Maritime Memos                                                                                        August 2010


ANOTHER YARD THAT PERFORMS

Signal International's Orange shipyard has delivered two 171-MW power barges to Waller Marine in less than six months from contract award.  Said by Waller to be the largest power barges of their kind in the world, they will go into service in Venezuela next month.  Clearly, Signal's commitment to continuous-flow manufacturing is paying off.  August 30, 2010.

AMFELS DELIVERS JACK-UP

Keppel O & M's US yard, generally known as AMFELS, has delivered the EX-II to Rowan Drilling.  The rig is the second of four heavy-duty jack-ups, capable of operating in 350 ft. of water or more and drilling to a depth of up to 35,000 ft.  Read Keppel's announcement here.  August 30, 2010.

TOWBOAT FOR HORIZON

The Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract for the construction of a towboat to Horizon Shipbuilding, of Bayou La Btre AL.  The contract value is $8.6 million and the contract completion date is 20-Feb-12.  Read the DefenseLink announcement here August 30, 2010.

FIVE YEARS

I drove the length of the Mississippi Gulf Coast last week and it really got me incensed.  Yes, there are new hotels and condo blocks and many of the commercial establishments and restaurants are back in business, but there has been virtually no private residential construction.  Miles of abandoned lots, concrete slabs and weeds.  Five years and the State of Mississippi has still not managed to work out an agreement with the insurance industry.  I guess the Governor is too busy with his insane project to turn the teensy little port of Gulfport into Hong Kong.

Then you drive on to Nawlins and you see all the impressive and attractive new residential construction - nary an abandoned lot anywhere.  But read the papers or watch the TV and it's still all floods of tears over those poor folks in Nawlins, with no mention of the areas where the storm really hit.  A third of the city's population is gone.  Is it coming back?  I don't think so.  I reckon that they've discovered places to live that are not filthy, dirty, incompetently managed, riddled with crime and corruptly policed.  The only things Nawlins has going for it are the tourist attractions - great restaurants, fabulous music and interesting architecture.  Otherwise it's a dump.  August 29, 2010.  P.S.: Anyone want to buy a third of an acre on the beach in Biloxi?

A NEW SHIPYARD OF THE FUTURE

The West Bank shipyard in Pascagoula was called the "Shipyard of the Future" when it was built, back in the 1960s.  It certainly was remarkable: the first wholly new "green field" shipyard built in the U.S. since World War II and state-of-the-art in most respects.  But what's really remarkable is that here we are, 40+ years later, and it's still pretty much our only modern large shipyard, even though it's now clearly a long way from being state-of-the-art, despite all the CapEx that NG has thrown at it.   Other U.S. yards have been expanded and/or modernized and/or created out of old yards, but who's built a wholly new, modern shipyard of any significance?

Well Austal USA, that's who.  I had the tour this week (long overdue) and was pleased, if not too surprised, to find that they are doing just about everything right.  (And they've never retained me to help with anything!)  The facility is terrific and will be doubly so if they get the LCS lead-yard contract, because both the 325m x 105m Module Manufacturing Facility - the big building on the right in the picture above - and the 124m x 82m Building Hall - the building on the left - will then be doubled in size.  The overall layout is a bit strange, because the property straddles the T-junction created by ADDSCO Road and Dunlap Drive, but the use of space is everywhere efficient, and this must be the only Gulf Coast yard with no mud.  The manufacturing system is as we have been preaching for decades - I could go into endless detail here but won't: SNAME needs to get Austal to put on a presentation at its annual Ship Production Symposium.  The whole atmosphere is positive, constructive and upbeat; the workforce is already up to 1600 and with the LCS program it could double; and the place is being run by experienced American shipbuilders - not a single retired admiral or Norwegian to be seen.

I don't know whether Austal or Marinette will win the LCS contract.  What I do know is that U.S. shipbuilding has taken a major step forward with the development of this Austal yard, a "Shipyard of the Future" for a new generation of shipbuilders.  August 28, 2010.

CHOUEST BUYS FAIRWEATHER

Tradewinds reports that the Edison Chouest empire has swallowed up Fairweather LLC, an Anchorage-based offshore operator specializing in the Arctic.  I don't see any formal announcements but I just noticed that this acquisition was reported in the Chouest internal newsletter and I overlooked it.  Visit Fairweather here  Well, that part of the world is the next big boom area for U.S. operators, if the politicians don't shut it down.  August 27, 2010.

ANOTHER FOR BLOUNT

The State of Maine has ordered a ferry from Blount Boats, for service with Casco Bay Line.  The 100-foot, 399-passenger boat will cost $3.4 million and be delivered in the fall of 2011.  August 27, 2010.

BIG SHIP HEADING SOUTH

The submarine tender L. Y. Spear, (AS 36), built at Quincy in 1970, is currently sailing past my window at a stately two knots or so, on her way to the burning torches of Brownsville.  1730 EDT, August 26, 2010.

LAYOFFS AT NORTHROP GRUMMAN

The downturn is under way.  NG is laying off 642 at its Pascagoula yard.  Read the story here August 26, 2010.

THIS EGG BUSINESS

I think we need a six-month moratorium on egg production, don't you?  August 26, 2010.

KINGS POINT GETS A SUPERINTENDENT

At last.  Read the announcement here.  He's retired Navy RADM Philip Greene, who is a KP graduate but has spent his whole career in surface warfare and has no background or experience in the transportation industry, or, in fact, any relevant qualifications at all.  Oh, dear.  August 26, 2010.

LCS DECISION DELAYED

Defense News reports that the LCS contract award has been delayed.  Read the story here.  Well, surprise, surprise.  One can read all kinds of things into this, but let's just wait and see.  August 26, 2010.

MORE TANKER NEWS

I'm told that not only does Chevron not currently plan to scrap the Washington Voyager but it is about to take on another Double Eagle, the Seabulk Pride, which will be renamed the Florida Voyager August 26, 2010.

AND ONE MORE

The Colorado Voyager is definitely in the scrapyard in Brownsville - in this case it's All Star Metals - and the Overseas Diligence, one of the other two GT-powered ships built by Gunderson back when it was owned by FMC, just arrived there.  August 22, 2010.

MAKE THAT FOUR?  FIVE?

We reported recently that Chevron had sent the Arizona Voyager to Esco in Brownsville for scrapping.  Now an eagle-eyed observer has pointed out that her sister ship, the Colorado Voyager, has disappeared from the ABS Record, although she's still in the Coast Guard database.  So I guess she's gone for scrap too.  She was last seen in the Gulf, three weeks ago, heading for Brownsville?  I imagine that the third of these GT-powered ships, the Washington Voyager, will not be far behind, as all three have been replaced by three of Seacor's Double Eagle tankers.  And another eagle-eyed observer reports that the Overseas Philadelphia has also disappeared from the ABS Record and was last seen in the Red Sea in May, so we know where she was going.  Even with all this activity, there are still 13 single-sided product carriers to be OPAed out.  August 21, 2010.

TWO MORE FOR SCRAP

The product carriers SMT One and SMT Two have been OPAed out and gone for scrap.  They were built by Avondale in 1981 as the ITBs Oxy 4101 and Oxy 4103.  (The third vessel of the class, the Oxy 4102, was wrecked in 1981, with the loss of the catug.)  August 20, 2010.

THE CRS LOOKS AT NAVAL SHIPBUILDING AGAIN

The latest edition of the Congressional research service's overview of naval shipbuilding came out this week.  Read it here and see what disarray the Navy is in.  The fundamental questions are:

  • Does OSD endorse the Navyís 313-ship goal?

  • What is the Navyís schedule for performing a new force structure assessment (FSA)?

  • Will this FSA result in a new force-level goal to replace the 313-ship plan?

  • If so, when does the Navy intend to issue the replacement plan?

  • Why has the Navy decided to retain the 313-ship plan, at least for now, when certain elements of Navy ship force planning that have emerged since 2006 appear to diverge from that plan?

There are a whole lot more but you have to get past these before talking details.  August 19, 2010.

TRICO MARINE ON THE WAY OUT?

Trico Marine filed a 10-Q this week which makes depressing reading.  Find it here.  They seem to be headed for the exit.  August 19, 2010.

LEEVAC LOADS UP

Leevac Industries has announced the award of a contract from AET Lightering Services, LLC, for the construction of two 187-foot lightering support vessels, with options for up to six more.  The first delivery is due in October next year.  August 18, 2010.

NEW MATSON SHIPS NOT SO NEW

The first two of the five ships to be deployed on Matson's second China service turn out to be 17 years old.  They are the Cypriot-flagged, 3500-teu CSL Stefanie and CSL Marie, which Matson has chartered in at $18,000 a day each.  Originally built for K Line, as Seto Bridge and Akashi Bridge, they come to Matson from Cyprus Sea Line, who got them from K Line just last year.  Tradewinds reports that Matson has also taken the German-flag Northern Honour and Northern Reliance, for $16,800 a day each.  They are much the same size and age.  One more to find.  Isn't it a wonderful tribute to the vitality of the U.S. maritime industry that ships considered obsolete elsewhere are considered just wonderful by a U.S. shipping company?  August 17, 2010.

103-YEAR-OLD CASINO VESSEL FOR SALE

The Admiral is for sale.  What an opportunity for someone!  This 360-foot beauty was built as a rail ferry by Dubuque Boat & Boiler Works in 1907 and currently serves as the President Casino in St. Louis.  Do we know how to keep old boats going indefinitely, or what?  Heaven forbid that the owners of the Admiral might have to fork out for a replacement!  August 14, 2010.

SERIOUS MONEY FOR THE MLP

The Navy has exercised an option on its contract with NASSCO for the first Mobile Landing Platform, hiking the previous contract value of about $20 million by a more generous $115 million for some LLTM.  Read the DefenseLink announcement here.  Are we actually going to build this ship?  I'm all for channeling some work to NASSCO but for the MLP?  Let's get them to build some new oilers or LMSRs or something that we really know we need.  August 13, 2010.

VT HALTER DELIVERS: OPA 90 RENEWAL WINDING DOWN

VT Halter Marine has delivered the 185,000-barrel tank barge 650-9 and its tug Innovation, to Crowley's Vessel Management Services.  This is the ninth of the 650 series and the 26th double-hull oceangoing tank barge built by either VTHM or its predecessor company over the 20 years since the Act was passed.  VTHM has one more of this size to deliver, and then three 330,000 barrel monsters, and that will be it for OPA 90 fleet renewal.  The four tank barges still under construction at other yards are all supposed to be delivered this year and the last products carriers from Aker and NASSCO should be delivered either this year or next.  In case you were wondering, OPA 90 will have resulted in the construction of nine crude carriers (totaling ~1.5 mdwt), 23 product carriers (~1.0 mdwt) and 115 large tank barges (~2.0 mdwt).  August 13, 2010.

A REPAIR YARD IN TACOMA

Marine Log reports that Vigor Industrial, the parent company of Cascade General, in Portland OR, and Washington Marine Repair, in Port Angeles WA, has bought the old Marine Industries Northwest yard and reopened it as Vigor Marine Tacoma.  August 13, 2010.

FRIEDE & GOLDMAN SOLD FOR $125 MILLION

The world's best designers of offshore drilling rigs, Friede Goldman United Ltd.,  have been sold to Chinese investors for the excellent sum of $125 million.  Read the announcement here.  The buyer is China Communications Construction Company, (CCCC), which controls, among other things, Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, a world leader in the construction of marine cranes and offshore structures.  F&G has gone from strength to strength in the decade since it escaped from the Friede Goldman Halter mess, largely due to smart, energetic and competent leadership.  I assume that some of the guys who made that happen are now rich men.  I hope so.  August 10, 2010.

FEWER ADMIRALS

Noting that the total number of admirals and generals has grown by 100 in the past ten years, Secretary Gates now proposes to reduce that figure by 50.  Read the DoD announcement here.  Good for him, although a reduction of 150 would be even better.  August 10, 2010.

JEFFBOAT REDUCING PRODUCTION

ACL's 10-Q for the second quarter reveals that JeffBoat is closing down two of its four production lines for the time being.  Read the report here.  No surprise really: the demand for inland dry barges was turning down this year with or without the recession.  If I were JeffBoat, I would look at getting back into towboats, a sector where demand is not declining, but I guess they are being conservative.  August 6, 2010.

EIGHT SHIPBUILDERS TO CHASE OPC

The Coast Guard has released the names of eight shipbuilders who have expressed interest in competing to build up to 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters.  Who's missing?  Well, Bender would have been on this list if Bender were still Bender.  And I had expected to see Trinity Yachts on the list: they've got the capability and the capacity, if not the experience.  The eight who expressed interest are shown below, together with my assessment of their chances.  August 6, 2010.

Shipbuilder TC's Assessment Ranking
Bollinger Shipyards Highly qualified and experienced 1=
Marinette Marine Highly qualified and experienced 1=
VT Halter Marine Qualified and experienced but not keeping up with competitors 3
Austal USA Highly qualified but it's not going to be an aluminum boat 4
Todd Shipyards They were qualified 20 years ago but would be a bit risky today 5
NASSCO Not their thing but not impossible: teaming might work 6
Bath Iron Works Qualified but too expensive 7
NG Pascagoula Qualified but too expensive 8

LAYOFFS BEGIN AT AVONDALE

NG Shipbuilding has started the notification process for laying off Avondale employees.  Read the announcement here.  Note that the Tallulah fab shop is to close on October 29.  August 3, 2010.


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