Chouest building 40 new offshore vessels as Gulf drilling rebounds

Shipyards along the Gulf of Mexico are bustling, led recently by Edison Chouest Offshore, as demand for offshore vessels expands with increasing oil and gas production.

Projected rig counts continue to grow, especially for deepwater, as the industry bounces back from a moratorium imposed after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.

“These platforms need equipment, personnel and services, with vessels going back and forth between them and the shore,” said Matthew Paxton, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America. “In 2013, (we saw) a surge in demand for offshore vessels to the point that over 100 are on the books for construction. Gulf shipyards … are building for the domestic and international markets, and they’re out-competing foreign producers. You can get a better offshore vessel built here in the United States for a better price.”

In July, Cut Off, La.-based Chouest announced 40 newbuilds on its order books, mostly at its four U.S.-affiliate shipyards: North American Shipbuilding in Larose, La.; LaShip in Houma, La.; Gulf Ship in Gulfport, Miss., and Tampa Ship in Tampa, Fla. Chouest affiliates in Brazil and Poland will produce some of these boats.

Chouest’s prospective builds include 17 diesel-electric, 312-foot platform supply vessels, with options for an additional 20.

“The 312-foot class meets customer requirements for a high deadweight-ton capacity, deepwater PSV that is extremely fuel-efficient,” Executive Vice President Dino Chouest said.

Among its new orders, Chouest is building four subsea construction vessels — with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) from its affiliate C-Innovation in Mandeville, La. — slated for service in the Gulf of Mexico. The company’s newbuild effort also includes a refueling vessel, multi-purpose construction supply vessel, diesel-electric well stimulation boat and seven fast supply vessels.

Five diesel-electric PSVs and two 26,000-hp anchor handlers are being constructed at Chouest’s Navship yard in Brazil. “That shipyard has over 1,600 employees now and is far and away our largest affiliate yard,” company spokesman Lonnie Thibodeaux said. Chouest is building five 304-foot PSVs in Gdansk, Poland.

Companies including Harvey Gulf International Marine in New Orleans and Hornbeck Offshore in Covington, La., are aggressively procuring supply vessels. Harvey Gulf has 14 vessels under construction, ranging from 220 feet to 340 feet, at five shipyards.

“All 14 of these new vessels will work in the Gulf of Mexico, and seven of them have five-year charters,” said Shane Guidry, chairman and chief executive of Harvey Gulf.

Hornbeck Offshore is building 24 new vessels at a cost of more than $1.2 billion. In a November presentation to investors, Todd Hornbeck, president and chief executive, and James Harp Jr., chief financial officer, noted that deepwater drilling in the Gulf has grown steadily since a six-month federal moratorium was lifted in October 2010.

The building boom in the Gulf is not overdone, Guidry said in October. “The market will be short of OSVs from the second quarter of 2014 to 2016,” Guidry predicted.

By Professional Mariner Staff