Friday, August 16, 2013

Southern Promise
Gulf Coast Yards See a Resurgence of Activity

By Jim Shaw

The past year has seen yards along the Gulf Coast gain a substantial number of new contracts relating to expanding activity in the offshore sector, particularly deepwater work. At the same time there has been a gain in export orders, as well as continuing movement towards LNG-fueled propulsion systems in newbuilds. Not all operators are ready to jump on the LNG bandwagon just yet but the shift towards gas is accelerating, and the foundations for regional bunkering operations are now being laid. Yard expansion is also taking place as optimism replaces recessionary thinking in both the newbuild and shiprepair sectors. Highlighting this trend has been VT Halter Marine, which has imported a 12,000 metric ton capacity floating dry dock from the Philippines for its Pascagoula, Mississippi yard. The new dock is just one part of a larger plan by Halter to step more solidly into the repair sector, with capacity also being added to serve alongside-berthed semi-submersible rigs and Panamax-size deepsea vessels. Another Gulf Coast yard looking at the deepwater sector is Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Avondale facility on the Mississippi River, which is expected to complete its final ship for the Navy later this year. Under the guidance of newly recruited vice president and general manager Rene Mathieu the historic Louisiana shipbuilder is looking at prospects in offshore fabrication work while searching for a potential business partner or buyer.

Avondale’s Assets
With 75 years of history behind it, the 268-acre Avondale yard has a lot to offer in the way of heavy construction facilities and experience but it remains to be seen if the offshore sector will be interested. In 2011 the state of Louisiana offered HII a $214-million package of performance-based incentives if it could find a partner or new owner to keep Avondale running. To date those incentives, which included payment for workforce training and facility upgrades based on maintaining 3,850 full-time workers, have failed to entice any interest. HII and the state are now hoping that Mathieu will be able to move Avondale successfully into heavy commercial construction, either through a partnership venture or by selling the yard to a new owner. Mathieu, who will work in Houston as well as in New Orleans, has been pitching the yard’s physical attributes, including a 900-foot by 220-foot (274m by 67m) floating dry dock, currently the nation’s largest, and its 1.2 million square feet (111,484 sq m) of under-roof production space. The yard’s central location is also considered an asset, although the Mississippi River is known to be temperamental at times. The challenge will be to find sufficient work before naval construction dries up completely, and at a price that can keep Avondale competitive with both its domestic and foreign competitors.

VT Halter Expansion
Matching Avondale’s optimism for work in the offshore sector is VT Halter Marine, which imported a 12,000 metric ton capacity floating dry dock from the Philippines earlier this year and plans a number of other improvements at its Pascagoula site to stimulate both new construction and ship repair work. In announcing the arrival of the dock the company said the Pascagoula yard “will now be able to service not only the repair needs of its existing newbuild customers, it will also cater to new customers and most likely will more than double its customer base for ship repair business.” The firm said it expects to create as many as 400 new jobs with the expansion at Pascagoula, which will result in a business model similar to that of its counterpart in Singapore, ST Marine, a yard that offers both newbuild and repair capabilities. In the newbuild sector, VT Halter launched the US Navy’s newest oceanographic survey ship, USNS Maury (T-AGS 66), earlier this year for delivery in 2014. The vessel measures 353 feet (108 m) by 58 feet (18 m) and will be operated by the US Military Sealift Command (MSC) for the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. It is 24 feet (7.3 m) longer than its sister ships to accommodate a 300 square feet moon pool for the deployment and retrieval of unmanned underwater vehicles. VT Halter is also finishing up its contract to build four Fast Missile Craft (FMC) for the Egyptian Navy under the US Navy’s foreign military sales (FMS) program. The 40-knot Egyptian vessels are being completed to a Vosper International Ambassador Mk. III design, with the first craft, S. Ezzat, recently finishing sea trials off Florida.

Bigger OSVs
In the commercial sector VT Halter launched the 320 feet offshore supply vessel (OSV) HOS Commander in April as the first of 10 similar 6,200-dwt vessels being built for Covington, Louisiana-based Hornbeck Offshore Services. Known as the Super 320 Class, the large OSVs have 11,863 square feet of deck area and can carry approximately 20,900 barrels of liquid mud. Six are being built at VT Halter’s Escatawpa yard and four at its other Moss Point facility, with HOS Commander due to be delivered this autumn. The ten boat contract represents a $442 million order, the largest single commercial order ever won by VT Halter. It also underlines Hornbeck’s strategic move into the deepwater sector. All of the vessels are to be delivered by early 2015. VT Halter has also picked up an option to build a second Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) unit for New York’s Bouchard Transportation Company as a follow-up to an original order announced in February. Both double-hulled barges will measure 625 feet by 91 feet, with a depth of 47 feet and will accommodate 250,000 barrels of product. The 10,000-hp twin screw ATB tugs, to be classed by ABS as A1 Towing Vessel, Dual Mode, USCG Sub-chapter M and will be equipped with Intercon coupler systems. Construction of the first barge has started at VT Halter’s Pascagoula yard, with delivery scheduled for mid 2015, while construction of the second will begin in the final quarter of this year for delivery within the first quarter of 2016. The first ATB unit, to be composed of tug Bouchard Boys and barge No. 270, will be employed in Jones Act trading along the eastern seaboard. The additional Bouchard ATB order is highly welcomed as VT Halter completed its long-running Crowley ATB program in May with delivery of tug Liberty and barge 750-3 (See Pacific Maritime Magazine, June 2013).

Eastern Shipbuilding
Also building a number of boats for Hornbeck, as well as several other owners, is Florida’s Eastern Shipbuilding Group. Eastern launched the 292-foot by 64-foot Red Dawn as part of Hornbeck’s Project Spartan in March. Red Dawn is the first of four “HOSMax 300” vessels. These boats, designed by Houston’s STX Marine, are equipped with four Cat 3516C generator sets of 1,825-kW output each powering Schottel Z-drives and tunnel thrusters. The remaining six Hornbeck vessels at Eastern are 302 feet by 65 feet HOSMax 310 designs that also use diesel electric propulsion. Just delivered by Eastern is the 302 feet by 64 feet DP-2 light construction vessel Harvey Deep Sea for Harvey Gulf, which has already been chartered by DOF Subsea USA. The high-tech vessel is equipped with an active heave-compensated 165-ton knuckle-boom offshore crane capable of lifting and setting 100 tons at depths up to 10,000 feet. Propulsion is provided by four Caterpillar 3516, 2,250-kW gensets powering twin 2,500-kW Schottel Z-drives and three Schottel bow thrusters. In one of the Gulf Coast’s growing number of export orders, Eastern has delivered the diesel-electric powered PSV Bravante V to Boldini SA of Brazil as the first of five vessels it is building for the Latin American group, all backed by a $240.8 million loan guarantee provided by the Maritime Administration (MARAD).To support a rapidly expanding order book, one that now extends into mid-2016, Eastern is modernizing its Allanton yard and has leased 20 acres of land at Port St. Joe, Florida while renting additional dock space at the Port of Panama City, Florida.

BAE Systems
In Mobile, Alabama, BAE Systems has entered the offshore sector by obtaining a contract to build two 288-foot by 62-foot DP-2 platform supply vessels (PSVs) for GulfMark Offshore with options for two more. The twin 8,160-HP boats are being completed to an MMC Ship Design & Marine Consulting design for delivery in 2014 and 2015. Having a somewhat earlier delivery schedule are four 252-foot by 60-foot PSVs being built at the company’s yard in Jacksonville, Florida for Jackson Offshore Operators. These Guido Perla-designed boats will have a total deadweight capacity of about 3,500 metric tons and will feature an integrated Rolls-Royce diesel-electric propulsion package employing Rolls-Royce’s Azipull thrusters. The first two vessels are scheduled for delivery in May 2014 and September 2014 while the second two will follow in 2015. All four will service offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to its offshore work BAE is also finishing two 295-foot by 62-foot dump scows for Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company and a 8,500 cubic yard capacity trailing suction hopper dredge for Weeks Marine. The latter vessel, measuring 340 feet by 79 feet, is being completed to a design furnished by Holland’s IHC Merwede and is to be finished by next year. Earlier this year BAE Mobile received some unexpected repair business when Carnival Cruise Lines’s fire-damaged Carnival Triumph was towed into the yard. However, a strong wind in early April snapped the vessel’s mooring lines and it blew across the harbor to come against the Army Corps of Engineer’s dredge Wheeler, causing damaged to both ships. In June, Carnival filed a $12.5 million lawsuit against BAE seeking damages, which BAE claims is “without merit.”

LEEVAC Shipyards
Tugboats have not been in as much demand along the Gulf Coast as platform supply vessels but LEEVAC Shipyards Jennings, at Jennings, Louisiana, is close to finishing two 80-foot by 38-foot Z-Tech 2400 class terminal/escort tugs for Bay Houston Towing and Suderman Young Towing, both to be employed in Houston and Galveston. At the same time, the yard is starting construction of two STX Marine-designed SV 310 multipurpose supply vessels for Hornbeck Offshore. To be the 23rd and 24th vessels to be built by LEEVAC for Hornbeck, each of the HOSMAX 310s will be equipped with a 250-ton crane provided by Cargotech. This will allow the boats to undertake subsea inspection, repair and maintenance work as well as normal supply operations. Propulsion will be provided by four Caterpillar Model 3516C Tier 3 IMO II variable speed generator sets rated at 2250-kW each, with the drives and thrusters to be supplied by Schottel. A similar propulsion package will be used in two 300-foot by 64-foot PSVs to be built for Tidewater Marine of New Orleans, both to be DP-2 rated. Each of the 5,400-dwt Tidewater boats will be powered by four Tier 3 Caterpillar 3516C generator sets rated at 2,100-kW each. LEEVAC is also building two diesel-electric, DP-2 platform supply vessels for Aries Marine, the first to be delivered next year and the second in 2015. To measure 270 feet by 56 feet, the 4,000-dwt Aries boats will be powered by four 3516C Cat 1,825-kW generator sets with Schottel providing the propulsion drives and thrusters. Delivery is set for 2014 and 2015.

TY Offshore
Another company moving strongly into the offshore sector is TY Offshore, which with sister company Trinity Yachts, has formed the Gulf Coast Shipyard Group (GCSG). Giving the new group a financial boost is private equity firm Littlejohn & Co., which said it intends to “work closely” with the existing GCSG management team to support their strategic growth plans. John Dane III, GCSG President and CEO, welcomed the Littlejohn investment and announced that the reformed group will be starting a $9 million capital improvement program at its Gulfport, Mississippi yard this year. The work will include upgrading the facility’s Syncrolift to 4,300 tons in anticipation of building ice class vessels for Arctic operations. The Gulfport yard is currently building six 302-foot by 64-foot dual-fuel platform supply vessels for Harvey Gulf (Pacific Maritime Magazine, June 2013) as well as a series of twenty-eight 30,000-bbl capacity barges for Florida Marine Transport. The 5,520-dwt Harvey Gulf boats will be capable of carrying 16,000-bbls of liquid mud, 10,000 cubic feet of dry cement and 1,500-bbls of methanol. Finland’s Wärtsilä is providing the 6-cylinder34DF dual-fuel powered generating sets for the PSVs as well as fuel storage tanks and fuel-management systems. To provide LNG bunking for the boats Harvey Gulf has contracted with CH·IV International of Houston, Texas to design and develop two LNG refueling facilities on the Gulf, each to have a 270,000 gallon storage capacity. The bunkering centers will utilize stainless steel Type ‘C’ pressure vessels with vacuum insulation and carbon steel exteriors. According to Harvey Gulf each refueling facility will be able to transfer 500 gallons of LNG per minute.

Bollinger Shipyards
Continuing on its long tradition of work for the US Coast Guard (USCG), Bollinger Shipyards delivered the patrol craft Paul Clark to the agency in May as the 130th vessel the Lockport-based company has constructed for the USCG in 30 years. It is also the sixth of 18 Sentinel Class fast response cutters (FRCs) the company is building, which could be incrementally extended to 34 vessels. The Coast Guard is scheduled to commission the 154-foot Paul Clark in Miami, Florida during August while the seventh vessel of the series is currently on trials. In the commercial sector Bollinger is finishing up several new construction programs, with the last of Crowley Maritime’s Ocean class tugs, Ocean Sky recently delivered, and a series of three sludge-carrying vessels being built for the City of New York expected to be completed by year’s end. Beyond new construction, Bollinger is using two of its facilities, Larose and Morgan City, to convert six 200 class DP1 offshore supply vessels to 240 class DP2 OSV’s for Hornbeck through the incorporation of 40-foot mid-body extensions and DP upgrades. Built in 1999 and 2000, the vessels were acquired by HOS in 2007. Due to the boats’ 56-foot beam, the mid-bodies will bring each vessel’s deadweight capacity up to approximately 2,850 tons and roughly double their liquid mud carrying capacity to 8,000 barrels. Two have already been redelivered with the rest to follow over the next several months. Bollinger is also stretching five of nine 210-foot by 56-foot PSVs owned by Harvey Gulf. Fifty-foot mid-sections are being added to the ex-Bee Mar boats, which will boost their 2,700-dwt capacity up to 3,700-dwt. Looking at further developments in the deepwater sector, Bollinger is moving ahead with the expansion of its facilities at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, where a major slip dredging project at Slip C is being finished up. This will allow the company to expand its drydock capability at the port as well as alongside repair and maintenance services.