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Crew/supply boats

Nov 6, 2015 03:33 PM

With oil down and out, Gulf shipyards look to weather another storm

The 220-foot Caribou was one of eight OSVs keeping the torches going last year at Master Boat Builders of Bayou La Batre, Ala. The DP-2 boat for Adriatic Marine is powered by twin Caterpillar 3512-B-MD mains.

The 220-foot Caribou was one of eight OSVs keeping the torches going last year at Master Boat Builders of Bayou La Batre, Ala. The DP-2 boat for Adriatic Marine is powered by twin Caterpillar 3512-B-MD mains.

“It’s quiet out there. Too quiet,” said John Wayne as he peered into the night in an old Western. That quote could be written into a present-day movie script with a shipyard owner looking out over the Gulf of Mexico.

In stark contrast to last year’s frenetic pace to fill orders for offshore supply vessels (OSVs) and fast supply vessels (FSVs), vessel overcapacity in 2015 is in part the result of overcapacity in another sector: oil.

Last year, builders couldn’t find enough welders, fitters and shipyard professionals. Now, most yards are laying off employees. Most of the Gulf yards have some backlog, but the anxiety is that there are no new orders coming in. So when it is over, it may very well be over for the less-diversified yards.

For the aluminum crew boat yards lining Bayou Teche — those without a history of working in steel — diversity is more elusive.

“We have three boats under construction and two on hold right now,” said Joe Louviere, the yard superintendent at Breaux Brothers near Loreauville, La. The three vessels in the sheds are 201-by-32-foot FSVs for long-term customers Edison Chouest Offshore and C&G Boats.

The boats in the Fast-class series are powered by four Caterpillar 3512C HO diesels producing 2,250 hp each, with ZF gears and propellers. The boats are DP-2 and have two 200-hp Thrustmaster bow thrusters for great station-keeping.

Work at Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s yard in Allanton, Fla., in 2015 included a pair of MPSVs for Harvey Gulf International Marine.

“We have good relationships with our clients and we build quality boats, so we should be OK,” Louviere said. “We went through this in the ’80s. In ’82, things just stopped. This time doesn’t really seem like the ’80s. I think we can be a little more optimistic this time around. We can build anything out of aluminum, so if things get slow we can look at other stuff.”

A short hop down the road in New Iberia, Neuville Boat Works is building a sister vessel to the DP-2, 7,200-hp, 180-foot Molly R. McCall, which it delivered to Seacor Marine last year. Propulsion is provided by four Tier 3 Cummins diesels, Twin Disc MGX-6848 reduction gears and Hamilton HTB11 waterjets delivering 30 knots of speed. The vessel has two 200-hp tunnel bow thrusters.

“The 180 is a good boat for the future,” said yard co-owner Kerry Neuville. “This boat comes in several million dollars less than the bigger boats. You get better fuel efficiency and a better operating cost with the lower day rates.”

Neuville has no new orders to take it beyond a spring delivery of the Seacor boat. “We have had a couple of bites but nobody is going to get up to the plate in this market,” said Neuville.

Gulf Craft in Franklin, La., remains busy for the moment with four FSVs under construction for Seacor, a longtime customer. Two of the hulls are the Express Plus class. “They have enhancements over the recently delivered 202-foot Gulf Craft designs that were fitted with four Cummins QSK60 engines,” said Joe McCall, senior project manager for Seacor.

At Bordelon Marine Shipbuilders in Houma, La., CEO Wes Bordelon, at right, talks with Stephen Cheramie, director of operations, as the shipyard prepares to launch the MPSV Brandon Bordelon.

The 206-by-32 foot Express Plus boats are designed by Incat Crowther’s Louisiana office. They have five Cummins QSK60-M mains and Hamilton waterjets delivering 13,500 hp. They carry 100 passengers, more than a typical crew boat. “The Express Plus class will be faster than a typical crew boat with a given load,” McCall said. “This is achieved by having a lot of horsepower and an efficient hull design.”

Seacor’s in-house designation for the third and fourth boats underway in the yard is the Express Plus Plus class. “At 194 by 32 feet, they are a slightly shorter version of the Express Plus vessels, but (they have) a 125-passenger capacity and are just as fast,” McCall said.

“We’re lucky to have the contract with Seacor,” said Scotty Tibbs, Gulf Craft’s vice president and chief financial officer. “Without that we’d be in dire straits.” The Seacor boats will take the yard through March 2017.

“We’re OK right now, but this market and the fact that Tier 4 is coming in fast is a problem,” he said, referring to new Environmental Protection Agency emissions mandates. “It’s not just the economy, but regulation. Tier 4 is going to affect the cost of these boats. There will be less capacity for more cost and less income.”

In New Iberia, Geo Shipyard got its start building seismic survey vessels for the oilfield in 1979. Over the years it has added commercial fishing vessels, pilot boats, crew supply boats and catamarans to its portfolio.

“Most of the yards in trouble are oilfield-related and are laying off people,” said David LeCompte, part-owner of the family business. “We do seismic boats for the oilfield and there is not much of that happening right now.”

Derek Harrel and Brandon Landry hang frame for one of four fast supply vessels being built at Gulf Craft in Franklin, La., for Seacor. The work will take the yard through March 2017.

Diversity to the rescue. Geo recently delivered the 65-foot R/V Trident, a Scania-powered catamaran designed by Roger Fyffe, to Texas A&M University. Geo has another 60-foot research catamaran under construction for the University of Mississippi at Ocean Springs, scheduled for delivery in March 2016. The new vessel will have twin Scania 500-hp mains with ZF 360 gears and ZF four-blade, 32-by-44-inch propellers.

Although OK for now, LeCompte is well aware of the long tentacles of the downturn in oil markets. “It affects everybody,” he said.

Metal Shark Aluminum Boats, a landlocked boatyard in Jeanerette, La., has expanded its operations to the south bank of the Charenton Drainage and Navigation Canal in Franklin. In Jeanerette, the company builds trailerable vessels up to 40 feet, primarily for the military. In Franklin, with access to the Gulf of Mexico, the company is building larger craft.

“Franklin is more of a shipyard, constructing small orders of larger vessels up to 140 feet comfortably,” said Chris Allard, company president.

The Franklin yard recently delivered Splash, a 75-foot dive support catamaran, to Aqueos Corp., a subsea service company located in Broussard, La. Splash is powered by twin Caterpillar C-18s with Hamilton waterjets. The company is also building fireboats for the Port of South Louisiana and the Port of Plaquemines, La.

“We have a solid backlog that will take us through the next 16 to 18 months,” Allard said.

Fast Tiger shows off a coat of fresh paint at Breaux Brothers in Loreauville, La. The 201-foot FSV is being built for Edison Chouest Offshore.

In Morgan City, Halimar Shipyard has provided Barry Graham Offshore with a number of crew boats over the years. In the summer of 2015, Halimar placed the superstructure on another 205-by-32-foot FSV hull for the company. The vessel, an Incat Crowther design similar to John Jacob delivered last year, has four 1,800-hp Cummins QSK50 mains and Hamilton waterjets.

“We have another order behind that one and a pushboat and spud barge building right now,” said Halimar owner Bill Hidalgo. “We’re OK for a year and a half at least, maybe two. I think it will take us through.”

A long-awaited development in the aluminum crew boat market is taking place 1,500 miles from the Gulf Coast. Marcia and Julie Blount, president and executive vice president, respectively, of Blount Boats of Warren, R.I., have landed the first contract for an offshore wind farm crew transfer vessel (CTV) in the U.S. The 68-foot aluminum catamaran is expected to be delivered to Block Island Wind Farm by the end of 2015.

The 1,400-hp CTV will be powered by two MAN V12-1200CR main engines with ZF 3050 marine gears driving Hamilton HM571 waterjets. The CTV, based on a design licensed from South Boats in the United Kingdom, will be operated by Rhode Island Fast Ferry.

Leevac Shipyards, with yards in Jennings, Lake Charles and Houma, La., has enough steel-hull OSV orders to see the company through 2017, according to Dan Gaiennie, the company’s VP of business development and engineering.

A superstructure at Halimar Shipyard in Morgan City, La., awaits placement on a 205-foot FSV for Barry Graham Offshore.

At the Houma yard, a 300-foot, diesel-electric OSV for Tidewater dominates the yard’s frontage on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. A sister hull for Tidewater is under construction at the Jennings yard on the Mermentau River. The Tidewater boats, designed by Leevac Design Services, have Caterpillar generators, Schottel z-drives and thrusters, and Siemens Blue Drive Plus C power management systems.

Leevac also has the second of a two-boat order from Hornbeck Offshore Services under construction in Jennings. The 302-foot, diesel-electric multipurpose supply vessels (MPSVs) are Vard designs with Caterpillar generators, Schottel z-drives and a GE Power Conversion integrated electrical system.

Because of draft and height restrictions on the Mermentau River, the Tidewater and Hornbeck hulls, carrying their superstructures on deck, will be towed from Jennings to the Houma yard for finishing.

“I have the impression that the downturn is going to last for a while based on all of the people being cut, and all of the jackup rigs tied up,” said Gaiennie. “Our goal is to be diversified. We are confident we’ll be cutting steel on something before the end of the year.”

Bordelon Marine Shipbuilders in Houma launched the ultra-light intervention vessel Brandon Bordelon, the third Stingray 260 class MPSV for parent company Bordelon Marine. Connor Bordelon was delivered in 2013, followed by Shelia Bordelon in early 2015. The Stingray 260 series was designed by Bordelon Marine and the naval architectural firm C. Fly Marine Services of Covington, La.

At Geo Shipyard in New Iberia, La., above, a 60-foot research catamaran takes shape for the University of Mississippi at Ocean Springs.

Brandon Bordelon is a 4,400-hp, DP-2 vessel powered by two Cummins QSK60 Tier 3 mains, with Schottel z-drives and bow thrusters. The vessel will have a helideck, a 60-ton active heave compensation (AHC) crane and an internal ROV control room. Upon delivery, Brandon Bordelon will begin a three-year contract with Bibby Subsea.

“The design takes all of the high-spec elements of a larger subsea vessel and configures them into a smaller cost-efficient vessel,” said Wes Bordelon, president and CEO of Bordelon Marine.

“The industry is in a terrible state right now. It’s hard to know how long the downturn will last,” Bordelon said. “The OSV market is going to be depressed for some time, but our subsea boats will regain value sooner than a standard OSV. A lot of old tonnage has to go away. It is time to purge.”

At Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors in Lockport, La., the first of two 310-foot, diesel-electric platform supply vessels (PSVs) for Tidewater is taking shape. Thoma-Sea made its mark building spec boats in Houma, La., primarily tugboats.

“We are not going to build spec in this market,” said Walter Thomassie, managing director. “There are a lot of boats out there and it is going to be awhile until someone wants an OSV. We never really left the tug market, we just ran out of capacity during this last spurt (in the offshore market). You can’t get married to one type of boat.”

“Our focus is to create more diversity in our customer base, and our bid portfolio has been pretty diverse. And repair is a good backbone for us when things slow down,” he said.

Leevac Shipyards in Houma, La., right, had a 300-foot OSV for Tidewater in the yard in June and three Hornbeck OSVs.

In a quiet move, Harvey Gulf International Marine announced the acquisition of Gulf Coast Shipyard Group, which includes the Gulfport, Miss., shipyard and Trinity Yachts on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans. The new Harvey Shipyard Group will continue work on five dual-fuel OSVs under construction for Harvey Gulf at the Gulfport yard.

The first boat, Harvey Energy, is on charter to Shell Oil’s deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected that two more vessels will follow suit. They will be taking on liquefied natural gas at Harvey Gulf’s LNG bunkering facility in Port Fourchon, La.

Over in Bayou La Batre, Ala., Master Boat Builders is quieter than it was last year, but the yard still has eight OSVs in the works. Two of them, Caribou for Adriatic Marine and Harvey Challenger for Harvey Gulf, are closing in on a delivery date. The first hull and modules for another six OSVs are underway for an undisclosed client.

Caribou is a 220-foot, DP-2 OSV powered by two 1,911-hp Caterpillar 3512-B-HD mains with Twin Disc 5600 reduction gears and Twin Disc open wheel propellers. Delivery is set for October. The Harvey boat is similarly equipped but is classed SOLAS.

“Everyone is saying the future looks bleak,” said Andre Dubroc, the company’s general manager. “And the future looks bleak.”

But Dubroc has “been there, done that” several times and knows that events can change circumstances overnight. With two to three years of work in hand, the company has slowed its pace of construction to make the jobs last.

“I haven’t heard any talk of anyone building new boats,” Dubroc said. “For us, when things are good they are too good, and when things are bad they’re not that bad. We always seem to get as much as we need.”

A welder gets down to business at Master Boat Builders in Bayou La Batre, Ala. In addition to OSVs for Adriatic Marine and Harvey Gulf, the yard is working on six others for an undisclosed operator.

Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s creed is diversity, and the company practices it. First off, HOS Brass Ring and HOS Briarwood, the two remaining 302-foot HOSMAX 310 OSVs in a 10-boat contract with Hornbeck Offshore Services, are being upgraded to MPSVs at Eastern’s Nelson Street yard in Panama City, Fla. The upgrade includes a helideck and a flexible floatel system with berthing for 50 to 130 people in various configurations.

HOS Warland and HOS Woodland, a pair of HOSMAX 310ES, 302-foot MPSVs, are under construction for Hornbeck at Eastern’s yard in Allanton, Fla. Caterpillar, Hyundai and Schottel are providing the diesel-electric, z-drive propulsion components, all integrated by GE Power Conversions. The vessels will feature a MacGregor 250-Mt AHC knuckle-boom crane, twin ROV/LARS systems, a moon pool and a helideck.

The Allanton yard is also building a Robert Allan-designed RAmpage, hybrid multipurpose field support vessel (MPFSV) for Harvey Gulf. The 212-foot, 9,384-hp vessel is scheduled to deliver in April 2016, when it will begin a 10-year charter. The vessel will be equipped for towing, employing a forward anchor windlass/towing winch and an aft towing winch. GE and Schottel are providing the propulsion and Cummins the electrical power.

Harvey Gulf also has two 327-by-73-foot, DP-2 inspection, maintenance and repair vessels under construction at the Allanton yard. Harvey Sub-Sea and Harvey Blue-Sea are designed by Vard and will have z-drive propulsion supplied by Wartsila.

Also aboard Eastern’s diversity train are M/V Magdalen, a 356-foot, twin-screw trailing suction hopper dredge for Weeks Marine; a 158-foot ATB trailing hopper dredge, Douglas B. Mackie, for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company; a second 141-foot schooner modeled after the racing yacht Columbia; a 4,000-hp, 194-foot stern trawler for the O’Hara Corp.’s Alaska fleet; 10 tugboats and three inland towboats.

“If you diversify your shipyard, you stand a very good chance of surviving,” said Stephen Berthold, Eastern’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We have 1,600 employees. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. And we have no plan to let anyone go, because when it comes back around again we’re going to need those people.”

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