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Breaking New Greund

Offshore held a groundbreaking ceremony to signal the early stages of construction for the company's rig manufacturing yard in Pascagoula, Miss. The yard is one of the first created specifically for building offshore drilling rigs and production vessels, and is designed to allow four new jack-ups to be built simultaneously, in record time.

With rig utilization rates nearing 100 percent worldwide (up from about 55 percent just 10 years ago) the shortage of jack-up and semisubmersible rigs is projected to be acute in the coming years. Specifically, there is information indicating that there will be a shortage of eight jack-ups and 17 semisubmersible rigs in 1998 alone. As analysts continue to project demand to outpace supply — even in the face of the recent oil supply and demand quandary — Friede has designed the move to equip it to fill worldwide rig needs. "Indicators suggest that the rig shortage should extend well beyond 1998, leading to a robust market for upgrade and newbuild over the next several years," said Joe Agular, oilfield services analyst, Johnson Rice & Co.

Investment Securities. "Rig owners are committing large amounts of capital to upgrading and expanding their fleets." The yard design was a collaborative effort. "We started with a blank piece of paper and kept asking everyone: 'If you could design the ideal fabrication yard, what would it include?' from that feedback, we started to put together a plan," said William Skinner, president, Friede Goldman Offshore.

"The yard will employ modern construction techniques, incorporating the best from the fields of manufacturing and fabrication." The 90-acre yard will include more than 100,000-sq.-ft. of component staging areas and will be outfitted, to a degree, like a large assembly line, with raw materials entering the facility, proceeding through the fabrication and assembly area, and finally, moving out to the launching sites.

The new facility is designed to process 48,000-tons of steel per year, and the facility offers a tremendous 2,000-ft. deepwater outfitting bulkhead and unrestricted access to the Gulf of Mexico, a feature which will allow the industry's largest equipment to enter directly, while saving cost on towing services. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice were both on hand for the ceremony, which included a ribbon-cutting for Friede Goldman International's (parent of Friede Goldman Offshore) subsidiary HAM Marine's new training center. Along with the tremendous need of equipment, the Gulf area yards are currently in need of skilled craftsmen to build the labor-intensive rigs. HAM has taken a proactive stance in addressing its worker needs, targeting public assistance recipients, high school students and others with no previous industry experience.

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