Shipbuilding News October 2010

Cleveland Ship bids for Grumman shipbuilding systems

Cleveland Ship LLC has tendered an offer for the shipbuilding unit of Northrop Grumman Corp., in Los Angeles. The exact amount of the multibillion-dollar bid was not disclosed. 

Cleveland Ship was formed three years ago to build a new class of U.S. Navy oilers. The Northrop ship division is worth as much as $4.6 billion, based on data compiled by Bloomberg in July. The unit’s biggest asset is Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Newport News, which employs 20,000 people and is the nation’s only yard capable of building nuclear aircraft carriers and one of two that builds nuclear submarines.

Also the unit consists of Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., and Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans plus two smaller facilities on the West Coast.

Earlier, Cleveland Ship wanted to buy the Avondale yard because of pending congressional action to accelerate the timetable for Avondale to build a new class of double-hulled oilers for the Navy worth $8 billion. When that did not happen, Cleveland Ship offered to buy Northrop Grumman’s entire shipbuilding division, an offer announced in a 22-page news release on Oct. 5. A report of the offer appeared in Defense News the same day.

Northrop Grumman has announced that its Avondale yard would close in 2013 after two more Navy ships were built and production shifted to Ingalls.


Bollinger awarded four more Sentinel-class cutters

It looks like more of the same for Bollinger Shipyards, of Lockport, La. The yard has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Coast Guard for four additional Sentinel-class 154-foot Fast Response Cutters (FRC), bringing the contract to eight vessels.

The Coast Guard intends to build up to 34 FRCs. If the past is prologue for the Coast Guard and Bollinger, all 34 will be built at Bollinger along with possible contract add-ons. The Marine Protector series of 87-foot patrol boats started out as 32 vessels, then grew to 56 and will be completed at 74 patrol boats. 

The first FRC in the series is Bernard C. Webber, which has a November 2010 launch date and a second quarter 2011 delivery.

This series will feature a stern-launched and recoverable RIB that was also featured on the Marine Protector class of patrol boats.

In other news from Bollinger, the company recently delivered a 60,000-barrel barge built to OPA 90 standards. The customer is Bouchard Ocean Services, of Melville, NY. This was the 13th OPA 90 barge built by Bollinger for Bouchard and the 59th such barge delivered by Bollinger to the industry. The company also has three sludge barges under construction for New York City.


Chesapeake Shipbuilding constructing river cruise vessel

Cruising on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers may return in August 2012 as American Cruise Lines (ACL), of Guilford, Conn., will reintroduce inland river cruises following many of the same routes once plied by three vessels operated by Majestic America Line, of Seattle — Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen and American Queen.

ACL’s shipbuilding subsidiary Chesapeake Shipbuilding, located in Salisbury, Md., is building a new 140-passenger vessel for its parent.  It will be a paddle wheeler, but not steam powered like the three Queens. All three of the Queens, plus the barge/tug Explorer, which ran similar routes, ceased operations in 2008 and there have been no inland river cruises since.

The three Queens, plus three additional cruise vessels in the Pacific Northwest (Queen of the West, Empress of the North and Columbia Queen), were all owned and operated by Majestic America Lines. After the 2008 season, all six were shut down. Since that time, ACL has purchased Queen of the West. After extensive renovations to the boat, ACL is operating the vessel on its previous routes on the Snake and Columbia rivers. Delta Queen was sold and has become a riverside hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn. Mississippi Queen was scrapped. American Queen, with her $30 million mortgage, was returned to MarAd and is currently tied up in the MarAd reserve fleet in Beaumont, Texas. 

 Empress of the North and Columbia Queen have also been returned to MarAd and are in a storage facility located near Seattle.

Four months after Majestic America Lines shut down its six vessels, RiverBarge Excursion Lines unexpectedly ceased operations of River Explorer and it has been returned to MarAd who held the mortgage on the vessel.

 The yet-unnamed boat being built by Chesapeake will conduct seven-day cruises beginning in New Orleans on Aug. 11, 2012, to Memphis and then working up the Mississippi River to St. Paul back down the Mississippi River to St. Louis, onto the Ohio River and then back to New Orleans in December.

Chesapeake also builds vessels outside of the cruise boats for parent ACL. The yard recently launched the fifth of six tugboats for Vane Brothers of Baltimore. These 94-foot vessels are powered by a pair of Caterpillar 3512B main engines rated at a combined 3,000 hp. Named Oyster Creek, the 32-foot beam vessel is equipped with a hydraulic single-drum winch made by JonRie InterTech of New Jersey.


Existing yards build new facilities

In a sign of recovery from the recession, the successful yards are opening new facilities. Gulf Craft LLC, of Patterson, La. will have a new address next year as the most successful builder of crew/supply vessels opens a much larger yard, a few miles from the Bayou Teche site it has occupied since 1975. 

The company has not formally announced the new yard, but photos from a key company executive show that site work has begun.

Another successful shipyard, Leevac LLC, of Jennings, La., is expanding to a second yard, devoted to repair work. The new yard is located in Lake Charles, La., about 32 miles west from the Jennings facility. On a 10-acre tract at the Lake Charles Turning Basin, this facility gives the yard a much higher air draft for large ships and is only 23 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. 

Gulf Island Fabrication, of Houma, La., has been a successful oil/gas production platform builder for decades. A couple of years ago, the company entered shipbuilding by hiring Bobby Barthel, a yard manager with a local competitor. Soon after came orders from AEP and others for tugboats. 

Now the company is expanding its production facilities to the tune of $27 million to keep up with customer demand.  


Gladding-Hearn delivers pilot boat to Galveston

In the last decade no one has built more pilot boats than Gladding-Hearn, of Somerset, Mass. The latest delivery is Galveston, a 70-foot-long, 21-foot-wide aluminum vessel designed with a deep-V hull to handle the unique swells and chop of the waters in the Galveston-Texas service area served by the Galveston-Texas City Pilots.

The vessel also has a top speed of 30 knots.


Three shipyards building towboats for FMT

It is taking the combined efforts of three shipyards to satisfy the towboat needs of Florida Marine Transporters, of Mandeville, La.

From 2006 to 2008, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, of Panama City, Fla., has delivered 32 vessels and has 18 more to construct in 2009 to 2010.  

John Bludworth Shipyard, of Corpus Christi, Texas, has built six and Horizon Shipbuilding, of Bayou La Batre, Ala., is in the middle of building 10 with deliveries out to 2011.

While towboat building is down industry wide for the last three years, Florida Marine Transporters is among a growing number of shipyards and marine operators who have said, “I must have been out of town the day the recession happened.”


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