Maritime News and Comment

June 2006

   CONRAD TO BUILD THREE MORE LIFT BOATS Conrad Industries has announced that Offshore Marine Contractors has increased the number of lift boats that it has on order from Conrad from three to six.  No indication of price or delivery.  June 30, 2006.

   U.S. SHIPPING STILL NEGOTIATING U.S. Shipping Partners L.P. has revealed that it has extended its slot reservations at an unnamed shipyard - believed to be not a hundred miles from San Diego - through July 30.  Silly people.  Read their 8-K here.  June 30, 2006.

   GAO SLAMS FRC PROGRAMThe General Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report on the Coast Guard's Fast Response Cutter (FRC) program that is discouraging reading.  First, it seems that Integrated Coast Guard systems (Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems) have now spent $25.7mm on trying to design a composite FRC, without success.  Good grief!  What do they do with the money?  The argument for the use of composites was supposed to be savings in weight and cost, but guess what?  Of course, the real argument was that No Good Ship Systems had built a special-purpose shipyard in which to build composite FRCs and needed to put it to work.  Read the GAO's report here.  June 29, 2006.

   BOLLINGER GETS THIRD LCSLockheed Martin has announced that the Navy has executed an option on its current contract with LMT for construction of a second littoral combat ship, which will be LCS 3, since GD is building LCS 2.  The total value of the option is $198mm.  The ship will be built for LMT by Bollinger Shipyards at its Lockport LA facility and delivered in 2009.  Read Lockheed's announcement here.  June 28, 2006.

   CONNAUGHTON TO BE MARITIME ADMINISTRATORThe President has nominated Sean Connaughton to be Maritime Administrator.  Connaughton is a Kings Pointer (surprise, surprise) and a lawyer.  He's been a fixture on the Washington maritime scene for decades and has also been politically very active, being the current Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and last year's unsuccessful candidate for Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia.  Read the White House's announcement here.  June 28, 2006.

   NCL AMERICA STILL GETTING MIXED REVIEWSTwo years after its start-up, the US-flag, US-crewed ships of NCL America still have problems, according to the authoritative web site "Cruise Critic".  Read their review here.  June 28, 2006.

   DALIAN TO BUILD THIRD JACK-UP FOR NOBLE.  Noble Drilling has ordered a third Friede & Goldman jack-up from China's Dalian Shipyard. The price is said to be $190mm and delivery is in the first quarter of 2009.  Read Noble's announcement here June 28, 2006.

   PORT OF HUENEME CLOSEDThe reefer terminal at the Port of Hueneme was closed yesterday after a bomb threat was found in the hold of the banana boat "Wild Lotus", which had brought a cargo from Guatemala.  Read the report in the LA Times here.  No actual bomb was found, however, and the port is now back in business, but the event highlights the degree to which false alarms can disrupt life almost as much as real threats.  June 27, 2006.

   TWO STOWAWAYS FOUND DEAD IN MIAMITwo of four stowaways from the Dominican Republic were dead when a 40-foot container was opened in the Port of Miami yesterday and the other two are now in hospital.  The four were found on the ro-ro ship "Seaboard Trader", which serves Haiti and the Dominican Republic from Miami.  No announcement from the Coast Guard on this either.  June 27, 2006.

   TOWBOAT SINKS ON MISSISSIPPIThe towboat "Jeck" has apparently sunk in the Mississippi River, near Myrtle Grove LA, after being struck by the 37,000-dwt chemical carrier "Stolt Perseverance".  Strangely, no announcement from the Coast Guard.  June 27, 2006.

   MANAGEMENT CHANGES AT ABSBob Kramek will retire as President and COO of ABS at the end of the year, as will Bud Roth as Chief of Staff.  Kramek will be replaced by Chris Wiernicki, who is currently President of ABS Europe, and Roth by Todd Grove, who is currently President of ABS Americas.  No word of a replacement for Wiernicki but Grove will be replaced by retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral Tom Gilmour.  Read the Bureau's announcement here.  No mention in the public announcement of a new CFO but an internal announcement refers to notification of that appointment and of the replacement for Wiernicki "in the coming months".  June 26, 2006.

   LAST POLAR TANKER LEAVES AVONDALEThe last of the five 140,000-dwt Alaskan-trade tankers to be built for Polar Tankers by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems at its Avondale shipyard, left the shipyard today, presumably destined for Pascagoula.  The future "Polar Enterprise" was contracted for in February 2001 and was originally supposed to have been delivered in August 2004.  Five years and four months and she's not finished yet!  She looks a tad incomplete - naked even - in the accompanying photograph, provided by one of our many loyal readers in Nawlins, but that's no surprise considering that the third ship in the series had to be taken to Grand Bahama Dry Dock for final painting and completion and the fourth to Cianbro in Portland ME.  Is this the end of the line for Avondale?  Will we now see an acceleration in the shifting of the LPD 17 program to Pascagoula and a gradual winding down in New Orleans?  What will Northrop Grumman tell the Governor of Louisiana?  June 26, 2006.



   PCTC GROUNDS IN PORT CANAVERALA Panamanian-flag car carrier, the "Shenandoah Highway", operated by K Line, grounded in the Port Canaveral approach channel early yesterday, but has since been floated off and is being inspected for damage.  Read the Coast Guard's announcement hereJune 26, 2006.

   NASSCO LAUNCHES T-AKE 2NASSCO launched the second of the Navy's "Lewis and Clark" class of combat support ships on Saturday, the future USNS "Sacagawea", (T-AKE 2).  The new ship will be delivered some time in the first quarter of 2007.  Read GD's announcement on its web site here.  See the accompanying photo.  June 26, 2006.

   MARINETTE WIN OF RB(M) CONFIRMEDThe Coast Guard has confirmed its award of the production contract for the Response Boat (Medium) program to Manitowoc Corporation's Marinette Marine.  The contract is valued at about $600mm and provides for construction of up to 180 (according to the Coast Guard) or up to 250 (according to Manitowoc) 45-foot, 45-knot boats.  Six boats will be built and tested in the first program year, followed by full-scale production of 30 boats a year from 2008 through 2013.  Marinette will be supported by Kvichak Marine, of Seattle WA, in this program: Kvichak built the winning prototype and will build all six LRIP boats.  Thereafter, the program will be split between Marinette and Kvichak.  Read the Coast Guard's announcement here.  Read Manitowoc's announcement hereJune 24, 2006.

   DAEWOO TO BUILD DRILL SHIP.  Norsk Hydro has contracted with Transocean for the services of a new enhanced-Enterprise-class deep-water drill ship, which will be built by Daewoo Shipbuilding.  The contract price is said to be around $615mm and delivery in mid-2009.  Read Transocean's announcement here June 23, 2006.

   AKER BUYS KLEVEN FLORO.  Continuing to feed its apparently insatiable need for growth but ignoring a number of unpalatable precedents, Aker Yards has now bought Kleven Floro, the Norwegian shipyard that specializes in chemical carriers and associated company Kleven Design.  Read Aker's announcement here June 23, 2006.

   NASSCO AND US SHIPPING IN DEAL?  Rumors abound that NASSCO is about to announce a deal with U.S. Shipping Partners for the construction of a series of Jones Act product carriers.  The big event this Saturday when they launch T-AKE 2 might be the occasion.  Question #1: exactly how expensive will these ships be?  Question #2: has GD's management lost its mind?  Question #3: is GD going to finance them as well?  Question #4: if so, see question #2.  Let's face it, U.S. Shipping Partners is not in the same league as OSG, although its management, renowned for its modesty, probably thinks it is, and NASSCO's chances of getting even half-way competitive with Aker Philly or the other second-tier yards are slim to none.  June 22, 2006.

   ONLY IN NEW ORLEANSA New Orleans politician has come up with a really wizard scheme: fill the Mississippi Gulf Outlet with old ships.  Quick, someone call MARAD.  Read the story hereJune 22, 2006.

   NNS DELIVERS "TEXAS", EB CHRISTENS "HAWAII"Progress of a sort on the "Virginia"-class program.  Northrop Grumman Newport News has finally delivered the second boat of the class, the USS "Texas", (SSN 775).  Read Northrop Grumman's ridiculous press release here: it's so upbeat, anyone might think that they had delivered early and under budget.  (Note to  the NG PR people: submarines are boats, not ships.)  Meanwhile, Electric Boat has christened the third boat of the class, USS "Hawaii", (SSN 776).  Read GD's announcement hereJune 21, 2006.

   NASSCO DELIVERS T-AKE 1NASSCO has delivered the first of the Navy's new class of combat support ships, USNS "Lewis and Clark", (T-AKE 1), and will launch the second ship this Saturday, the  future USNS "Sacagawea", (T-AKE 2).  Read GD's announcement here.  The delivery was celebrated in an unusual way: NASSCO employees and subcontractors and Navy personnel ordered and presumably consumed 13,500 Papa John's pizzas, believed to be a new Guinness record!  June 21, 2006.

   FOUR VICTORY SHIPS TO BE SCRAPPEDThe Maritime Administration has contracted for the demolition of four Victory ships with Marine Metal, Inc., and All Star Metal, Inc., both in Brownsville TX, the U.S. answer to the beaches of Alang.  Read MARAD's announcement here.  The four ships are "Hannibal Victory" and "Barnard Victory" (both built by Kaiser's Richmond #2 yard - hull #s 579 and 742), and "Sioux Falls Victory" and "Occidental Victory" (both built by California Shipbuilding - hull #s V36 and V68).  All four of these old ladies are in the NDRF anchorage in Suisun Bay and will have to be towed through the Panama Canal to get them to Brownsville, which should be interesting.  And don't even think about asking why we still have Victory ships in the Reserve Fleet, 60 years after WWII.  June 21, 2006.

   NEW U.S. CRUISE LINEThe parent company of America West Steamboat, which owns the "Empress of the North" and "Queen of the West", and which recently bought the bankrupt Delta Queen Steamboat, owner of the "Delta Queen", "Mississippi Queen" and "American Queen", has combined them all into a single company, called Majestic America Line.  June 21, 2006.

   FRONTLINE TANKER EXPLODES.  The crude carrier that last month spilled 2,000 gallons of crude oil at the Tesoro terminal in Hawaii, the 150,000-dwt "Front Sunda", exploded near Singapore on Sunday, with the loss of at least one crew member.  No statement from Frontline, however, despite the tanker industry's new-found enthusiasm for improving its public relations.  June 21, 2006.

   "CUT STEEL, FLOAT BOATS"The new Commandant, ADM Thad Allen, is quoted as saying just that.  Read the Coast Guard's news release here.  Let's hope he can get his people to see sense on the Fast Response Cutter and get it out of NGSS and into the shipyards that know how to build such things.  Read also the Commandant's interview with Navy Times, here, in which he says, among other things, " We don’t want to be the world’s second-best navy. We’re the world’s best coast guard ....."   June 20/26, 2006.

   MAJOR FIRE AT ODENSE.  In yet another scoop for this web site, we can report that a post-panamax containership under construction at A. P. Moller's Odense Shipyard, in Lindo, Denmark, experienced a major fire on the weekend that has essentially destroyed the entire superstructure.  One assumes that it started in the engine room and that there's damage down there too.  See some astonishing photographs on the Odense Fire Department's web site, here.  Look in the left-central box, labeled "Indsatsbilleder", and click on the link labeled "09/06-2006 - Skibsbrand, Lindo".  These pictures raise interesting questions about how best to fight fires like this on ships as big as this.  June 12/21, 2006.

   CARNIVAL ORDERS THREE MORE.  In another sign of the continued strong growth of the cruise industry, Carnival Group has ordered three more ships - two at Fincantieri for Costa Cruises and one at Meyer for Aida Cruises.  There are now 27 large cruise ships on order, with deliveries stretching into 2010.  See the complete list hereJune 12, 2006.

   MORE DELAY AT FINCANTIERI.  The state-owned shipbuilder that's reported to be interested in penetrating the U.S. market is demonstrating its qualifications by falling so far behind on the construction of four large ro-pax ferries for Finnlines that the ships will now miss the 2006 season, a major expense for Finnlines.  Read Finnlines announcement hereJune 12, 2006.

   ACL GETS SUBSIDYAmerican Commercial Line, (ACL), owner of the JeffBoat shipyard in Jeffersonville, Indiana, has announced that it is to get $11.3mm in tax breaks from the State of Indiana.  They call it an "economic incentive package" but really it's just a subsidy.  Read the announcement here.  June 9, 2006.

   MORE DELAY AT CDA.  The three LNG carriers being built by Aker France - formerly Chantiers de l'Atlantique (CdA) - have been delayed yet again.  TradeWinds reports that the deliveries are now December 2006 for the "GdF Energy", which was originally to have been delivered in December 2004, October 2006 for the "Provalys", which was originally to have been delivered in October 2005, and March 2007 for the "Gaselys", which was originally to have been delivered in October 2006.  And still nothing substantive from either Gaz de France, Atlantique or GTT on what happened to these ships' containment systems and how they fixed it.  June 9, 2006.

   PIRIOU PLANS.  Not content with its high-risk plan to build a new shipyard in Nigeria, family-owned Chantiers Piriou apparently also plans to build new shipyards in Brazil and Vietnam, and to finance all this it has sold 40% of itself to French leasing company Axa and 40% to Jaccar, the parent company of Bourbon, Piriou's best customer.  June 9, 2006.

   A USE FOR SSBNSRemember SSBNs?  Wondered why we still have 14 of them?  (It was 18 but the first four are being converted to incredibly expensive SEAL-insertion boats.)  Wonder no more.  The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, ADM Giambastiani, wants to replace two of the nuclear missiles on each of these boats with conventional Trident missiles.  Read what he said here.  If this makes sense, why not replace all of them?  Does anyone seriously believe that we are ever going to fire a nuclear missile at anyone?  The whole concept of a nuclear deterrent is redundant.  (That's going to generate some e-mail traffic!)  June 8, 2006.

   ABANDONED SAILBOAT CROSSES PACIFICThe yacht "Chaton de Foi", which was abandoned off Costa Rica in December, has washed ashore in Hawaii, more than 4,500 miles away and six months later - an average speed of about one knot.  Read the Honolulu Advertiser's report here.  Good publicity for whomever designed and built her.  June 8, 2006.

   HORNBECK TURNS TO CIANBROHornbeck Offshore Services, (HOS), has contracted with Cianbro Corporation, of Pittsfield ME, for the conversion of two sulfur carriers to what may be the world's largest offshore service vessels.  Read Cianbro's announcement here.  The work will be done at the former Bath Iron Works repair facility, in Portland ME, and BIW will be a major subcontractor to Cianbro.  Although a relative newcomer to the industry, Cianbro has done a good job of its marine projects to date and BIW certainly knows what it is doing.  Completions are planned for mid- and late-2007, which sounds like a tight schedule to me.  The two ships involved are the former "W. K. McWilliams, Jr." and "Benno C. Schmidt", built by Eastern Shipbuilding in 1992 for Freeport McMoran.  An interesting project, to be followed closely.  June 8, 2006.

   AMERICAN STEAMSHIP IS BUYER OF OGLEBAY NORTON'S FLEETGATX Corporation has revealed that its wholly owned subsidiary, American Steamship Company, is the unnamed buyer to whom Oglebay Norton recently announced the sale of six of its nine remaining lakers.  The price paid was $120mm.  Read the announcement here.  The six ships are the "Middletown" (built by Bethlehem Sparrows Point in 1943), "Armco" (AmShip Lorain, 1953), "Courtney Burton" (AmShip Lorain, 1953), "Oglebay Norton" (Bay Shipbuilding, 1978), "Fred R. White" (Bay Shipbuilding, 1979) and "Columbia Star" (Bay Shipbuilding, 1981).  Historical note: "Middletown" was originally a T-3 tanker, served in WWII as the oiler "Neshanic", (AO 71), was wrecked and declared a total loss in 1958, but here she is, still going.  June 7/8, 2006.

   BATH TO BUILD TANKERS?  Reliable sources say that NASSCO may subcontract some of the series of 13 product carriers that it is planning to build for U.S. Shipping Partners to sister company Bath Iron Works.  Bath can certainly perform - they built the last product carriers of this size, in the early 1980s.  And they have the capacity, given their declining DDG workload and the continued delays in the DD(X) program.  Cost is a concern, of course.  NASSCO's pricing is said to be based on at least ten ships in a contract, as Aker's pricing was.  Can Bath build one or two ships for less than NASSCO requires to build ten?  June 7, 2006.

   NGSS TO FARM OUT A DECKHOUSESince the hugely destructive fire in the deckhouse on DDG 103, Northrop Grumman is apparently looking to arch-enemy General Dynamics to provide them with a complete deckhouse and associated main deck structure.  What's the matter with their own facility that they can't build one themselves, or is it, in fact, much more messed up than they admit?  June 7, 2006.

   BAE OUTDOING NG.  Britain's leading defense contractor, BAE Systems, has revealed that the first of the Royal Navy's new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, to be named HMS "Astute", will be launched in August 2007, only four years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget.  Read the story here.  They even have a senior manager who has the nerve to describe this as "an extraordinary achievement".  A reliable source tells me that the reason that they are so pleased with themselves is that the state of this program today, though bad, is not nearly as bad as they had expected a year or so ago, and that the reason for this is the presence in BAE's Barrow shipyard of a red-hot project management team from Electric Boat.  I'm speechless.  June 6/7, 2006.

   FINCANTIERI IN PHILADELPHIA?  Carried away by Aker Philadelphia's obvious success, Fincantieri, the Italian shipbuilding conglomerate that is owned by the Italian government, is reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer to be considering the desirability of taking over Metro Machine's lease at the former Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard, which includes a Panamax graving dock.  Are these people deranged or what?  But do we really want more foreigners operating our priceless defense assets?  Of course, a company owned by the Government of Italy is not a risk, like a company owned by the Government of Dubai, or is it?  Read the Inquirer's article here June 5, 2006.

   ACQUISITION REFORM AT WORKJust in case you thought that the Navy was really interested in improving its contracting performance, read the DefenseLink announcement here that begins "The U.S. Navy is awarding indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award contracts".  251 10-year contracts, valued at an average of $5.3 billion a year (in total, that is, thank goodness).  And get this: "These contracts were competitively procured ...... with 253 offers received and 251 contracts awarded."  That's competition?  When, if ever, is the Navy going to be called to account for this nonsense?  June 5, 2006.

   NGSS GETS FUNDING FOR TWO MORE LPDSNaval Sea Systems Command, (NAVSEA), has exercised options on its contract with Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, (NGSS), for the detail design and construction of LPDs 22 and 23, plus advance procurement for LPD 24.  The total value is $2.491 billion, which would be too much for four LPDs, but, hey, this is Northrop Grumman we're talking about and it's only the taxpayers' money, isn't it?  Read the DefenseLink announcement here June 5, 2006.

   DAVIE BACK FROM THE BRINK.  For the umpteenth time in its roller-coaster history, Quebec's Davie shipyard has apparently been rescued from liquidation.  Read the report in the Montreal Gazette here.  Quebec shiprepairer Navamar has teamed with Norway's Teco Management to do a deal with the bankruptcy trustee.  The business plan is centered on jack-up construction.  Can these guys succeed where so many others have failed?  Let's hope so.  June 5, 2006.

   TWO MORE NDRF SHIPS GO FOR SCRAPMARAD has sold two more NDRF ships for scrap: the latest to go are the "Allison Lykes" and the "Mallory Lykes".  These two ships were originally built in 1964 by ingalls (hulls 483 and 485) as the breakbulk cargo ships "Mormacvega" and "Mormacrigel" , then jumboized and converted to containerships in 1982 by Tampa Shipyards.  Read MARAD's announcement here June 1, 2006.

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