2010 at the halfway mark
We now have about six months of deliveries and newly issued contracts for Americaâ€™s commercial shipyards for 2010. The results are better than most would have expected. Many dire predictions were issued, but few, if any, came to pass. No major shipyards have closed, although Bender Shipbuilding did change hands. SkipperLiner Industries did close, but for the last year the yard built only a few aluminum houseboats and excursion/dinner boats.
Market segment has been a good predictor of success. In crew/supply boats, it seemed to help if you have been building vessels for the same customer for a long time. The Gulf Craft-Seacor relationship and the Breaux Brothers Enterprises-Edison Chouest Offshore liaison has meant continued work for these two yards. Other yards are struggling just to stay open. Still only about 15 vessels will be delivered in 2010, about eight fewer than in 2009.
Supply boat yards are doing at least even with their 2009 performance, when 46 vessels were delivered. It is a mixture of delivering large multivessel contracts from 2008, such as Leevac Industries and Atlantic Marine with their series of 240-foot and 250-foot vessels for Hornbeck Offshore Services.
The various shipyards of Edison Chouest Offshore had another record-breaking year, with 20 vessels delivered, including 280-foot supply boats and tractor tugs. Soon the companyâ€™s yards will turn to building 300-foot supply boats of a new design, not a 20-foot stretch of the 280s.
The supply boat business has been buoyed by multivessel orders from Gulf Offshore Logistics, Aries Marine and Harvey Gulf International Marine. Shipyards receiving these orders are Thoma-Sea Ship Builders, VT Halter Marine and Eastern Shipbuilding Group respectively.
Bollinger Shipyards will finish the last three of an eight-vessel order for BeeMar LLC later this year. While there have not been any more announced supply boats in Bollingerâ€™s immediate future, they represent another important key to shipyard workforce sustainability, and that is diversification.
The ability to build commercial and U.S. Coast Guard vessels across a wide spectrum of ship types will keep Bollinger busy. For example, the company has a contract to build three sludge ships for New York City and even more importantly a contract from the Coast Guard to begin a program of building 154-foot aluminum patrol boats. So far the company has in-house orders for four of these fast, nimble craft, but the expectation is the company will build over 50, stretching the contract out for a decade. That is what happened to the contract for the Marine Protector Class of 87-foot patrol boats. A small contract led to eventual purchase of 76 vessels, two of which are still under construction.
Landing multivessel Coast Guard contracts is also a specialty of Kvichak Marine and Marinette Marine. They each build small patrol boats for the Coast Guard and were recently awarded an additional nine such vessels. These contracts supplement commercial orders for other vessels.
Eastern Shipbuilding Group, of Panama City, Fla., has the most diverse order book among all commercial shipyards. It has two shipyards. In Panama City, Eastern is building a pair of ferries, two tugs, two platform supply vessels, an anchor handler and six large supply boats. In Bayou La Batre, Ala., 10 push boats are being built.
Bollinger is an example of another trend that helps keep a decent backlog. That is having repair services available along with new construction. Bollinger has over 40 dry docks for repair projects and is building new ones to keep up with the demand for its repair services. This type of diversity keeps shipyards busy with very profitable work. The recent shipyard grant programs have favored yards that want to update their repair equipment with cranes, travel lifts and dry docks.
Many shipyards that build ferryboats also fit into the category of diversified builders that build other steel/aluminum craft such as Conrad Industries, VT Halter Marine, Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders and All American Marine. Ferries seem a good play for 2011, as government grants to shipyards and to the ferry systems directly are bound to result in new, profitable business.
Bottom line is that building a diverse portfolio of commercial vessels seems to keep order books full.
Geo continues to build specialized vessels
Geo Shipyard is located in New Iberia, La., in an area full of offshore oil companies and other small shipyards. Geoâ€™s 2010 order book includes Crustacean, a 34-foot vessel for the state of Mississippi Dept. of Marine Research. The vessel, powered by twin 225-hp outboard engines monitors the size and count of shrimp and crab in Mississippi waterways. The vessel has trolling equipment to draw samples from the water.
Geo also built Redlinger and Elton, a pair of 60-foot catamaran survey ships for the Portland, Ore., district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a 38-foot all-aluminum catamaran for search-and-rescue use by the Calcasieu Parish, La., Sheriffâ€™s Department.
Towboat construction keeps several shipyards busy
The towboat/tug business is down in 2010, but several shipyards remain busy with these vessels. Horizon Shipbuilding, of Bayou La Batre, is building eight 140-foot vessels for Florida Marine Transporters.
American Electric Power (AEP) continues to build pushboats and hopper barges to feed its coal-burning power plants. B&B Boat Builders, of Bayou La Batre, has three 1,500-hp vessels left to complete on an 18-vessel contract and five 6,000-hp vessels are being built for AEP by Marine Builders, of Utica, Ind.
Raymond & Associates, also of Bayou La Batre, is building six towboats of various sizes for Kirby Marine.
Dakota Creek Industries another prime example of vessel diversification
Dakota Creek Industries, of Anacortes, Wash., diversifies its shipbuilding in a big way. The shipbuilder builds huge vessels. In 2010, it will deliver Cade Candies, a near sister ship to Ross Candies, a 309-foot inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) vessel, for Otto Candies and complete the first of three 16,300-hp ATB tugs for Crowley Maritime in 2011.
About the Author:
Larry Pearson has been covering the maritime industry since 1981. His work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including Marine Log, Diesel Progress, WorkBoat, Professional Mariner and American Ship Review. He published his own magazine, Passenger Vessel News, from 1991 to 1998. A graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism and a minor in mechanical engineering, he lives in the New Orleans area.