Shipbuilding News October 2009

More money for the ferry industry

For the second time in less than three months, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is playing Santa Claus to the ferry industry. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has announced more than $42 million in grants to improve ferry service and build new docks and other facilities in 15 states and Puerto Rico. This totals $110 million for the year, an amount exceeding the $100 million in small shipyard grants awarded in August with funds appropriated under the federal economic stimulus bill.  

The top three awards were for $3 million each. Two of those were for new ferries in Puerto Rico and San Francisco. In addition to those three, there were seven other awards above $1 million, all involving new/renovation ferry construction or engines for existing ferries.

  Among those was a grant for a new ferry for San Juan County, Puerto Rico ($2.1 million), Calhoun and Jersey counties in Illinois ($1.8 million), $2.4 million for an oil barge for the Staten Island Ferry in New York, plus $2.3 million to replace diesel engines for Washington State Ferries.

Kitsap County in Washington received a grant for $1.4 million for an additional ferry. 

Coming in with awards at just less than $1 million were: Suffolk County in Massachusetts, Saline and Howard counties in Missouri, and Vashon Island, Wash. Each received $950,000. 

In addition, there were several awards for terminal and dock construction and a wake study in Washington, each exceeding $1 million.  

To put this in perspective, it is important to note that all of these new construction projects are for relatively small ferries, possibly a barge and a pushboat. By way of comparison, this column also chronicles the awarding of a single-vessel ferry contract for North Carolina DOT for $13 million. These ferry awards are for smaller vessels, but nonetheless badly needed in the areas they serve. 

For the shipbuilding industry, these new projects won't break new ground technologically, but are coming just at the right time to moderate the effects of the recession on the ferry industry as a whole, and the projects could make the difference between staying open and closing for many smaller shipyards.

From a timing standpoint, expect many of these projects to be in the shipyards by the beginning of 2010. No doubt much of this construction has already been designed, but was waiting for funding. 


Bender to be sold

Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Company of Mobile, Ala., already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since July, will be sold and a new owner is expected onboard by mid-December.  

Bender sought bankruptcy protection when three creditors tried to force liquidation. The company has six repair/new construction yards, three dry docks and other shipbuilding equipment located on 26 acres of land on the Mobile waterfront with 3,300 feet of deepwater frontage.

No minimum bid has been announced, but one is likely to emerge soon. A steel fabricating center and a Mexican shipyard will be the subject of separate auctions.


The beat goes on at Conrad Industries

Conrad Industries Inc. of Morgan City, La., continues to deliver vessels and book new projects at a high rate, recession or not. The backlog as of June 30, 2009 was $40 million and the company just signed a $13 million contract for a new 156-foot split hopper barge for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 "This vessel will work from Maine to Florida on coastal dredging projects once it is delivered in the second quarter of 2011," said Johnny Conrad, president of the yard that also includes Orange Shipbuilding in Orange, Texas; Conrad Deepwater, a vessel dry dock facility specializing in repair/regulatory work on deepwater supply boats in Amelia, La., and Conrad Aluminum, builder of aluminum vessels, also in Amelia.

Also under construction at the Morgan City shipyard is a 260-foot crane barge, an 80-foot pontoon bridge, a 60-foot anchor barge, five inland barges of less than 5,000 gross tons, a pair of 297-foot tank barges and an 88-foot inland towboat. 

Orange Shipbuilding has been awarded a $13 million contract for a Sound-class ferry to be delivered to the North Carolina DOT by June 2011. 

The company recently delivered a pair of ferries, the ro/ro passenger/vehicle ferry John W. Johnson to the Texas DOT and Cayo Blanco, an all-aluminum fast ferry for Puerto Rico.


500-ton crane on a lift boat? 

It's true. Real lifting power is coming to lift boats courtesy of Montco Offshore of Galliano, La. In the fourth quarter of this year, a yet to be named shipyard will start cutting steel on a 325-foot leg class lift boat mounting a 500-ton work crane.

"This boat will be diesel-electric powered by a couple of Caterpillar C 3516 engines rated at 2,500 kW each," said Dr. Joe Orgeron, chief technology officer for Montco. "With this power setup we can use z—drives for propulsion power and drive all our hydraulic pumps with electric motors."

In addition, a pair of Caterpillar C32 engines adds 1,820 kW to the electrical power. 

The real star of this lift boat will be its crane. At 500 tons MontcoSaurus will have twice the power of any other lift boat crane in the Gulf. "We will now be able to lift an entire well jacket with this power," Orgeron said.

The vessel will be a record-setter in many categories. There will be accommodations for 102 workers, for example, a Berg 400-kW tunnel bow thruster and a maximum working water depth of 260 feet.

"Because of the size of the vessel, I doubt if any workboat shipyard will get this contract," Orgeron added. Delivery is expected in 2011.


Swiftships continues to build vessels for foreign customers

Swiftships LLC, a Morgan City, La., shipyard has been building patrol boats for foreign interests since the early 1970s. Recently the yard signed a contact with the Iraq Navy for nine 35-meter patrol boats with an April 2012 delivery for the last in the series. 

The contract is worth $181 million. The yard has built patrol boats for countries around the world. It recently finished up a lot of six patrol boats for Egypt and are also building a pair for Ecuador and four for the Dominican Republic. 


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.

By Professional Mariner Staff