Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gulf Coast Yards See Upswing

By Jim Shaw

Shipyards along the Gulf Coast are seeing an upswing in commercial activity this year, particularly in the deepwater offshore sector, but government work is facing a downturn. Of most concern is the pending closure of the big Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Avondale yard near New Orleans. According to HII Chief Executive Officer Michael Petters, shipbuilding will end at Avondale towards the third quarter of next year after the facility delivers its final amphibious ship to the US Navy. However, Petters said the company is continuing to seek another user for the property that could develop a new business line such as manufacturing on the site.

The pending closure of Avondale comes as the Pentagon prepares for as much as $1 trillion in potential budget cuts over the next decade and a reduction in shipbuilding contracts. While the prospect for government work is dimming, regional yards are watching with interest the construction of several dual fuel Offshore Supply Vessels (OSVs) by Trinity Offshore at Gulfport, Mississippi for New Orleans-based Harvey Gulf International. The LNG-burning vessels, which will also achieve ENVIRO+, Green Passport certification by the American Bureau of Shipping, are expected to be the leaders in a new series of “clean” ships wanted by the offshore oil industry as it polishes its image following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

Is LNG the Future?
The allure of LNG is taking place as more environmental regulations hit the maritime industry and as the fuel becomes more abundant, the result of new hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” technologies. Its marine application has also been well proven in northern Europe where an increasing number of vessels, including OSVs, ferries and tankers have been built and retrofitted to utilize it as a fuel. Finland’s Wärtsilä, a leader in LNG propulsion and storage systems, will provide its 6-cylinder 34DF dual-fuel engines for the Harvey newbuildings, which will be constructed to STX Marine’s SV310DF design. To be given an LNG storage capacity of 290 cubic meters (m3), the 5,500-dwt ships will be able to operate for more than a week before refueling while having a transit speed of 13 knots. When running in gas mode, NOx emissions will be reduced by about 85 percent compared to diesel operation while sulfur oxide emissions will be completely eliminated and emissions of CO2 lowered. Harvey Gulf CEO Shane J. Guidry noted that the company’s ordering of the lead two dual-fuel vessels last year was “enthusiastically accepted” by oil company executives, leading to the ordering of two 302-foot by 64-foot sister ships earlier this year. Still to be seen will be the infrastructure requirements needed to support the safe LNG fueling of these vessels, the lead two of which have already found charters.

Eastern Expanding
While the Trinity yard is building four LNG-powered OSVs for Harvey, Florida’s Eastern Shipbuilding Group has a number of other vessels under construction for the New Orleans-based company. These will follow delivery of the 292-foot Tiger Shark class Sisuaq to Harvey in April. The 292-foot by 64-foot Sisuaq has since been deployed to Alaska following the fitting of heating enhancements and hardened electronics that can take temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

In May of next year Harvey will take delivery of a similar sized boat from Eastern, the 302-foot Harvey Deep Sea, that will be equipped with an active heave-compensated 165-ton knuckle boom crane capable of lifting/setting 100 tons at depths of up to 10,000 feet. Designed for deepwater construction work, and to be the first US-flagged deepwater construction vessel built, the new boat will also be capable of delivering 18,000 barrels of liquid mud, 10,500 cubic feet of cement, 1,700 barrels of methanol and 4,000 tons of deck cargo.

To keep ahead of its growing order book, which also includes several other vessels for Harvey, five OSVs for Boldini SA of Brazil and eight OSVs for Hornbeck Offshore Services, Eastern is expanding its facilities on the Gulf through the lease of 20 acres of land at Port St. Joe, Florida while continuing operations at its two Panama City locations.

In June the company’s Nelson St. yard in Panama City redelivered the 265-foot anchor handler Keith Cowan to SEACOR Marine after a major rebuilding following fire damage. The job represented one of Eastern’s major reconstruction efforts to date.

Mobile Bay
On Alabama’s Mobile Bay BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards (BAE) started construction of Weeks Marine’s new 8,500 cubic yard capacity trailing suction hopper dredge Magdalen in June, with the 340-foot by 79-foot vessel to be delivered in 2014. The state-of-the-art dredge has been designed by Holland’s IHC Merwede and is the first of that company’s well-known dredge designs to be built in the United States. Gibbs & Cox of Arlington, Virginia will provide functional engineering and detailed production support during construction.

The newbuilding demonstrates BAE’s continued growth in the commercial shipbuilding sector and follows completion of the 616-foot by 105-foot product tanker American Phoenix from an unfinished hull for Mid Ocean Tanker Company and Alterna Capital as the largest vessel built to date in Alabama. Although much smaller in size, the yard has also won contracts to build two 295-foot by 62-foot dump scows, with options for two more, for Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company.

Another Great Lakes-based company, Moran Iron Works, has entered into a teaming agreement with BAE to collaborate on the pursuit of plate steel fabrication projects for industrial plant customers. Together the two firms will be able to serve customers throughout the northern and southern regions of central and eastern North America using BAE’s yards at Mobile and Jacksonville along with Moran’s facilities at Onaway and Cheboygan, Michigan.

Austal USA
Located just to the north of BAE’s Mobile yard, the recently expanded Austal USA facility has laid the keel for the third Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) it is building for the US Navy as part of a firm nine-vessel program. Under Austal’s modular approach to ship manufacturing, keel laying means that 32 of the 43 modules used to form the 103-meter aluminum catamaran have been assembled, thus the ceremony marks the beginning of final assembly rather than initial construction. The first ship of the program, USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) was christened last September and successfully completed builders’ trials in April while the second vessel, Choctaw County (JHSV 2), is approximately 80 percent complete and will be launched later this year. Following a decision reached in 2011 to place all JHSVs under the Navy, the third vessel, to have been named Fortitude, will enter service as USNS Millinocket.

Austal is also preparing its second 127-meter Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Coronado (LCS 4), for sea trials with the ship expected be commissioned at San Diego next year. According to the Navy up to 16 littoral ships will be stationed in San Diego while at least four will be deployed to Singapore on a rotational basis starting next spring. Earlier this year Austal worked with neighboring yard BAE to make several modifications to the aluminum catamaran Sea Fighter (FSF-1), operated by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and used to test technologies for both the LCS and JHSV programs.

VT Halter
In Mississippi, the VT Halter yard at Pascagoula delivered the first of three 750 class tank barges it is building for Crowley Maritime last November and expects to hand over the second barge next month and the final unit in March of next year. All of the 45,000-dwt ATB barges, the lead unit of which has already been connected to its Dakota Creek Industries-built pushtug, measure 600 feet by 105.5 feet and have a capacity of 330,000 bbls. The Pascagoula yard is also moving forward with construction of the 692-foot combination ro/ro/container carrier Marjorie C for Honolulu-based Pasha Hawaii after cutting first steel for the ship last August. To be capable of carrying 2,750 vehicle units and 1,500 TEU of containers, the vessel is expected to enter the Mainland/Hawaii trade in the third quarter of 2013. She will sail opposite Pasha Hawaii’s PCTC Jean Anne, also built by VT Halter, to allow a weekly service.

Besides these commercial contracts the Pascagoula yard is also building four 62-meter Fast Missile Craft (FMC) for the Egyptian Navy with the lead craft, S. Ezzat (682), to be delivered shortly.

At VT Halter’s Moss Point facilities construction has begun on eight large Super 320 Class OSVs ordered by Hornbeck Offshore Services, with the first of the STX Marine-designed vessels to be delivered by October 2013. These 6,200-dwt DP2 units, to be slightly larger than the Hornbeck OSVs being built in Florida by Eastern, will have 20,900 bbls of liquid mud carrying capability and 11,863 square feet of work deck area along with a firefighting class notation.

Bollinger Building
In Louisiana, Bollinger Shipyards’ Lockport facility delivered the second Fast Response Cutter (FRC) it is building for the Coast Guard under an ongoing program that may eventually see 58 vessels built. The 28-knot CGC Richard Etheridge (WPC-1102) was delivered to the Coast Guard in May and will be followed shortly by the William Flores (WPC-1103), both of which, like lead unit Bernard C. Webber (WPC 1101) will be based at Miami, Florida. Bollinger has been contracted to build twelve of the boats to date, all based on the Damen Stan Patrol Boat 4708 design drawn up by Holland’s Damen Group.

In the commercial sector Bollinger’s Amelia, Louisiana yard is preparing to deliver the 146-foot by 46-foot DP-1 rated tugs Ocean Wave and Ocean Wind to Crowley Maritime within the third quarter. These 10,880-horsepower vessels will be followed by two slightly longer DP-2 tugs, Ocean Sky and Ocean Sun, next year. The Amelia yard is also building three municipal waste ships for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection using federal recovery funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The 290-foot by 70-foot vessels, the first of which will be delivered later this year, will have a design capacity of 1.04 million gallons in six cargo tanks.

Gulf Craft Fast Cats
Also in Louisiana, Patterson-based Gulf Craft LLC has been contracted to build two Incat Crowther designed 55-meter catamaran-hull crew boats for SEACOR Marine. These vessels, to be named SEACOR Lynx and SEACOR Leopard, will each be powered by four MTU 16V4000 M73L main engines driving four Hamilton HT-810 water jets for a top speed in excess of 46 knots. The combination of four reversing jets and two retractable azimuth thrusters, coupled with a Kongsberg control system, will provide the vessels with DP3 capability while increasing operational efficiency and reducing hull motions.

As with the earlier SEACOR Cheetah and SEACOR Cougar, placed in service in 2008 and 2009, the cargo deck of the newbuildings will be lined with hardwood inserts while heavy duty cargo rails will be furnished at the sides. The main deck passenger cabins will have seats for 150, along with increased luggage space and more toilets compared to the earlier vessels, while cargo capacity will be 150 tons. The wheelhouses will feature forward and aft control stations and both boats will carry fire monitors as well as rescue craft. The twin hulls will accommodate 14 crewmembers in a mix of officer and non-rated cabins while the port hull will also feature galley and mess facilities. The vessels are to be delivered in January and April of next year.

LEEVAC Consolidates
At Jennings, Louisiana LEEVAC Shipyards Jennings has delivered the third of a series of 187-foot by 46-foot Lightering Support Vessels (LSVs) it is building for Houston, Texas-based AET Lightering Services. The first boat of this series, AET Innovator, was delivered last October with the second, AET Excellence, following in January. The latest vessel, AET Partnership, may be followed by up to five additional vessels, all of which will primarily support the lightering activity of AET in the Gulf of Mexico out of Galveston, Texas.

The LEEVAC Jennings yard is also building two 80-foot by 38-foot Robert Allan designed Z-Tech 2400 class terminal/escort tugs for Bay Houston Towing Company and Suderman & Young Towing Company, both of Houston. To be operated by G&H Towing Company, the twin newbuildings will primarily be used for towing and escort work around the Houston and Galveston areas following their delivery in June and September 2013.

At the start of this year LEEVAC consolidated its sister companies, LEEVAC Industries and LEEVAC Shipbuilding and Repair Calcasieu, under the new holding company LEEVAC Shipyards, LLC, with the company’s yards in Jennings and Lake Charles, Louisiana now operating under the names of LEEVAC Shipyards Jennings, LLC and LEEVAC Shipyards Lake Charles, LLC.