Tidewater was on the side launch, with the modules for the second vessel being lined up for assembly. The vessels were designed by Leevac with Caterpillar generators, Schottel z-drives and thrusters, and a Seimens Blue Drive Plus C power management system.

A third Tidewater vessel, a 270-foot MMC Ship Design 879, was launched at the Jennings yard and moved to Leevac’s Houma facility to be outfitted for delivery.

Leevac Design Services also engineered a pair of 270-foot, diesel-electric FiFi-1 PSVs for Aries Marine. The first, Ram Nation, was in the slip and the second, Ram Country, was launched on July 29. The propulsion trains are similar to the Tidewater boats.

A pilothouse module for a Hornbeck Offshore Services OSV is ready for installation at Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Fla.

Brian Gauvin

Leevac has begun cutting steel for the first of two 302-foot diesel-electric multipurpose supply vessels (MPSVs) designed by STX for Hornbeck. The Caterpillar generators and Schottel z-drives are managed by a GE Power Conversion integrated electrical system. Each boat will be equipped with a 250-ton Cargotec crane. Once completed, the second vessel will represent the 24th workboat that Leevac has built for Hornbeck.

Near Loreauville, among the sugar cane fields east of New Iberia, a string of crew boat yards is on a full-court press, cutting and welding aluminum plate into fast supply vessels (FSVs).

Breaux Brothers Enterprises was established in 1983 and boasts three generations of boatbuilders in a region renowned for aluminum vessels. The brothers Brannon and Vic Breaux have built a number of FSVs for Edison Chouest Offshore over the years, notably a series of 194-foot Fast-class vessels. Fast Server, the first of a series of 201-foot boats, was delivered in mid-July (see profile on page 27).
 
“We’re rolling along,” said Joe Louviere, the yard superintendent. “We’ve got a yard full of Chouest boats. And we have another 201 going for C&G Boats.”

Jerry Boudreaux, the assistant yard supervisor, said Breaux Brothers is looking at growth for the next four years in supply boats. “We try to get the boats out four months apart, on average delivering three boats a year,” he said.

At Neuville Boat Works, the sharp bow of the 180-foot Molly R. McCall, a Seacor Marine FSV, protruded from the boat shed like a knife blade too long for its sheath. The boat was scheduled to join the Seacor fleet in fall 2014, followed by a sister vessel in 2016.

Orders at Leevac Shipyards in Jennings, La., include the OSV Ram Country.

Brian Gauvin

The propulsion for both boats consists of four Tier 3 Cummins diesels, Twin Disc gears and Hamilton waterjets. Light speed is projected to be 34 knots.

“It cost $1 million more for jets but you don’t have the shafting and rudders, and there is less labor on your engine and less vibration,” said Kerry Neuville, who with brother Errol owns the boatyard that was established in 1969 by their father, the late J.O. Neuville.

In Loreauville, Breaux’s Bay Craft is also busy constructing FSVs: a 202-footer and a 192-footer for Crewboats Inc., and another 202-footer for Tobias Inc. The yard recently constructed a new launch way to accommodate the 202s. Previously, the 192-foot Deep Runner was the largest boat the yard had built.
 
All three of the new FSVs are Caterpillar-powered with Twin Disc gears and four-blade propellers. “Lately we’ve seen more interest in jet boats,” said Hub Allums, director of engineering. “It’s for speed, straight-out speed. We can beat them on load with propellers, but (operators) want flat-out speed for deepwater in the Gulf.

“It’s picked up since a year and a half ago and business is pretty stable right now,” he said. “We’re certainly happy with the way it’s going. Our forte is aluminum construction and we’ll build anything in aluminum up to 210 feet.”

In Franklin, La., Gulf Craft is in full swing, building FSVs that will take the company through 2016. In February 2014, the yard delivered the 202-foot Alex F. McCall to Seacor Marine. Michael Crombie McCall, the second boat in the series, was delivered in July.

Designed by Gulf Craft, both vessels are Cummins-powered with Twin Disc gears and Hamilton waterjets. They can carry 68 passengers.

Deep Runner juts from its confines at Breaux’s Bay Craft in Loreauville, La.

Brian Gauvin

In addition, the yard will build two 206-foot Express Plus-class FSVs for Seacor. Designed by Incat Crowther and fitted with five Cummins engines and Hamilton jets, the speedsters are expected to achieve 37 knots and carry 100 passengers.

All of the Seacor boats at Gulf Craft have a great deal of redundancy, including three Thrustmaster 200-hp tunnel bow thrusters.

Gulf Craft is also busy constructing a pair of 205-foot FSVs for SeaTran Marine LLC, the first boats in a four-boat order. SeaTran is a joint venture formed last year by Iberia Marine, Comar Marine and Texas Crewboats.
 
The first boat, Captain Elliott, for Texas Crewboats, is Tier 3 and Cummins-powered. It was scheduled for delivery in November. The second boat, Mr. Stevens, also Tier 3, is Caterpillar-powered and slated for delivery to Iberia Marine in March 2015. A second boat for each company will follow. The vessels are fitted with Twin Disc gears, Hamilton waterjets and three 200-hp Thrustmaster bow thrusters.

Blake Miguez, SeaTran CEO and president of Iberia Marine, said that he and his colleagues — Glynn Haines of Comar Marine and Capt. Elliott Cundieff of Texas Crewboats — decided Gulf Craft would build them the best boat. “We specialize in crew boats and these are loaded up like a Mercedes,” Miguez said.

In Morgan City, Halimar Shipyard began cutting aluminum plate for a second 205-foot Incat Crowther-designed FSV for Barry Graham Oil Services of Bayou La Batre, Ala. The first boat, John Jacob, was delivered earlier this year. The Cummins-powered boats are Tier 3 with Twin Disc gears and Hamilton waterjets. They are equipped with three 150-hp Thrustmaster tunnel bow thrusters.

Ray Robertson takes on hull plate at Breaux Brothers in Loreauville.

Brian Gauvin

The 205-foot FSV Lady Tierney, under construction for Sea Supply Inc. of Galliano, La., was closing in on a launch date at the Halimar yard in the summer of 2014. The boat is Caterpillar-powered with Twin Disc gears, ZF propellers and two 200-hp Thrustmaster bow thrusters.

Pointing to a 215-class lift boat under construction for Aries Marine, Halimar owner Bill Hidalgo said, “We have a lot going on. We’re fortunate that in most cases it is repeat business, and we like repeat business.”

Morgan City-based Swiftships announced its return to the commercial workboat world following a six-year hiatus, a period spent building vessels for the Navy. The company’s initial endeavor is two 175-foot FSVs for Rodi Marine of Lafayette, La. Riley Claire, which was delivered this past summer, will be followed by Mason G.

Swiftships is also building one 210-foot and two 160-foot FSVs for pending clients, and a 200-foot FSV for Y&S Marine, a crew boat company based in Belle Chasse, La.

Morgan Rhoades, Swiftships’ marketing manager, said the company began proposing an array of vessels from existing proprietary designs and, as a new twist, began pursuing newbuild opportunities in the steel market. The steel boats include two 148-foot offshore supply vessels (OSVs) for Iraq’s South Oil Co.

Seven miles east of Morgan City, amid the industrial landscape of Amelia, La., Bollinger Marine Fabricators is busy building PSVs for Edison Chouest Offshore. Four of the 300-foot vessels were originally destined for the Bee Mar LLC fleet, a Bollinger subsidiary. The other two were 270-foot spec boats.

Deliveries for Hornbeck Offshore in the past year included HOS Black Foot from Eastern Shipbuilding Group.

Courtesy Eastern Shipbuilding Group

Then Chouest came knocking, bought the lot and added another 270-footer to the order. Ms. Charlotte, the first of the 300-footers, was delivered to Edison Chouest in June. The 300-foot Reni was scheduled to follow later in 2014. The next two 300-footers, Gemi and Brooke, and the three 270-footers, Robin, Lucy and Millie, are slated for delivery in 2015.

“Bee Mar has served its purpose,” said Robert Socha, Bollinger’s executive vice president of sales and marketing. “The company is closed. It was established to keep the shipyard crews busy during the slow period.”
 
The bright red hull of the 193-foot Fugro Americas dominated the view at Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors’ waterfront on Bayou Lafourche in Lockport, La. Scheduled to deliver to Fugro GeoServices in September 2014, the research vessel — equipped to operate autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) — will conduct high-resolution surveys and sea floor mapping in the Gulf of Mexico.

Also at the Lockport yard, Thoma-Sea has begun construction of the first of two 310-foot high-spec PSVs for an undisclosed customer.

At its Houma facility, Thoma-Sea delivered a pair of 295-foot diesel-electric PSVs, Harvey Hawk and Harvey Condor, to Harvey Gulf International Marine. The vessels are Caterpillar-powered with Rolls-Royce z-drives and Rolls-Royce tunnel thrusters.

HOS Captain, from VT Halter Marine, was delivered to Hornbeck Offshore this year.

Brian Gauvin

The boats are the first of the EnviroMax 300 design that Thoma-Sea developed in association with Technology Associates Inc. (TAI) of New Orleans. “We make 14 knots with these boats,” said Walter Thomassie, managing director. “They have a very efficient hull and a high level of redundancy. It’s a very robust system in there.”

The 272-foot Polaris, the first of two TAI-designed diesel-electric PSVs for GulfMark, was delivered in March at the Houma yard. Regulus, the second, was being outfitted for delivery in the fall of 2014. The vessels are powered by Caterpillar generators with Schottel z-drives.

Thomassie was an early proponent of diesel-electric propulsion, a trend that has caught on in the Gulf. “There are huge savings in the operating profile of diesel-electric alone,” he said. “And with technology, they’re squeaking a lot out of it.”

Thomassie and others are looking at the rising demand for specialty vessels in the oil industry — and the expected Pemex expansion into Mexico’s deepwater oil field — to help mitigate a potential downturn in shipbuilding due to vessel overcapacity.

Specialty vessels are a trademark of Bordelon Marine Shipbuilders in Houma, producer of the Stingray 260 class of MPSVs. Last year, Connor Bordelon, currently working as a well stimulation vessel for Baker Hughes in the Gulf of Mexico, was featured on the cover of American Ship Review. The second vessel in the series, Shelia Bordelon, is slated for delivery in the first quarter of 2015. The modules for a third vessel, Brandon Bordelon, are taking shape in the yard and the boat is expected to deliver in the third quarter.

Shelia Bordelon has Tier 3 Cummins main engines with Schottel z-drives and bow thrusters. The vessel also will be outfitted with a 50-ton active-heave compensating crane and a number of other features to support the subsea intervention market.

“The Stingray series was designed specifically to support ROV and light subsea intervention work,” said company owner Wes Bordelon. “This vessel will cater to a specific subsea market niche, where the larger subsea vessels are simply overkill.”

Shelia Bordelon the second in the Stingray 260 class of MPSVs from Bordelon Marine, takes shape at the yard in Houma, La.

Brian Gauvin

In Galliano, La., Edison Chouest’s sparkling glass office building on the east bank of Bayou Lafourche sparked a trend that’s changing the look of the neighborhood. The company also changed the look and scope of Port Fourchon with the development of its C Port facilities. And in the Gulf of Mexico, the sheer number of boats in the Chouest fleet is changing the floating palette to a dominant bright orange and yellow, with the company into its initial bite of more than 40 new vessels. 

In a news release, Chouest stated that the program was initiated to meet the rising demand from oil and gas companies working in the Gulf, Brazil and the Arctic. The roster includes 17 diesel-electric PSVs, two ice-class vessels designed for deployment in the Arctic, four subsea construction vessels equipped for the Gulf, a number of FSVs and other specialty vessels.

On the other side of New Orleans in Bayou La Batre, Ala., a hotbed of boatbuilding, Master Boat Builders is busy constructing more vessels for Adriatic Marine, Harvey Gulf and Seacor.

There are two 200-foot, Tier 3 Caterpillar-powered OSVs in the yard under construction for Adriatic Marine, each with two 450-hp bow thrusters and two 300-hp stern thrusters. 

Harvey Gulf’s order book includes three Master Boat vessels. Last year, Harvey Gulf bought Abdon Callais Offshore and, in the deal, acquired a pair of 200-foot OSVs under construction in the yard. Harvey Gulf then added a third OSV to the order. 

The first boat, Harvey Worker, was delivered last May. The second, Harvey Gladiator, was scheduled for delivery in the fall of 2014. The modules for the third boat are being assembled in the yard. 

Brooke shown at Bollinger Marine Fabricators in Amelia, La., is one of seven OSVs in the Bee Mar fleet acquired by Edison Chouest.

Brian Gauvin

The vessels are Caterpillar-powered with Twin Disc gears and Rolls-Royce Hung Chin propellers. The difference with the third vessel is that it is fully SOLAS compliant.

For Seacor, the third boat in a six-boat order, Seacor Fearless, was delivered in April 2014. In July, Seacor Courageous was in the water being finished for delivery. All six of the vessels are 201-by-48 feet, but three of them are FiFi-1 and SOLAS classified. They are all powered with Caterpillar Tier 3 mains, with Twin Disc gears and Caterpillar C32 generators.

“I’m always looking for more boats to build, but we’ve got boats that will take us through the next couple of years,” said Andre Dubroc, Master Boat’s general manager. “The biggest problem is the feast-and-famine nature of the business. We have a full yard so we can’t start on any new contracts for a couple of years.”

Master Boat has made its mark building smaller vessels in the age of megaboats. “If there’s a downturn it will be interesting to see what boats remain in operation, the 200-footers or the 300-footers,” Dubroc said.

BAE Systems, with shipyards in Mobile, Ala., and Jacksonville, Fla., has also been busy in the past year.
 
The Mobile yard has two 288-foot PSVs, designed by MMC Ship Design, under construction for GulfMark Americas. The yard also cut the first steel for a 353-foot subsea support vessel for Oceaneering International that will be powered by General Electric Tier 4 engines. The boat will carry a 250-ton active-heave compensating crane, capable of reaching depths of 13,000 feet, and two remotely operated vehicles.

At BAE’s Jacksonville yard, Breeze — the first of four 252-foot PSVs designed by Guido Perla & Associates for Jackson Offshore — was recently delivered. The second boat in the series, Thunder, was set for delivery in fall 2014. The boats have Caterpillar generators with Rolls-Royce z-drives and tunnel bow thrusters.

C&G Boat Works in Mobile is building two 202-foot FSVs for Seacor Marine with the same specs as the boats designed for Seacor by Gulf Craft. C&G is also constructing four 210-foot Express-class FSVs for Seacor. These 13,500-hp boats are fitted with five Cummins mains, Twin Disc gears and Hamilton waterjets. They have a design speed of 37 knots.

July was a busy month at VT Halter Marine, with yards in Pascagoula and Moss Point, Miss. The company delivered HOS Captain on July 10, christened HOS Crestview and launched HOS Caledonia on July 15, and delivered HOS Clearview on July 28.

All four boats are Super 320-class PSVs that Halter developed for Hornbeck Offshore Services. HOS Crestview is the eighth boat in the 10-boat contract signed with Hornbeck in November 2011.
 
The 320-class boats are fitted with two Caterpillar mains, Scana reduction gears and Scana CP propellers. They are equipped with Brunvoll tunnel bow and stern thrusters. The boats also have two Appleton Marine extended-boom cranes for deck work and personnel transfer.

Workers install strapping in the pilothouse of an FSV being built for Sea Supply Inc. at Halimar Shipyard in Morgan City, La.

Brian Gauvin

Diversity in the order books has been the key to success at Florida-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group, said Steve Berthold, vice president of sales and marketing.

Eastern was founded in 1976 by Brian D’Isernia to build boats for his commercial fishing fleet. Things developed. Currently Eastern has contracts for PSVs for Hornbeck Offshore Services and Brazil’s Bravante Group; MPSVs, a multipurpose field support vessel (MPFSV) and an oil field maintenance vessel for Harvey Gulf International; an ATB tugboat and trailing suction hopper dredge for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock; four tugs for G&H Towing of Houston; towboats for Florida Marine Transporters; two 141-foot sailing schooners and, to return to Eastern’s roots, a 194-foot freezer stern trawler for the O’Hara Corp.

At Eastern’s Nelson yard in Panama City, the 284-foot Bravante IX was launched on Aug. 28. The diesel-electric z-drive PSV is the last in a five-boat contract for the Brazilian company and, when delivered, frees up the yard to bid on 200- to 400-foot boats. “We can use the side launchers for the big boats and the two rail systems we have here at the Nelson yard for the small boats,” Berthold said.

At Eastern’s Allanton yard, the 302-foot HOS Black Foot was delivered on June 20. The OSV is the sixth in a 10-boat order from Hornbeck Offshore. The first four boats completed in the contract are 292 feet. 

The 302-foot HOSMAX 310-class PSVs are based on Eastern’s Tiger Shark-class design. They are Caterpillar-powered Tier 3 diesel-electrics with Hyundai electric motors and two Schottel z-drives. GE Energy Power Conversions provided the integrated diesel-electric package.

Hornbeck has also contracted with Eastern for two HOSMAX 310 MPSVs, each with a subsea crane, moon pool, helicopter deck, two ROV/LARS units and accommodations for 73 people.

The 202-foot Michael Crombie McCall is the second in a series of FSVs from Gulf Craft of Franklin, La. The boat was delivered to Seacor Marine in July.

Brian Gauvin

Harvey Gulf has had 14 oil field vessels built at Eastern in the past 13 years. In addition to two 327-foot z-drive MPSVs currently on order, the operator announced in July that it had entered into another contract with Eastern to construct a Robert Allan Ltd. RAmpage 6400 MPFSV. Delivery is expected in April 2016.

“We are a diversified yard,” Berthold said. “We have a solid delivery plan. If there’s a boat to be built, we want to build it. A yard has to have several different markets active at the same time.”

With practically all of the Gulf Coast yards chock-a-block full of hulls, modules, and sheets of steel and aluminum awaiting the torch, why worry? Well, besides the shortage of skilled tradesmen for the yards and professionals for the offices, many in the field report that vessel deliveries are outpacing rig deliveries and rig deployment. That bears out reports of a slight slowing of orders and fuels talk of vessel overcapacity.

Another factor cited by industry representatives is a reluctance to scrap older vessels to make room for newbuilds.
 
However, there is a general feeling that, over time, the new rigs will all find homes and operators will thin their fleets of older stock. The question is not whether Pemex will expand in the Gulf of Mexico but when, adding to the potential for growth. And while the huge multi-vessel orders have cooled, specialized high-spec orders have heated up.

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