Shipbuilding News April 2009

by Larry Pearson

Details of small shipyard grants

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) has announced details of the Supplemental Grants and Assistance to Small Shipyards program that is a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, otherwise known as the Stimulus Bill.

According to a MarAd press release, the grants will total $98 million with $2 million for administration of the program. The grants will be used for capital improvements at qualified shipyards to foster efficient, competitive operations and quality ship construction.

The grants are not to be used for building construction or other physical facilities, or to buy land. Funds may also be used for maritime training to improve technical skills and increase operational productivity among “eligible applicants.”

Grant applications must be received by MarAd by 5:00 p.m. EST on April 20.

Small shipyards are defined as those with no more than 600 production employees. Only 25 percent of the grants will be to shipyards with more than 600 production employees and no awards will be made to shipyards with more than 1200 production employees. Other restrictions state that the shipyard that is applying for a grant must be in a single geographical location in or near a maritime community.

The program administrator will give consideration to economic circumstances and conditions of the maritime community to which a shipyard facility is located and projects that would foster efficiency, competitive operations and quality ship construction, repair and reconfiguration. The maritime administrator will also consider projects that would foster employee skills and enhance productivity.

The program has a matching funds provision. Federal funds for any eligible project will not exceed 75 percent of the total project cost.

Remaining costs must be borne by the applicant and those funds must be paid before payment of federal funds unless waived for good cause. The applicant must also provide detailed financial statements and other supporting documentation.

If the facts indicate that the project cannot be undertaken without a higher amount of federal financial assistance, the maritime administrator may award a grant for that project.

An original copy of the application and seven additional copies shall be submitted to Jean E. McKeever, Associate Administrator for Business and Workforce Development, Room W21-318, Maritime Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.

As always, the devil is in the details of these programs. Will shipyards with multiple locations be able to claim a separate geographical area for each shipyard if locations are only a few miles apart?

Obviously one of the major intents of the program is to give grants to shipyards that are located in economically depressed areas. That would not be a good description of Bayou La Batre, or Mobile, Ala., Houma, Lockport or Loreauville, La., where you can’t walk 100 yards in any direction without finding two pieces of aluminum or steel being welded together.

So it is an open question whether the success of most Southern shipyards will be a problem in landing these grants. While unemployment and economic decline plague the other 49 states, Louisiana continues economic growth largely as a result of shipbuilding.


Gulf Island Marine Fabricators adds shipyard

The Marine Division of Gulf Island Marine Fabricators LLC, Houma, La., has added a panel line and is finishing construction of a dry dock to assist building nine new towboats and other vessels that may be added to the order book.

“We have been in business less than two years and find our order book is such we need to increase our production efficiency and offer dry dock service,” said Bobby Barthel, president of the company.

          The Marine Division is a part of Gulf Island Fabrication Inc., a major offshore and platform builder.

“Our new dry dock has a 9,000-ton capacity and 140 feet between wing walls, so we can handle some big vessels,” Barthel added.


Quality Shipyards building two new platform vessels

The new construction shipyard of Quality Shipyards off Highway 182 in Houma, La. is building a pair of 266-foot platform supply boats for parent company Tidewater Inc. “We also have additional pushboats to build and a strong repair backlog at our other yard,” said Joe R. Badeaux, vice president and general manager of the yard.


Second CrewZer nears completion

The first catamaran crew/supply vessel in the CrewZer series built by Gulf Craft Inc., of Patterson, La., for Seacor Marine, of Houma, La., was an unqualified success. Cheetah received several major industry accolades including Ship of the Year from Professional Mariner’s American Ship Review.

         The second 42-knot vessel will be called Cougar and is scheduled for delivery to Seacor at the end of April 2009.


Bollinger progressing on 210s

Bollinger Shipyards, of Lockport, La., is swiftly moving ahead to sell the 210-foot SOLAS supply boats they are building. “The first one will be ready for sea trials at the end of March,” said Robert Socha, executive vice president and marketing manager of Bollinger. “From that point, one will be available every 12 weeks. Six are in production at the moment and we will probably build eight.”

         “We have had significant interest in sales of multiple units to single customers,” Socha reported. “One foreign oil company is considering buying four and we came close to selling all of them to a single customer, so they may not be on the market long.”


By Professional Mariner Staff