Fast Tempo

The companies that support the offshore oil industry are adding substantial numbers of new vessels to their fleets. Nowhere is this more evident than deliveries in the fast, versatile, all-aluminum crew/supply boat segment.

Breaux Brothers Enterprises, Loreauville, La., is now working on another contract for Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), Galliano, La. ECO builds all of its own steel vessels in its two shipyards in Larose and Houma, La., but it has been contracting out its aluminum vessels to Breaux Brothers for several years.

“We specialize in crew/supply vessels,” said Joan Breaux, vice president of the firm. “It is about the only vessel we build, and we can deliver one every six to eight weeks if we have a full order book.”

For example, ECO took delivery of Fast Tempo in early 2006. The 160-by-30-foot vessel is the typical size and power of an ECO crew/supply vessel.

“In 2006 we will build three identical 160-foot-by-30-foot crew/supply boats for ECO that followed two of the same class of vessels we built for this customer in 2005,” said Vic Breaux, vice president of Breaux Brothers. “That’s five vessels in two years, and we will be building another eight vessels for ECO in 2008 and 2009, although dimensions have not been finalized,” Breaux added.

Fast Tempo and its sister ships are ECO designs with additional engineering by Tim Graul Marine Design, Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Graul also took care of the regulatory approvals. All of these ECO vessels are classed by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), said Mark Pudlo, chief naval architect for Graul.

The ABS approvals are important for several reasons beyond the added assurance that the systems will perform under the rugged conditions offshore. “We are an international company and work all over the world, and ABS is an international standard for vessel certification,” said Lonnie Thibodeaux, director of communications for ECO. “Three of these new fast supply boats — Fast Dutra, Fast Trader and Fast Vinicius — will be working under contract for Petrobras in Brazil.”

Fast Tempo and other crew/supply boats that Breaux Brothers is building for ECO boast a 98-by-26-foot cargo deck that can hold 285 long tons of cargo on a 2,548-square-foot deck. Total deadweight tonnage is 370 long tons.


The 160-foot vessel under construction at the Breaux Brothers shipyard in Loreauville, La. It can carry 80 passengers and has a crew of 10. [Larry Pearson]
“All of the crew supply vessels we have built in the last several years have had the word ‘fast’ as the first word of the vessel name, symbolic of the importance we place on timely deliveries,” said Nathan Curole, operations manager of the Crew Boat Division of ECO. “We have also dropped the word ‘crew’ from our description of these vessels, opting instead for fast supply vessels.”

The importance of the supply mission for these vessels has grown over the past few years. “Delivering liquid and deck cargo in a timely manner is critical for our customers, and so it is very important for us to have the equipment in our fleet that can do this job,” said Roger White, senior vice president of ECO.

A fast, heavy hauler is a good description of Fast Tempo. It can make 28 knots with 30 tons of cargo and 26.5 knots with 150 tons. Below decks it can carry 23,655 gallons of fuel and 36,293 gallons of rig water, and it can pump both liquids from the boat to a rig at 240 gallons per minute with 140 feet of head.

The main cabin can hold 80 passengers. There are berths for 10 crew in the hull.

Main propulsion for Fast Tempo is a quartet of Caterpillar 3512B HD diesels rated at 1,675 hp at 1,600 rpm. The engines power 54-by-60-inch propellers through ZF gears. Electrical generation is supplied by a pair of John Deere 80-kW gen sets.

One of the more unusual features of Fast Tempo is the inclusion in the design of two bow thrusters. The forward thruster is a Thrustmaster 30-inch tunnel-type driven by a 200-hp Caterpillar C-9 engine. Just aft of that is another 30-inch Thrustmaster tunnel unit driven off the starboard main engine.

“This setup gives us the ability to certify this boat as DP-2 if we chose to in the future,” Curole said. “With the bow thrusters in place, these 160-foot vessels have outstanding maneuverability for today’s needs, and we don’t have to take them out of service to add a bow thruster if we want to do DP-2,” Curole added.

Steering is electrical over hydraulic with two Huber 5 hp hydraulic pumps and independent control of the rudders. There are three steering stations on Fast Tempo — one at the front helm, one at the aft station and one in the engine room.

There have been significant electronics upgrades in the pilothouse of Fast Tempo from earlier vessels Breaux Brothers built for ECO. On the communications side, the showcase is a JRC GMDSS suite for medium frequency and high frequency communications for areas more than 150 miles offshore.

The vessels have two mounted VHF radios and three hand-held VHF units.


The boat’s cargo deck is 98 by 26 feet and can accomodate 285 long tons. Below decks the boat can carry over 36,000 gallons of rig water and over 23,600 gallons of fuel. Total deadweight tonnage is 370 long tons. [Courtesy Edison Chouest Offshore]
The navigation gear includes a Furuno DS-80 Speed and Distance Measuring Equipment unit (SDME) and a Bridgemate X-Pack AIS unit that meets IMO standards. As with all offshore vessels, a loud hailer, sounder and Navtex unit are onboard. Electronic safety equipment includes a SART and an EPIRB.


The vessel is also equipped for firefighting with a Crane Deming fire pump feeding a 1,200-gpm fire monitor.

The Fast series are real workhorses, according to Curole. “We use them to supply drilling rigs and production platforms.” It is not often mentioned, but a significant use of fast supply vessels is to carry cargo going back to shore.

“And of course, those 80 passenger seats are very handy during the June-October time period when the Gulf is apt to see several hurricanes,” Curole said. “Hurricane evacuation is mostly done by crew/supply boats. Supply boats are too slow and helicopters are often grounded by the high winds as hurricanes approach,” Curole said.

It is likely that the new series of ECO fast supply boats built in 2008 and 2009 will be larger than the current 160-foot series. Many competitive vessels are 175 feet and longer, so it is understandable that Chouest might enlarge the new crew/supply boats to carry more cargo while keeping speed above 25 knots.

By Professional Mariner Staff