Port Fourchon has reached a significant milestone in the enlargement of its facilities: the completion of dredging of Slip C of its Northern Expansion.
As the primary support base for the offshore oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, Port Fourchon has been steadily expanding to keep pace with the number and size of vessels operating in the Gulf.
“Since 2000, the Northern Expansion has been built with the future in mind to be able to accommodate the larger vessels that we anticipate to come in the next few years,” said Port Director Chett Chiasson. “This is very important.”
With oil and gas companies drilling for oil and gas in the deepwater areas of the Gulf, a new generation of support vessel over 300 feet in length is under development, Chiasson explained. Slip C — and the other two slips in the Northern Expansion — will be able to accommodate these bigger vessels.
HOS Deepwater and other offshore vessels tie up at the Gulf oil industry’s primary marine base.
Slip C is not yet operational. Construction of bulkheads is expected to begin in 2013. The first vessels should be using the new space by the middle of 2014. Full development of the Slip C area may take six to eight years. Total public investment by the port in the project is expected to exceed $75 million. That could attract an additional $260 million in private investment by tenants.
With the completion of the dredging, more than half of the waterfront in Slip C is now ready for development. The 400-acre development will offer 16,300 linear feet of new waterfront space, a 35 percent increase over what is now available at Port Fourchon.
Currently, about 270 large supply vessels come in and out of Port Fourchon on a daily basis.
“With the announcements that the vessel operators have made over the last year regarding their aggressive plans, we anticipate another 40 to 50 300-foot-plus vessels utilizing Port Fourchon within the next three to four years,” said Chiasson.
The new channel — 300 feet wide and 27 feet deep — is comparable in size to the other two slips that comprise the Northern Expansion. Companies will be able to lease up to 280 acres of waterfront property along the new slip. More than half of the waterfront property is promised to companies who have signed leases or rights of first refusal, according to Chiasson.
Robert Socha, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Bollinger Shipyards Inc., is pleased with the new developments at Port Fourchon. His company is expanding its operations in the Northern Expansion area.
He said the additional space will allow Bollinger to expand its dry dock capability and offer a larger machine shop, propeller repair, hydraulic services and armature services. The new slip will also allow Bollinger to expand its services to include drilling rigs, multi-service vessels, supply boats, tugboats, barges and larger vessels.
“We have visited with our customers who use Port Fourchon and they have told there is need for an expanded facility,” said Socha.
Davy LeBlanc, vice president of the Fourchon Terminal with Harvey Gulf International Marine, said the new slip will generate more vitality in the area. “We want to supply more vessels and this will allow us to do that,” he said.
Larry Griffin, president of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission, which oversees Port Fourchon, said, “People believe in our port and the way we do business. We’re leasing our property faster than we can build it. It’s amazing to see the port grow before our eyes.”
The Slip C dredging project has used about half of the dredged material to fill in new property and half in a mitigation area that builds additional habitat areas for wildlife and acts as a barrier to protect Port Fourchon from storm surge, according to Chiasson.