Feature: Leaving Home

Thursday, May 15, 2003

For many years the fortunes of the Great Lakes-based shipbuilders and naval architects was based solidly on the building level of the owners who were also based on the 94,000 sq. mi. of water that makes up the five Great Lakes. That is no longer as true a statement as it once was. While there are many projects in this area designed and build by Great Lakes firms for owners in the area, an impressive number of significant commercial market projects as varied as Staten Island, New York ferries and Gulf of Mexico crew/supply boats were designed and or built on the Great Lakes.

The Big Ferries

The Kennedy Class of double ended auto/passenger ferries is one of the most recognizable images of New York City. Every weeknight millions of people see one during the opening of the David Letterman Show. So when a contract came out to build three additional ferries of this class, the competitive fires within the U.S. boatbuilding market were stoked.

When the dust settled, the contract was awarded to The Manitowoc Marine Group, the largest shipbuilder on the Great Lakes headquartered in Manitowoc, Wisc. The vessels are being built at the company's Marinette Marine facility in Marinette, Wisc.

Manitowoc is building three of these 4,400 passeneger/30 auto ferries to replace the three built in the mid-1960's. Each will measure 310 by 70 ft. wide with a 13.6-ft.-draft.

The vessels are of double-ended design with a diesel electric propulsion system. Three turbo charged diesel generators are on board capable of producing 2,855 kW each. The generators are driven by EMD ME16 G7B engines operating with two on line and one on standby.

These gensets feed four 2,500 hp AC electric motors, two in each end of the vessel. The motors drive fixed pitch propellers. There is also a 370 kW ship's service generator onboard. Each end of the ferry is configured to the passenger terminal to which it will couple. Passengers will load and disembark from two levels at alternate ends depending on whether the ferry is servicing New York City or Staten Island. The vessel is fully compatible with arrangements of existing berths and transfer bridges at the Whitehall (Manhattan) and St. George (Staten Island) terminals.

The vessel includes four passenger decks with some outdoor areas on all decks. Elevators serve all decks between the main deck and Hurricane deck. The central portion of the Hurricane Deck has skylights to illuminate the bridge deck passenger cabin below. There is a pilothouse on each end of the vessel.

The first of the three ferries will deliver in late 2003. A 44-day strike at the Marinette Marine shipyard has had minimal impact on the deliveries of these vessels, according to Stephen Khail, director of corporate communications for The Manitowoc Companies.

Littoral Combat Ship

The Marinette Marine Group is also branching far from their home soil in a joint venture to build a new class of Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Marinette will team with Bollinger Shipyards, naval architects Gibbs & Cox and prime contractor Lockeed-Martin Marine Systems to build these new navy vessels. Four other teams are also in the hunt to build these fast combat vessels.

Both Bollinger and Marinette Marine have a long history of building Navy and Coast Guard vessels. Marinette Marine continues on a 16-vessel contract to build U. S. Coast Guard 225-ft. seagoing buoy tenders. The USS Hollyhock, the 14th vessel in the series was launched in January. Bollinger has just reopened their production line on 87-ft. Coast Guard patrol boats. After delivered the last of a 50-vessel contract, Bollinger received a contract for 13 additional vessels.

In July, the Navy will let three $10 million design contracts and the winning design will be awarded a contract to build these vessels. Marinette Marine is also building a 240-foot Great Lakes Icebreaker for the U.S. Coast Guard with delivery in December 2005.

Bay Shipbuilding

Across Green Bay from Marinette Marine is Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., which has just delivered two major passenger vessels to Great Lakes owners. Two years ago Bay delivered an 83-ft. sightseeing boat to Shoreline Marine of Chicago, Ill. A second, similar boat has joined the Shoreline fleet. "The 300-passenger boat will be used for the company's growing architectural tour business of famous Chicago landmarks," according to Tim Graul, naval architect for the vessel. "The two vessels are very similar except the new vessel Bright Star will be powered by Caterpillar 3406 engines rather than Caterpillar 3306 power plants," Graul said. Graul also said the outline of the pilothouse was different than the Evening Star, the previous vessel.

Bay Shipbuilding has also delivered the Arnie J. Richter, a 104- by 37- by 11-ft. ferry to Washington Island Ferry Line, Washington Island, Wisc. It was designed by Timothy Graul Marine Design, Inc., Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. "The hull is reinforced in the bow and stern for ice breaking, "Graul remarked.

"The Washington Island Ferry Line provides a unique service to Washington Island," said Dick Purinton, general manager of the ferry line. "Not only are we the access to the island during the summer for thousands of tourists, we literally supply everything the island needs from food stuffs to hardware to mail and the thousands of items needed for commerce and every day life on the Island," Purinton said. This new ferry will be even more valuable to the islanders. It can hold 200 passengers and 20 cars or semis can be substituted for the vehicles. "All of the fuel consumed on the island is trucked in on one of our ferries," Purinton said. "We make special runs for fuel, not carrying passengers or other vehicles. With the new ferry we can now load two large tank trucks loaded with gasoline or diesel fuel. In the past we could only carry one of these vehicles at a time," Purinton added. The vessel is basically of RoRo design with 16-ft. wide bow and stern ramps and a 12-ft. side ramp.

The Arnie J. Richter is powered by twin Caterpillar 3508 engines rated at 1,000 hp each. Twin Disc reduction gears connect to Kahlenberg six-inch shafts and Kahlenberg 66-in. propellers. Northern Lights 40 kW and 65 kW generators supply ship's power. Washington Island Ferry Line operates three other ferries during the summer tourist season and the Arnie J. Richter during the winter over the 4.5-mile route from the Door Peninsula to Washington Island.

The Bulk Loaders

The most significant marine presence on the Great Lakes remains the huge bulk loaders. These huge ships, up to 1,000 ft. long, carry ire ore, coal, stone, salt, potash, cement and grain. Total bulk materials carried by the 55 or so bulk carriers were 162.3 million net tons, down 1.4 percent from 2002, according to the Lake Carriers Association.

The vessels lay up in the winter after the lakes freeze and the locks close. "We typically get 14-16 of these vessels at our shipyard during winter lay up, said Pat O'Hern, general manager of Bay Shipbuilding. "Some are dry docked for regulatory inspections during this time and many have topside repairs done," O'Hern said

"The shipments of ire ore and limestone may be picking up in the future," O'Hern believes. "ILG has bought the LTV steel mills in Cleveland and are buying the Bethlehem Steel facilities as well. With these steel plants open, shipments should increase which will utilize more of the bulk carrier fleet and eventually increase the repair frequency of these vessels," O'Hern said.

Topside repairs are also done at Manitowoc facilities in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio. Fraser Shipyard in Duluth is also involved in the lay up, dry-docking and topside repairs of the bulk carriers that remain in Lake Superior during the winter.

Basic Marine

Basic Marine, Escambia, Mich., is also a very busy shipyard with both new construction and repair projects. They built a Tim Graul-designed cable ferry for the State of Wisconsin that was transported to Merrimac in the central part of Wisconsin for operation. Basic also built, tested and delivered three steel barges for the U.S. Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District and have repowered and repainted a landing craft for the Isle Royal National Park. Basic is also has a dry dock for maintenance repairs and repainting of various military and commercial vessels.

Luxury Yachts

The Great Lakes are also the home of two major luxury yacht builders with a worldwide customer base. Both Burger Yachts and Palmer Johnson build these vessels with price tags that start at $5 million and quickly escalate, as the owners are satisfied with nothing but the best. Burger has three major vessel launches in 2003 including the largest vessel they have ever built, the 126-ft. Sis W for Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. This tri-deck yacht will be launched in mid June followed by Top Times, an 112-ft. expedition yacht for the Brown family of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. scheduled to hit the water in late summer followed by the Best N Show, a 93-ft. enclosed bridge cockpit yacht for Mr. and Mrs. Steve Bostic of Georgia.

Palmer Johnson has also stayed busy with a variety of pricey yacht projects, but the big news out of the Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. -based company this year is their purchase of the Intermarine Savannah shipyard, also a builder of high-end yachts. The headline in this acquisition is that Intermarine Savannah used to be owned by Bernie Ebbers, fired CEO of WorldCom. Ebbers turned Intermarine over to WorldCom to help repay the $408 million in loans from the company. Intermarine is expected to sell for about $7 million.

Fast Ferries

Over the past few years, several companies have proposed fast ferry service on the Great Lakes. Other than the Badger, a decidedly slow passenger and car ferry offering across Lake Michigan service between Ludington, Mich. and Manitowoc, Wisc. there has been little to write about. Now things may be changing as the Canadian American Transportation Systems (C.A.T.S.) has signed a contract with Austal Ships of Australia to build an 86-m catamaran. The vessel would offer high-speed service across Lake Ontario between Rochester, NY and Toronto, Canada. The vessel would travel at 40 knots with a capacity of 774 passengers and 238 cars on a 2.5-hour journey. It is to be delivered in August 2003.

LEF Corp. of Grand Rapids, Mich. has announced they will put a passenger-only ferry into service this summer connecting Chicago, Racine, Wisc. and St. Joseph, Mich. The vessel is to be leased from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland, Wash. The 144-foot by 38-foot vessel, called the Catalina Jet, was built by Nichols Brothers in 1999 and has two passenger decks and a sun deck The catamaran vessel is powered by waterjets based on the INCAT Designs naval architecture.

Also in the hunt is Inland Ocean Lines, Windsor, Ont. who is planning auto/passenger service on Lake Ontario from Cleveland to Windsor, Ontario serving the casinos in Windsor and Detroit. The company will lease an INCAT catamaran for the route with an anticipated speed of 43 knots.

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