Eight new Chouest tractors, all built for LNG work

Four tractors of Edison Chouest Offshore were on hand for the arrival of the 948-foot tanker Celestine River with the first cargo of liquified natural gas for a new LNG terminal at the mouth of the Sabine River on the Louisiana/Texas border. Edison Chouest is building eight identical tractors for LNG service, all with forward-mounted z-drive propulsion. (Photo courtesy of Mary Meaux, Port Arthur News)

Edison Chouest Offshore stole the spotlight for a brief time this past spring when it launched four identical 110-foot tractor tugs from its new GulfShip shipyard in Gulfport, Miss. The tugs, with forward-mounted z-drive propulsion, resemble scaled-up versions of many of Chouest’s other tractors, particularly those built in the mid-1990s.

The four tugs, named SP Coral, SP Ivory, SP Amber and SP Pearl, were finished off at the same shipyard and then dispatched to the new Cheniere Energy LNG terminal at Sabine Pass, on the Louisiana/Texas border.

All four tugs were deployed on the day in April when the 948-foot LNG tanker Celestine River approached the terminal near the mouth of the Sabine River with the first shipment of liquefied natural gas for that facility. The ship, heavily guarded by U.S. Coast Guard boats and at least one helicopter, delivered a cargo of liquefied gas from Nigeria, Africa.

Chouest, through its wholly owned subsidiary Alpha Marine Services LLC, has a 10-year contract with Cheniere Energy to provide tug services at the new facility.

Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG terminal is located on 853 acres of land along the Sabine Pass in Cameron Parish, La. The terminal is situated at the widest point on the Sabine River Navigation Channel that is maintained at a depth of 40 feet.

For Edison Chouest, the beginning of LNG operations at Sabine Pass is just the first half of gas-related activities on the same river. Early next year the company expects to have four more new tugs stationed at the new ExxonMobil Golden Pass LNG terminal about three miles upriver.

Introduction of these eight new z-drive tractors will increase Chouest’s fleet of tractor-style tugs to 22 vessels, among the largest in the nation. Chouest has operated a fleet of up to 15 tractors, in several different design configurations, long before any other U.S. tug companies began building their fleets of similar vessels. The majority of Chouest’s tractors, several of which are of true tractor configuration, are engaged in ship-assist and submarine-assist work for the U.S. Navy.

All eight of the new tugs are being constructed at the company’s new shipyard in Gulfport. They are the first vessels constructed at that yard. The first four vessels were all launched on one day by means of a 700-ton floating crane operated by Bisso Marine of New Orleans. Each vessel weighed 650 tons when launched.

The new tugs are designed to produce about 85 tons of bollard pull.

Edison Chouest is a private, family-owned and operated, corporation with dozens of subsidiaries and affiliated businesses, based in Galliano, La. Louisiana state records put the company as having an excess of $100 million in annual revenue. The company has its major operations in offshore service segments, in-port ship-docking services, shipbuilding and ship repair.

The company’s newest tugs have a double-ended appearance with raised bow and stern, midship pilothouse and winches on both ends. They are the only tugs built in the United States in the past year or so with forward-mounted z-drives.

By Professional Mariner Staff