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Fast Server

Nov 5, 2014 02:44 PM

Bigger, farther, faster: Breaux FSV goes the distance

Brian Gauvin

Spotting the brilliant orange and yellow of an Edison Chouest oilfield support vessel in the Gulf of Mexico is as common as spotting egrets in a Louisiana swamp, and the boats soon will be even more common. The Cut Off, La.-based company has more than 40 offshore support, multipurpose, Arctic-class and fast supply vessels in the pipeline. The FSV Fast Server is one of them.

Resplendent under a summer sun washing over the Gulf, Fast Server breezed through trials on a smooth sea near Port Fourchon in July 2014. It is the first of five 201-by-32-foot FSVs to be built for Edison Chouest Offshore by Breaux Brothers Enterprises of Loreauville, La. Breaux has built nine 194-by-32-foot boats in the class for Chouest.

Fast has become a key word anywhere in the world where the care and feeding of big deepwater oil rigs is required. Fast Server can reach 28 knots in light mode and 26 knots when loaded with 200 tons of cargo. It has 3,710 square feet of aft cargo space (handling up to 395 long tons) and seating for 53 passengers. The FSV is not only longer than the 194s, it also has 9,000 hp compared with 7,240 hp on the smaller vessels. Among other upscaling, the house is 8 inches higher.

Capt. Bryce Berndt and Capt. Tom Mason discuss controls during sea trials off Port Fourchon, La.

“You could tell it was a much bigger boat as soon as you walked on board,” said Bryce Berndt, a captain for Edison Chouest.

That extra room was needed on the bridge during sea trials, a typically crowded event with additional crew, company personnel, shipyard personnel, vendor technicians, and Coast Guard and ABS inspectors. Included in the mix were three Chouest captains: the trials and delivery captain, Scott Dufresne; the relief captain, Berndt; and the actual captain, Tom Mason. Brannon Breaux, Jerry Boudreaux and Tyrone Mitchell were aboard from Breaux Brothers.

Also on board was Chouest’s boat coordinator, Brandon Schexsnayder, who said Fast Server would be working for Anadarko Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the boat is designed and built to SOLAS standards so it can work anywhere in the world.


At the helm, Dufresne was enthusiastic about the smooth transition as he brought Fast Server up from 9 knots to 26 knots. “Breaux Brothers builds a boat for the captain and crew,” he said. “The handling and performance are great, but they also build them for the comfort of the crew. The boat is so smooth and so quiet.”

The Jason fire pumps are powered by the boat’s two inboard mains.

“It’s quieter because we put 600 gallons of Mascoat sound-dampening paint on her,” said Brannon Breaux, co-owner of the shipyard with his brother, Vic Breaux. “We normally use 200 gallons.”

One difference from the 194s is the main control console on the bridge. On the 194s it was truncated port and starboard of the captain’s chairs, forming a straight T with the center stem. On Fast Server, Breaux designed the console to sweep in a gentle curve over the full length of the foreword windows, wrapping around the chairs.

“I designed the new console to make it more friendly for the captains,” Breaux said.

Beginning from the port side, the electronics consist of Caterpillar engine monitors, IMS engine and generator room phone, Furuno magnetic plotter, Furuno radars, Navtex GPS, Furuno AIS and VHF radios and, last on the starboard end, CCTV monitors for the deck areas and engine room. The center stem has steering controls, propulsion controls, lighting and wiper switches and emergency stop switches. The console is coated with a Line-X product usually associated with truck beds. Breaux explained that because of its durability and resistance to ultraviolet light, Line-X provided a hedge against maintenance.

The steering controls are four IMS 5-hp electro/hydraulic units operated by a Mathers Clear Command system from three stations, including the aft console overlooking the cargo deck.

A pair of Jason FM200 monitors allow the boat’s operators to put on a show during trials.

 “The design of the wheelhouse is wonderful,” Dufresne said. “Breaux Brothers has moved it up a notch as far as the look and the convenience for us.”

The brothers Breaux, schooled by their father, Ward, and armed with engineering degrees, design the boats in-house. “I do the design with Vic and then Mark Pudlo at Seacraft (Design) does the engineering and calculations for us,” said Brannon Breaux. “We’re not satisfied with being good. We have to make it better. Perfect. Probably never, but we have to keep reaching for it.”

One of the regulations that designers of aluminum crew boats are confronted with is the International Tonnage Convention (ITC) 500-ton limit on gross tonnage. Once over the limit, SOLAS requirements for structural fire protection apply, a difficult hurdle to overcome with aluminum. Gross tonnage is based on the boat’s overall internal volume; it is not to be confused with deadweight tonnage.

To increase the length of an aluminum crew boat, designers have developed the fantail, a protrusion at the stern that increases deck capacity but is not included in the gross tonnage calculation. Breaux explained that the 10-foot fantail on Fast Server is structurally a true deck, designed to take a load. The boat came in under the ITC 500-ton limit at 491 gross tons.

These pumps can deliver 6,600 gpm.

“In going bigger with this one, we bumped up against the 500-gross-tons threshold for the application of SOLAS,” said Pudlo, president of Seacraft Design LLC of Sturgeon Bay, Wis. “It was a governing design consideration. This is as big in volume as an aluminum crew boat can be to operate on international voyages.”

“Like all Breaux Brothers boats, the design is fundamentally their brainchild, a refinement of the hull form and construction methods they have developed over the years,” Pudlo said. “Our job is to put it all on paper and get it approved by ABS and the Coast Guard. In that regard, this is among the first boats designed to meet the new (2013) ABS high-speed craft rules and dynamic positioning guide, which has presented new challenges.”

The propulsion train on Fast Server consists of four soft-mounted Tier 3 Caterpillar 3512C mains, each rated at 2,250 hp at 1,800 rpm. The gears are ZF 7600 units at 2.565:1 with four-blade ZF Faster propellers. “The gears have ZF’s Autotroll feature which helps the vessel while on DP,” said Blake Naquin, a ZF Marine field service representative based in St. Rose, La.

The Autotroll system was originally developed for commercial and recreational fishing. It is designed to reduce propeller speed at low engine RPMs by forcing oil through the clutch assemblies inside the transmission. The effect is slip, reducing the propeller speed to create the correct amount of thrust required by the DP system to hold the vessel’s position.

There are two Thrustmaster 30-inch, 200-hp aluminum tunnel bow thrusters to further increase the precision of the DP-2 application.

“This boat will carry a load better than the 194s because it has more buoyancy,” Breaux said. 

One of many issues that the Deepwater Horizon fire in April 2010 has brought to light is the difficulty of extinguishing, or even cooling down, a well fire after an explosion. The result has been a boon to the firefighting equipment industry. Equipment rated FiFi-1 has become common on OSVs and FSVs in the Gulf. It is also one of the key components that qualifies a vessel for safety standby status.

The deck has more than 3,700 square feet of cargo space inside the rails and the capacity to handle 395 long tons.

Fast Server is fitted with Jason FM200 monitors port and starboard on the stern. Breaux explained that it is preferable to stern up to a fire as opposed to bow up or side up. The stern-up position places the superstructure farther from the fire, a safer position for the boat crew that also places them clear of the mist and water that can obstruct visibility.

The Jason monitors are single flow path electric-hydraulic units fitted with a fixed capacity jet/fog nozzle operated from a panel on the bridge. There are also hand wheels on the monitors for manual operation. The Jason OGF pumps deliver water at 6,600 gallons per minute. They are powered by the two inboard mains. 

The trials went as smooth as the water on the Gulf. It was a full day, the first half spent reaching the Gulf from the Louisiana Cat dock in Morgan City, running “eastbound and down” in the words of Dufresne — east on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and down after a sharp right turn at Houma into the Houma Navigation Channel. As the boat traffic thinned out, Dufresne reached for the throttles and opened up the engines. “She planes out really well with the higher horsepower,” he said. “Very straight, and she doesn’t dig in.”

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