Fast catamaran creates a new class of crew boat

Seacor Cheetah sits at the Gulf Craft yard before sea trials. The 170-foot aluminum catamaran has a top speed of 42 knots and can carry 149 passengers. (Larry Pearson)

In late January, Seacor Marine, of Houma, La., added Seacor Cheetah to its fleet of crew/supply vessels. With a top speed of 42 knots, the 170-foot all-aluminum catamaran will be the fastest workboat operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

A quartet of MTU 16V-4000 engines with a total output of 13,200 hp powers the vessels Hamilton HM811 waterjets. The boat can carry 149 passengers, the maximum allowed a Coast Guard Subchapter T vessel.

The ability to transport a relatively large number of passengers at 40-plus knots somewhat changes the equation of using crew boats versus helicopters for crew transport. Since Cheetah can carry more than twice as many passengers as a typical crew boat and go 15 knots faster, more rig owners will opt for water transport rather than air to get their workers to their stations.

“In addition, these high density, fast crew/supply boats will be invaluable for hurricane evacuation,” said Joe McCall, Seacor’s project manager for the Cheetah.

“It is all in the numbers,” said Jason Miller, marketing manager for Seacor Marine. “Imagine a route where there are weekly crew changes from the Port Fourchon, La., base to two platforms about 83 nautical miles offshore with the Cheetah delivering and picking up 51 passengers at one platform and delivering and boarding 32 return passengers at the second platform 15 miles away,” said Miller. “Occupied seat-mile cost is 30 to 40 percent lower for Cheetah than a large, modern helicopter. This single crew change will save 40 percent in costs over the air route and when the ability to carry 150 tons of deck cargo is factored in, the advantages of the Cheetah are even greater.”

All the passengers can be accommodated on the main deck in a very comfortable cabin.

“We have a large temperature-controlled cabin with executive-class seats, beverage and snack service, Internet capability and wide-screen televisions. It is truly a deluxe cabin,” Miller said.

Other unusual features of the vessel include crew quarters on the second deck just below the bridge deck.

The boat was built by Gulf Craft, Inc., of Patterson, La. The yard has a second identical vessel under construction, also for Seacor.

Aft of the superstructure is a large cargo deck with the ability to carry tanks of dry-bulk cements or other material.

Each of the catamaran hulls houses two propulsion engines, a 290-kw genset powered by a Cummins QSM11 diesel engine and a Thrustmaster 200-hp azimuthing bow thruster. Cheetah features a dynamic positioning system rated at DP-2 by Kongsberg.

The vessel’s liquid-cargo capacity is reduced by the catamaran design. However, Cheetah can still carry 25,900 gallons of fuel oil, about 50 percent of which is cargo and can be transferred.

By Professional Mariner Staff