Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shipyards Feel Pinch, But Orders Still Arriving

By Jim Shaw

North American shipyards are beginning to feel the pinch of the recession as commercial orders weaken, with such small firms as Island Boats of New Iberia, Louisiana and Superior Boat Works of Greenville, Mississippi already closed because of lack of business. At the same time, Alabama’s Bender Shipbuilding & Repair is now operating as Signal Ship Repair following a prolonged bankruptcy and a recent sale by auction. Another Mobile-based yard, Atlantic Marine, has been stuck with three partially completed 49,000-dwt product carriers after their shipowning companies, all associated with American Heavy Lift Shipping, filed for bankruptcy.

On the East Coast, the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard has been struggling but was able to strike a last-minute deal with New York’s Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) in December that will see the latter purchase two Aker-built tankers outright for $115 million each instead of bareboat chartering the ships. The action came after the shipbuilder reported net losses of $18.5 million in last year’s third quarter and indicated that if it could not reach a deal with OSG it would “need to raise additional debt or equity financing in the near term to meet required liquidity needs.”

On the Great Lakes, Erie Shipbuilding at Erie, Pennsylvania has also closed but J. Arnold Witte, owner of Donjon Marine, stepped forward to buy the yard after having 11 barges built there and is now operating it as Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair.

NASSCO Tankers

On the West Coast the NASSCO yard at San Diego is continuing to turn out large ships at a record pace but like Aker at Philadelphia, it may face a drought of commercial orders soon as the last Jones Act tankers are completed. Late last year the 183-meter- by 32.2-meter Sunshine State was turned over to the newly formed American Petroleum Tankers (APT) 11 months ahead of schedule and under budget. The 330,000 barrel capacity ship was one of three product carriers and two Navy dry cargo-ammunition ships that NASSCO delivered over the past year and followed sister ships Golden State and Pelican State into the APT fleet. The final vessel of the series, Evergreen State, is to be delivered by this year’s fourth quarter. NASSCO is also working on several more dry cargo/ammunition ship vessels for the Navy, including Charles Drew, Washington Chambers and William McLean. These represent the tenth, eleventh and twelfth ships in the T-AKE program, with the ninth vessel, USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9), recently delivered. NASSCO also has long-lead material contracts in hand for two more of the ships, for a total class order of 14 vessels.

Todd Ferries

Another Pacific Coast yard with new construction underway is Todd at Seattle, where a 64-car ferry is being completed to serve the Port Townsend-Keystone route operated by Washington State Ferries (WSF). Todd has also won contracts covering the construction of two additional ferries of the same capacity for WSF. These units will be for the Port Townsend-Keystone route or elsewhere in the state-operated ferry system. Eventually, the State of Washington hopes to have four of the “Island Home” class ferries built. The original Island Home vessel, now operating between Nantucket and Cape Cod in Massachusetts, was completed on the Gulf Coast in 2007 for about $32 million. Todd bid $114.1 million for the latest two vessels, some $4.3 million over the state's estimate of $109.8 million. Todd also submitted a bid of just under $51 million to build the fourth boat, which is below the state's estimate of $68.5 million. That bid is good until the middle of 2011, at which time Washington State hopes to have funding in place to order the vessel.

The shipyard is building the first ferry, Chetzemoka, for $65.5 million and hopes to have it ready by this coming summer. Earlier this year the vessel was moved from Todd’s construction building onto a floating drydock, where a 105-ton section of the vessel’s passenger deck, built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island, was lifted off a barge and fitted into place. Nichols is also furnishing the ferry’s twin pilothouses while it continues to build a small 88-foot by 38-foot car ferry for operation across California's Cache Slough.

On the repair front, Todd has won a $3 million contract for overhaul and maintenance work on the Navy tanker USNS Henry J Kaiser, including tank cleaning and main engine overhaul. 

Columbia River Yards

Also gaining government repair work in the Pacific Northwest is Cascade General at Portland, Oregon, which has been awarded a $6.1 million firm fixed-price contract for a regular overhaul and drydocking of the Military Sealift Command's tanker USNS Guadalupe. Work will include preservation of ballast tanks, ultrasonic gauging, overhaul of the ship's diesel generators, underwater hull preservation and propeller maintenance. The contract includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to $7.5 million.

Associated company US Barge at Portland plans to deliver the 83,000 bbl barge Sixty Five Roses to Harley Marine Services in March. This ABS classed unit will replace the company’s barge Jovalon in Southern California service. The newbuild measures 422 feet by 76 feet and will be equipped with a full vapor processing unit and redundant tank level warning systems. It is the 8th delivery in a substantial building program for Harley that has seen four smaller 31,500 bbl barges completed by US Barge while three others have been finished at Portland by the Gunderson and Zidell yards. Final in-service outfitting for all the barges was completed at Harley's own Harbor Island facility on Puget Sound. 

Gunderson and Diversified

Also having equipment built at Portland is Crowley Maritime, which has been taking a series of heavy-duty deck barges from the Gunderson yard. These barges, known as the “455” class, measure 400 feet by 105 feet and have 25-foot side shells as well as a deckload capacity of up to 4,200 pounds per square foot. They have been specifically designed to provide both the space and deck strength needed to accommodate large drilling and production units used in the offshore deepwater energy sector. This past year, barges 455 and 455-7 and were completed by Gunderson and additional barges of the series will be finished this year, with 455-8 to be handed over in May followed by 455-9 in July. Crowley has also had two tugboats for its Alaska shallow water barge serve completed on the Columbia, with the Diversified Marine yard at Portland delivering the twins Nachik and Sesok last year. These 76-foot by 32-foot vessels make use of three Caterpillar C-18 Tier II diesels, each rated at 454 BHP, driving triple-screws to allow a working draft of only 3 feet, 6 inches.

Dakota Creek and Halter
Crowley is having a much larger series of tugs built by the Dakota Creek Industries yard at Anacortes, Washington for use in three new Articulated Tug/Barge (ATB) sets. The 148-foot by 60-foot tugs, designed by Naviform in Vancouver, BC, will feature a unique propulsion pod housing that will contain two Wartsila C32 main engines in two separate engine rooms, with both engines capable of running on heavy fuel oil. The first tug is expected to be completed by this November while the second and third units will follow in May and October of next year.
The barges for these sets are being completed on the Gulf Coast by the VT Halter group and will have a 330,000-bbl capacity, similar to the new APT tankers being finished by NASSCO. The new ATBs are to be christened Legacy/750-1, Legend/750-2 and Liberty/750-3. Halter is also completing a smaller series of 185,000-barrel capacity ATBs for Crowley, with the tug Pride and barge 650-7 christened at New Orleans late last year as the seventh of the series,. Following this year and next will be Achievement/650-8, Innovation/650-9 and Vision/650-10. All of the Halter-built 650 ATB sets measure 587 feet by 74 feet, have a deadweight of 27,000 tons, and sail on a fully loaded draft of 30 feet. 

Bay Ship & Yacht

In the ship-assist sector, Crowley has been having its “Harbor” class tugs Leader, Admiral, Scout and Master fitted with new Tier II compliant main engines and generators at the Bay Ship and Yacht yard at Alameda, California. Crowley chose to replace the vessels' existing CAT 3516 main engines with CAT 3512 engines, and the CAT 3304 auxiliary engines with new CAT model C4.4 generators to help reduce emissions as part of Southern California’s air quality initiative. This requires vessel operators to upgrade their engines to be Tier II compliant by 2013.

Repowering each tug costs Crowley more than $1 million and is largely being funded with a portion of a $4 million Port of Los Angeles Air Quality Mitigation Incentive Program (AQMIP) air quality improvement grant. The repowering is expected to reduce particulate matter emissions by 3.24 tons and mono-nitrogen oxides by 109.52 tons per year for all four of the boats combined. In addition, although the new engines are somewhat smaller in cylinder size than the old unitw, they have increased the bollard pull for each of the vessels from 51 tons to 59 tons, further enhancing their effectiveness.

Jensen Maritime

On the design front, Crowley’s Jensen Maritime Consultants, acquired in 2008, has produced the drawings for two new tank barges wanted by Global Marine Transportation, both of 10,000-barrel capacity. The vessels are to be completed by Trinity Marine Products’ yard at Madisonville, Louisiana for chartering to Connecticut’s Maxum Petroleum. The units are being constructed with corrugated cargo tank bulkheads, to ease tank stripping and cleaning, and all cargo tanks will be completely smooth-sided except for the deck stiffeners. Pump engines and main generator will be housed in an aft pump room while there will be a midship control booth for centralized control and observation of bunkering operations. The first barge, to be completed in June, will be used to transport diesel oil and jet fuel at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach while the second barge, scheduled for completion later in the year, will be based in Puget Sound. 

Fairhaven Shipyard

Jensen is also providing naval architecture and marine engineering expertise for a major $5.5 million upgrading and renovation of the Alaska Marine Highway System passenger/vehicle ferry Kennicott, which is being carried out by the Fairhaven Shipyard at Bellingham, Washington. The 382-foot by 85-foot ferry became the first vessel to be lifted by Fairhaven’s new semi-submersible Faithful Servant, which was brought over from China in 2008 at a cost of $12 million.

Work on Kennicott includes modifications to the vessel’s marine growth prevention system and replacement of the marine evacuation system with new inflatable slides with linking life rafts. The evacuation system upgrade requires significant modifications to both the sun and boat deck structures and support systems. Other work includes a new primary saltwater cooling circuit for the ship’s refrigeration condensers and new high pressure, high capacity air compressors and receivers to enhance the main engine air start capability. In addition, upgrades are being made to the ship’s fire sprinkler system, side port doors and exterior ADA ramps while a new satellite antenna is being installed on the upper deck for enhanced communications and Internet services.

Foss-Built Boats

The small Foss Rainier Shipyard at Rainier, Oregon is continuing to make a big name for itself by turning out a steady stream of vessels for both Foss and others. Last year it completed the line-handling boat Lucy Foss for operation at Chevron’s El Segundo Moorings in Southern California. The 65-foot vessel is the first non-tug built at the Rainier facility, although the yard has since completed a new pilot station boat for operation off San Francisco Bay by the San Francisco Bar Pilots. The latter vessel, Drake, is a close sister to two existing station boats that were built by the now-closed Marco shipyard in Seattle and measures 104-feet by 28-feet. Propulsion is provided by twin Caterpillar 3508 marine diesels, with two John Deere 4045 65-kW generators producing electrical power.

The San Francisco boat is the first vessel the Rainier yard has built for a customer outside of the Foss group since the facility was converted to new construction in 2003. Since then, the yard has largely been focused on turning out a number of Dolphin-class harbor tugs for various members of the Foss Group, including the world’s first true hybrid tug, the Robert Allan-designed Carolyn Dorothy, for operation in Southern California.