Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Southern Yards on Recovery Pace

By Jim Shaw

Southern shipyards have been on a fast-paced recovery from the recession and the future looks bright, with both domestic and export contracts filling order books. However, a question mark remains over the giant Huntington Ingalls Industries' (HII) Avondale complex on the Mississippi River near New Orleans, which has ended its shipbuilding days but has not yet geared itself to another occupation. In April, HII announced that it would be exploring redevelopment of the site with Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, LP, a firm that has acquired American Petroleum Tankers and State Class Tankers, with the idea of evaluating "best-use" opportunities for the facility. A few months later HII purchased UniversalPegasus International Holdings (UPI), a leading provider of engineering and project management services to the energy sector. According to a HII spokesperson, Beci Brenton, the acquisition of UPI, which is expected to generate between $225 million and $250 million in sales this year, is "aligned" with HII's efforts to move into the oil and gas industry. HII has also acquired the S.M. Stoller Corporation, which provides environmental and technical support to the nuclear power industry, but whether either company will help breathe new life into the Avondale yard, now down to less than 500 employees, remains to be seen. In the meantime, the US Coast Guard has awarded a fixed-price incentive firm target contract valued at approximately $497 million to HII for production of the seventh National Security Cutter (NSC), Kimball (WMSL 756), at its Pascagoula, Mississippi yard, with production to begin early next year.

Cutters at Pascagoula
HII's Pascagoula facility currently has three NSCs in production: Hamilton (WMSL 753), which is scheduled for delivery later this year and will mark the first of two NSCs planned to be home-ported in Charleston, South Carolina; James (WMSL 754), scheduled for delivery in 2015, and Munro (WMSL 755), to be handed over in 2016. Kimball is expected to follow by early 2018. In all, the Coast Guard plans to acquire eight NSCs, with three already delivered, including Stratton (WMSL 752), which embarked on its first operational deployment earlier this year.

The 4,500-ton displacement ships, which are considered the most technologically sophisticated cutters ever built for the Coast Guard, measure 418-feet by 54-feet and have a top speed of 28 knots. Designed for worldwide operation, they have a range of 12,000 miles and sufficient endurance to perform 60- to 90-day patrols while manned by a crew of over a hundred. In addition, the combined diesel/gas turbine propelled vessels have been fitted with an aft launch and recovery area for two rigid hull inflatable boats and a flight deck large enough to accommodate a range of manned and unmanned rotary wing aircraft.

VT Halter Marine
While HII's Avondale yard has left shipbuilding the VT Halter Marine facility at Pascagoula, Mississippi has been steadily moving towards large ship production following its completion of the 382-foot ferry Kennicott for the Alaska Marine Highway System in 1998 (under Halter ownership) and the 579-ft auto carrier Jean Anne for Pasha Group in 2005.

Over the past 12 months it has taken delivery of a new 546-foot floating drydock and completed a multimillion-dollar "south yard" expansion project at Bayou Casotte. Last year the shipbuilder was awarded a $350 million contract to construct two Container Roll-On/Roll-Off (Con/Ro) ships for Crowley Maritime Corporation, with deliveries scheduled for mid- and late-2017. Designed by Wartsila Ship Design, and to measure 720 feet by 106 feet, the twin vessels will be powered by MAN B&W 8S70ME-GI8.2 main engines giving a speed of 22 knots.

Beyond the two Crowley Con/Ros, VT Halter is nearing completion of the 21,132-dwt Con/Ro vessel Marjorie C for Pasha Hawaii Shipping Company. This 692-foot by 106-foot ship will be capable of carrying 1,400 TEU's and 2,750 automobiles on Pasha's service between the US mainland and Hawaii when delivered later this year. Just handed over has been the ocean-going articulated tug/barge (ATB) tug Denise A. Bouchard, completed by VT Halter's Moss Point yard for New York's Bouchard Transportation Company. Measuring 112 feet by 35 feet, the 4,000-hp tug has been equipped with an Intercon coupler system and is being paired with one of Bouchard's existing 80,000-bbl ATB tank barges for operation along the Atlantic coast. The New York company is awaiting two further ATB units from Halter, the tug Kim M. Bouchard and barge B. No.270 and the tug Donna J. Bouchard and barge B. No.272.

Late Deliveries
In the military sector, VT Halter shipped out the first two of four Fast Missile Craft (FMC) it has been building for the Egyptian Navy, with the high-speed vessels loaded aboard the heavy-lift ship Combi Dock III at Pensacola, Florida in May. All four ships, including lead units ENS S. Ezzat (682), and ENS F. Zekry (684), are based on Vosper International's Ambassador Class III design and have been classed by the American Bureau of Shipping. Egyptian crews were trained at the Pensacola Naval Air Station and the ships, which will be armed with Harpoon missiles, are to be employed to protect the Suez Canal. The original contract for these vessels was awarded to VT Halter's predecessor company more than a dozen years ago but a number of delays have been experienced in the program.

A somewhat shorter delay period has been experienced by the US Navy's new Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship Maury (T-AGS 66) which was to have been delivered earlier this year. In May, Matt Leonard, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said that the construction project has experienced "recent shipbuilder delays," and that VT Halter has proposed a revised delivery schedule to the Navy, which is currently under review.

Built as a somewhat longer vessel than its sisters, the 353-foot by 58-foot Maury has been given an additional 24 feet in length over the previous designs in order to accommodate a central moon pool for deployment and retrieval of autonomous underwater vehicles. It is anticipated that Maury will eventually replace one of the Navy's older survey ships, USNS Sumner (T-AGS 61), with the latter moving on to the US Special Operations Command.

BAE Systems
At Mobile, Alabama the BAE Systems yard continues to move deeper into large ship construction and now has a 353-foot-long subsea support vessel under construction for Oceaneering International after completing a 613-foot tanker last year. The subsea ship, which will be fitted with a 250-ton active heave compensated crane for underwater construction and maintenance work, will be DP-2 rated, US-flagged, and have accommodation for up to 110 personnel. It will also be equipped with a satellite communications system capable of transmitting streaming video for real-time work observation by shore personnel in connection with two Oceaneering work class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to be carried. Delivery is expected within the first half of 2016.

The Mobile yard is also finishing two 288-foot by 62-foot DP-2 platform supply vessels (PSVs) for Gulfmark Offshore and has options for two more. Delivery of the first 8,160-hp PSV is expected later this year and the next in 2015. These boats are being finished to a MMC Ship Design & Marine Consulting design. In addition, BAE's Mobile yard is completing a 8,500 cubic yard capacity trailing suction hopper dredge for Weeks Marine while its Jacksonville, Florida facility has delivered the 252-foot by 60-foot offshore vessel Breeze to Jackson Offshore Operators as the first of four similar ships.

These Guido Perla-designed vessels have a total deadweight capacity of about 3,500 metric tons and feature an integrated Rolls-Royce diesel-electric propulsion package employing Rolls-Royce's Azipull thrusters. The second boat of the series is expected to be delivered in September while the third and forth will follow in 2015. Each of the US Jones Act PSVs will be used to support Jackson's expanding business base in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rodriguez Shipbuilding
One of the nation's largest builders of shallow-draft tugs, Rodriguez Shipbuilding Inc, of Bayou LaBatre, Alabama has finished the 75-foot by 28-foot model bow tug Sea Cypress for Morgan City-based Garber Bros. Inc. and Sea Cypress LLC. The new boat has a total of 2,000-HP generated by three 660-HP six-cylinder Cummins QSK19 marine engines, each turning a propeller through Twin Disc MGX5222 gears with 6:1 ratios. The triple screw configuration, somewhat common on the Gulf, allows the design to maintain a shallow ten-foot molded depth and, depending on load conditions, operate in as little as eight feet of water.
Built similar to the company's earlier delivered tug Sea Oak, Sea Cypress features an elevated aluminum pilothouse providing a 38-foot eye level view to the operator. It has also been set up for both pushing and towing operations. For the latter, the boat has been fitted with SMATCO deck equipment, including a waterfall type winch that can also be used for anchor handling. In towing operations, the stern winch allows the tug to make up to barges for pushing by way of a bridle running through stern deck rollers and side deck rollers. A total of 37,000 gallons of fuel, 6,700 gallons of water and 300 gallons of lube oil can be carried while accommodation has been arranged for up to six persons. A second boat for Garber, the lugger tug Sea Otter, is expected to be handed over later this month and, like Sea Cypress, is powered by Cummins QSK19 diesels, although in this case driving propellers set in tunnels to achieve a shallower six-foot operating draft.

Horizon Shipbuilding
Another Bayou La Batre builder, Horizon Shipbuilding, once known as Owen-Short Marine, has delivered the 140-foot by 42-foot towboat Phillip Bob to Florida Marine Transporters (FMT) after having finished an earlier sister, Brent Ice, in January. The latest vessel, designed by John Gilbert, is fitted with two Cat C-280 6-cylinder engines of a combined 5,400-HP driving Sound propellers through Lufkin gearboxes while two Cat C-9 generators support ship's power. The vessel's steering system has been provided by EMI while fire suppression and detection systems came from Hiller Systems. The 140-foot boat, which accommodates a pilot, master, engineer, and six crewmembers, is being followed by a smaller 120-foot vessel, with more orders expected to follow.

To keep up with demand, Horizon has acquired 22 acres of land, including 3,000 feet of waterfront, three production bays, and multiple launch ways, directly across the Bayou from its main yard. Once operated by Offshore Trawlers, the new facility is expected to triple the company's production capacity and will specialize in aluminum boatbuilding as well as government work. Horizon, which currently has about 400 employees, is using the new facility, now known as the "West Yard," to build a large series of 41.7-foot crew boats for an unspecified customer while the East Yard is finishing an 80-foot towboat for Florida Marine Transporters. The latter order carries an option for two further vessels.

Eastern Shipbuilding Group
In neighboring Florida the Eastern Shipbuilding Group has risen to become one of the Gulf Coast's most successful and busiest yards, with a large number of recent deliveries for both domestic and foreign owners as well as an extensive order backlog. In May, the company delivered the 90-foot by 32-foot James Dale Robin to Louisiana's Florida Marine Transporters (FMT) as the second of a five-boat option exercised by FMT last year. This series of towboats originally began with a 25-vessel contract signed in 2006 but has expanded to become the largest single series towboat construction program in US history, with the latest vessels being completed to a design furnished by Gilbert Associates of Boston, Massachusetts. These are also the first of the series to feature EPA Tier 3-compliant main propulsion engines and generators.

The James Dale Robin is powered by twin Caterpillar 3512C Tier 3 diesel engines, rated at 1,500 hp at 1,600 rpm, that have been provided by Louisiana Power Systems. These drive through direct-coupled Twin-Disc Model MG-5600 reduction gears with a 6.04:1 ratio furnished by Stewart Supply of Harvey, Louisiana. Kennedy Engine Company of Biloxi, Mississippi provided the boat's two 99kW John Deere 4045AFM85 99KW Tier 3 generator sets, with the diesels complying with current EPA Tier 3/MARPOL control of emissions of nitrogen oxides from marine engines.

Export Orders
Within the same week that James Dale Robin was delivered, Eastern christened and launched the 4,500-dwt platform supply vessel Bravante VIII for Boldini S.A., Bravante Group of Brazil. The 284-foot by 60-foot boat is the fourth in a series of five, with the first unit, Bravante V, delivered last year. The second vessel, Bravante VI, was delivered in February and the third, Bravante VII, will be handed over as soon as it completes regulatory trials. All of the vessels in this export series are ABS A-1, SOLAS/IMO, FFV-1, DPS-2, AC diesel-electric powered and feature four Cummins 16-cylinder turbo-charged IMO Tier II diesels, each rated at 1825 kW at 1,800 rpm. Cummins also furnished four Marathon Model 744 690VAC main generators per vessel.

Main propulsion power is provided by two 690VAC electric motors driving twin Schottel combi-drive single fixed-pitch propellers in nozzles rated at 2,500 kW at 750 rpm each for a total of 6,700 HP. Schottel also provided two STT 4 fixed pitch reversing tunnel thrusters rated at 1,180 kW at 1,170 rpm, each operated by directly coupled Hyundai 690VAC electric motors. GE Energy Power Conversion furnished the complete integrated diesel-electric package, including the thruster drives, motors, control systems, DP system, switchboards, motor control centers, automation and navigation/ communication electronics. The vessels are capable of a maximum speed of 14 knots and have a cruising speed of 12 knots.

Eastern's next big project will be the construction of an ATB trailing suction hopper dredge for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company (GLDD) of Oak Brook, Illinois using an Ocean Tug & Barge Engineering base design. GLDD had originally ordered the ATB dredge from Signal International in 2012 at a projected cost of $94 million but the order was later cancelled. This led to the new order with Eastern, one which is expected to cost about $140 million. This amount is inclusive of the costs associated with certain equipment and materials to be provided by GLDD and will be subject to a final adjustment based on the actual steel weight of the finished vessel.

To be named GLDD302, the ATB dredge will consist of a 433-foot by 92-foot trailing suction hopper "dredge barge" and a 158-foot pushtug powered by two MaK 12M32C-T3 diesel engines producing 15,662 BHP. Other equipment on the tug will include two 2,500-kW main generators, 6,600 VAC shaft generators, a 730-kW Caterpillar C32-T3 auxiliary generator, and a 550-kW Caterpillar C18-T3 emergency generator.

The barge unit, to have a hopper capacity of 14,920 cubic yards, will incorporate two 5,000-HP EMD ME20G7C-T3s for its power needs while two 800-HP Schottel STT2 electric, fixed-pitch bow thrusters will be mounted for extra maneuverability. To be delivered in 2016, the ATB unit will be the first of its type in the world and is expected to be employed along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.