The one constant about the management of offshore vessel operating companies is the domination of family members of the founder. Except for the largest of these companies, Tidewater, Inc., that is a public NYSE-listed firm, most of the companies in this category, large and small, are run by the descendents of the founder. Many of these companies still bear the founder's name and most of the vessels are named after family members.
by Larry Pearson
The CALLAIS Family
In 1948, Abdon Callais converted a shrimp trawler into an offshore service vessel and that began a company that is in its third generation of providing transportation of fluids and cargo to offshore oil and gas rigs. Abdon's sons Harold and Ronald became involved with offshore oil buisness. At one time, Harold and Ronald owned both Abdon Callais Boat Rentals and Allied Shipyard. They split up this business with Harold retaining the boat business and Ronald running Allied Shipyard.
Howard Callais was a man of many interests He ran his own marine electronics company, was a early pioneer of cable television, founded a solid waste disposal, Chairman of the Board of Regents of Higher Education and expanded the business interests of several area banks.
Harold's son Peter became active with the company in 1993 and was named CEO and President of Abdon Callais LLC the next year and also holds the same titles with SWDI, LLC. Peter, 36, expanded SWDI from a commercial waste collector into residential waste collection and since that time has positioned the company as the largest collector of waste in Louisiana and one of the 100 largest in the country. On the marine side, Peter has built Abdon Callais Offshore into a major Gulf of Mexico operator building almost 30 offshore oil vessels.
Most recently the firm has been building 180-ft. class offshore supply boats at Master Boat Builders, Bayou La Batre, Ala. Three of these vessels have been delivered with another one about to be launched.
Another recent launching is a 152-ft. crew/supply boat Brod. When delivered, this will be the 10th crew boat owned by Abdon Callais Offshore. The rapid expansion of the fleet has led to a skyrocketing revenue growth. In the last three years revenue growth has averaged 700 percent and turnover, once a huge problem with the company, had been slashed. The growth has earned the company a place on Inc. magazine's fastest growing 500 companies list for the last three years. In 1999, the company was ranked 488 on the list and in 2000 they moved that up to 362. Only three Louisiana companies
made the list in 2000.
"It is quite an honor to be ranked for the third year in a row," Callais said. "We are particularly proud of our ascent on the list, for we weathered a difficult period in our industry (1998-1999) with significantly increased revenues," Callais added. The company honor has also led to personal distinction for Callais. He was inducted into the Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame last November at ceremonies held in Palm Springs, Calif. Callais was named a Louisiana/Mississippi Regional winner last June. Founded and produced by the professional services firm of Ernst & Young, the award is nationally sponsored by USA Today, CNN, CNNfn, The NASDAQ Stock Market and the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Nominees must be owner/managers primarily responsible for the recent performance of a privately held company, which is at least two years old. The award honors entrepreneurs "whose ingenuity, hard work and perseverance have created and sustained successful, growing business ventures," according to Ernst & Young. Peter has also won the Top Small Business Person award for Congressional District Three, an award won earlier by his father.
The CHOUEST Family
One of the biggest offshore vessel operators is Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), Galliano, La. Edison founded the company in 1960 and since 1993 the size of the company has doubled. Today, Edison's sons Gary is president and Dr. Laney is senior vice president. Also in the corporate office is Dionne Chouest, General Counsel of the company and Tracy is coordinator of government affairs. Other members of the Chouest family are in the company as well.
Choust has enough new construction work that the company keeps two wholly owned shipyards constantly busy with new construction and repair projects. ECO is finishing up four 260-ft. platform supply vessels and building the world's largest OSV, the 348- ft. Laney Chouest, an anchor handling tug/supply boat. Chouest also builds vessels for Halliburton and have just delivered a large well stim vessel, Stim Star III.
The CANDIES Family
A family that goes back even farther in the offshore oil service business is Otto Candies. Capt. Otto founded his company in 1942 servicing inland oil wells for Humble Oil.
Otto Candies Jr., now heads up this offshore oil company of more than 100 vessels with interests in the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and Central and South America. Brothers Paul and Kevin are president and vice president respectively.
A third generation is now working their way up in the company with Otto III as treasurer, Nikki as head of government affairs and Shane as sales manager. Brett and P.B. head up traffic and work in sales.
Other Candies in the executive suite include Sidney as head of maintenance and Kelly in charge of property.
Otto Candies LLC has been very aggressive in building offshore vessels. They are building three 238-ft. by 54-ft. supply boats at Bender Ship Building & Repair, Mobile, Ala. and six 185-ft. by 42-ft. supply boats at Houma Fabricators, Houma La. In addition two very large supply vessels and two crew boats have been delivered to their joint venture company in Campeche, Mexico.
The GRAHAM Family
The Grahams of Bayou La Batre, Ala. are another family whose roots are deep into the commercial marine industry. In 1957, John E. Graham formed a small charter boat company. His three sons, Glenn, Edgar and Clark built up the business building boats for themselves and other offshore oil operators.
In 1996, the company along with approximately 130 boats was sold to Seacor Marine.
Barry, who is Glenn's son and Janson and Gayla, son and daughter of Edgar, have proudly carried on the marine tradition established by their grandfather and reinforced by their respective fathers.
Barry Graham and his partner Gilbert Seaman established Barry Graham Oil Service beginning with two offshore oil service boats in 1996. Since that time, the company has been adding vessels to their fleet within the last three years; six 155-ft. crew/supply boats have been delivered by Breaux Brothers Enterprises of Loreauville, La.
About a year ago the company signed a contract with Boconco Shipbuilding of Bayou La Batre to build seven 126-ft. utility boats and one 145-ft. utility vessel. The first vessel, Capt. Lavert was delivered in May and three of the 126-ft. vessels and one 145-ft. utility boat are in various forms of construction with two of the 126-ft. vessels launched or nearly so.
Work is also proceeding at Breaux Brothers Enterprises on two additional 155-ft. crew/supply boats, one for delivery this fall and the other slated for spring 2003 delivery.
Barry's father Glenn is still active in the company as a consultant and their latest crew/supply boat delivery in May was appropriately named Capt Glenn.
Edgar's son Janson briefly worked for Seacor after the buyout, but soon formed a company with his sister Gayla called C&G Boatworks in Bayou La Batre near the lift bridge.
The main reason for C&G's existence was to build crew/supply boats for Graham Gulf, Inc, who would operate the vessels built by C & G. They have built five vessels for the Graham Gulf fleet.
The company also opened up a shipyard in Mobile, Ala., and intended to close the Bayou La Batre shipyard due to its small size and limited space to launch boats.
However, a funny thing happened on their way to completing their planned consolidation in Mobile. Tidewater, Inc., the world's largest operator of offshore oil vessels with 570 vessels in their world wide fleet, decided to get into the crew/supply boat business fast, and among other purchases, they bought the vessels that C&G was building for their sister company's use.
In addition they contracted with C&G to build four additional "advanced design" crew/supply boats 175-ft. long. To meet the contract deadline with Tidewater and to build their own vessels, C&G has kept open the Bayou La Batre shipyard and are building vessels in Mobile as well.