By Larry Pearson
Bollinger Shipyard's Quick Repair facility on the Harvey Canal in New Orleans is unique among workboat repair shipyards. It has capabilities well beyond the normal vessel dry-docking and repair. Not only is the work done there, but also most of the needed underwater parts can be fabricated or repaired there.
The shipyard has a machine shop to fabricate and repair shafts; an electrical shop where motors and generators can be rewound and load tested plus a complete propeller overhaul facility with a large inventory of propellers on hand. Mighty valuable capabilities if you are a towboat owner and one of your vessels just hit "something" and the resulting vibration tells your crew the vessel needs service now.
Bollinger Quick Repair's (BQR) strategic location, just 1,100 ft. from a lock directly onto the Mississippi River
, services mostly towboats, with the high horsepower "Line Haul" vessels a specialty. "A typical vessel needing dry docking and underwater repairs is usually a 2-4 day job for us, depending of course on how much work has to be done," explained Allen Stein
, operations manager of the facility. "We are a 24-hour a day operation with six dry docks up to 3,200 ton capacity and 632 feet of slack water wet docks where vessel crews and/or shipyard personnel can conduct maintenance and repair projects," Stein reported. On the day your reporter was there four of the six docks were full…. two line haul towboats, a ferry and a smaller towboat. Stein pointed out a large 8,200 hp line haul towboat that was in one of the docks. The vessel had three propellers in kort nozzles. All the rudders and propellers were off the vessel. All three of the propellers shone in the bright sunlight of a July afternoon…obviously after having been reworked at the propeller shop and were awaiting reinstallation. Two of the rudders had work done to their stocks while a third was in the fabrication area having more extensive work done.
Several shipyard workers were working inside the large kort nozzles preparing the shaft so that the propellers could be refitted.
During this dry dock time, the crew of the vessel, Ingram Barge Lines', John M. Donnelly were on the vessel no doubt carrying out their own maintenance or repair projects during the downtime.
"We will refit the propellers and rudders tomorrow and probably refloat the vessel the following day," said Stein. "We don't keep them long because we have another vessel that will be using the dry dock within hours of the Donnelly's departure," Stein added.
Also at the yard that day was the Louis B. Porterie, a car ferry used in the New Orleans area for Mississippi River crossings.
Unlike uninspected towboats, the ferry, being a passenger vessel, needed a five-year Coast Guard inspection, which includes dry-docking to inspect and repair rudders, shafts, propellers and other underwater components. "Replacement of zinc anodes and below the water painting are other common services we offer," Stein added. Even though towboats don't need five-year regulatory inspections, BQR often sees a typical towboat more frequently than passenger vessels and oil field boats that do require inspections. "Towboats, especially the large line haul vessels often log more operating hours than passenger vessels and operate in obstacle-strewn waters, so repair may also be more frequent," Stein said. Often this repair is not on an emergency basis, but is planned months ahead typically when the vessel is in the New Orleans area. The work on the John M. Donnelly was done on a scheduled basis, although the company knew they had an underwater problem and BQR was their first stop on the north-bound leg of the trip.
While towboats represent most of the BQR work, they handle a mixture of all kinds of vessels than may need underwater repair. For example, several months ago they docked a 210-ft. Harrah's Casino vessel that had been sold to a buyer for use in New York City as a charter/excursion vessel. BQR dry-docked the vessel so props, shafts and rudders could be inspected.
"This place is nothing short of amazing," Stein said. "Vessels are being docked and undocked at all hours of the day and night and repair goes on constantly. This is a customer-driven business and our customers cannot afford to have their vessels out of service one hour longer than necessary," Stein added.