Old Boats, New Beginnings

Friday, December 06, 2002
Today's commercial vessel owners are becoming increasingly creative in order to extend the life of existing vessels. Typically, a commercial steel hull can last for more than 50 years.

However, rugged use may call for extensive repair of a vessel to keep it sailing. Market changes may demand that a vessel originally design for one mission is converted to a new and hopefully more profitable use.

Most repair work done in shipyards is for five-year regulatory inspections to meet Coast Guard requirements. Often shafts and props are repaired during this inspection, as are sea chests and rudders. Anodes may be replaced as well.

Joint Venture

A high profile vessel that has had conversion work done in the last year in Australia and is now undergoing a Coast Guard regulatory inspection in Louisiana is the Joint Venture, a vessel converted from high speed commercial passenger service to a vessel being evaluated by the U.S. Military for high speed deployment of troops and their equipment. The vessel had a helio deck added along with a stern ramp and other technical and structural modifications done by builder INCAT Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, to meet the needs of the military evaluation.

The $2.5 million retrofit took about six weeks to complete in Australia. The vessel is owned by the Bollinger/Incat USA, a joint venture designed to produce Jones Act qualified vessels for the U.S. military and commercial markets. It is dry docked at Bollinger's Morgan City shipyard for the regulatory inspection before further evaluations are conducted.

Crescent Towing Tugs

Bollinger Shipyards, headquartered in Lockport, La. with 14 shipyards and 42 dry-docks, dominates the repair and conversion market in the Gulf South. One of their largest repair/conversion projects for 2002 is the rebuilding of eight tugs owned by Crescent Towing of New Orleans. The 105-ft. by 25-ft. tugs were all built in the 1950-60 time frame and are being upgraded from single propeller vessels to twin-screw power featuring Caterpillar 3512B engines developing a total of 4,000 hp. The engines are coupled to Reintjes gears and Bollinger 83-in. stainless steel propellers. The pilothouse is being rebuilt and new radars and other electronic navigation and communications gear installed.

Supply Boat Addition

Other notable Bollinger renovation and repair projects include the recent delivery of the C-Clipper owned by Edison Chouest Offshore, Galliano, La. The vessel is one of a number of 220-ft. supply boats that Chouest has been modernizing over the past few years. The C-Clipper had a 50-ft. midbody section added to allow the vessel to carry methanol. With major oil companies such as Shell using methanol on their Tension Leg Platforms (TLP), the ability of a supply vessel to carry significant quantities of methanol is becoming increasingly important.

Another very active shipyard in the repair and conversion market is Conrad Industries LLC of Morgan City, La. Their dry docks and slips are almost always full of repair and conversion projects. Regulatory inspections are a big part of their repair business but so are repowerings and conversions.

Ferry Boat Conversion

Ferryboats are playing an increasingly important role in the nation's transportation infrastructure. For example, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) carries thousands of passengers across the Delaware River between Philadelphia, Pa. and Camden, NJ.

To meet anticipated passenger growth, the DRPA purchased the 100-ft. open deck passenger and auto ferry M/V Essex and have converted the vessel to increase passenger capacity from 149 to 600 persons.

The conversion was done at the Blount/Barker Shipyard in Warren, R.I. The single ended propulsion has been changed to double-ended propulsion and the main deck enclosed to provide year-around comfort for passengers. A second deck is being added and will be covered by a canopy.

The double-ended design added a Caterpillar 3406C diesel rated at 322 hp to each engine room coupled to Twin Disc gears and Kahlenberg propellers. Each engine room also has a Northern Lights genset producing 55 kW of ship's electrical power. The pilothouses on each end of the vessel are cupola-shaped giving the vessel an attractive and slightly retro look.

The vessel will feature main and upper deck galleys and each will contain a refrigerator, a microwave and a coffee maker. Main deck fixed seating is 112 passengers with 120 seats for upper deck passengers. Standing room capacity is 368 persons. Bristol Harbor Marine Design, Bristol, R. I. did the conversion design and the ferry renamed the M/V Freedom. The ferry was delivered in November.

Allied Renovations

Allied Shipyard, Larose, La. is a repair and conversion specialists. The shipyard is very active in repowerings and conversions as well as regulatory work. The shipyard on LA 24 specializes in reworking vessels that have been cold stacked for a number of years and doing the repairs necessary for the vessels to be recertified by the U. S. Coast Guard.

Trico Marine has had a number of their 185-ft. vessels repaired at Allied. "Sometimes we completely rework a vessel," said Danny Toups, production manager for the yard. "That means new engines, new pilothouse electronics and maybe replacement of pumps, electric motors." Other items that frequently need replacement include gensets, the electric switchboard, dry bulk compressors, shafts, crew quarters, seals and propellers.

Allied recently completely rebuilt a 65-ft. push boat from the 02 level down due to the sinking of the vessel up to the pilothouse level. In less than three months, Allied replaced the main engines, gensets and practically everything else in the hull including, compressors, electric motors and pumps plus the crew quarters and galley at the 02 level.

West Coast Renovations

One of the growth sectors in the commercial marine market is the construction of new ATBs and the updating of older barge-tug units with modern couplers to allow them to operate as ATBs. This work is going on at shipyards in the Northeast, Gulf South, Great Lakes and the West Coast. For example, Seaspan Coastal Intermodal of Washington State has retrofitted a barge-tug unit with the JAK-400 system to provide a positive lock for the ATB. Previously the barge-tag had a friction pad system as the coupler.

Coastal Island Repowers Ferry Fleet

The resort island of Bald Head uses aluminum vessels to transport residents and guests from the island to shore at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. No cars are allowed on the island so the ferries provide the only transportation to and from the island.

Recently the island decided to repower two of their vessels and build a third boat. The 65 and 76-ft. aluminum boats were repowered with Cummins KTA 19M3 diesel engines rated at 640 hp each. Twin Disc gears are used as well as Michigan Wheel propellers.

The new 83-ft. vessel will also be set up with a pair of Cummins KTA-19M3 diesels for main propulsion. It is under construction at Island Boats of New Iberia, La. and will be delivered March 2003.

Passenger Vessel Renovation

Passenger vessels are often converted as markets and opportunities change. For example, the Peconic River Queen, built by Freeport Shipbuilding, Freeport, Fla. in 1994 has served the Riverhead area of upper New York State for eight years as a excursion/dinner boat. Recently, it was purchased by a group headed by Captain Bob Lumpp, operator of excursion boats for many years in the Midwest.

The 87-ft. by 30-ft. vessel is a two-deck steamboat-era replica that has returned to Freeport Shipbuilding to add a third deck and other repair and conversion work. When complete in 2003, the Tunica Queen will be able to hold 400 passengers on five Mississippi River cruises daily. Capacity for cruises that feature a sit down meal will be 350 persons.

The Tunica Queen will operate from RiverPark, a new 168-acre park featuring a marina and a museum/interpretative center that will feature the history of the Mississippi River.

The vessel will not carry any gaming equipment, as gaming is not allowed on navigable vessels in Mississippi.

Repairs at Steiner

Steiner Shipyard, Bayou La Batre, Ala. is a center for boat repair along the Gulf Coast in Alabama. The yard specializes is shrimp trawler haul outs using their new 300 ton Marine Travelift. Steiner also serves the crew boat market along the Gulf Coast of Alabama for quick change outs of props and shafts. The company recently rebuilt a North Carolina ferryboat, adding a new enclosed passenger cabin on the 02 level and upgrading and replacing pilothouse electronics.

Big Ship Repair and Renovation

When it comes to big ship repair, Bender Shipbuilding and Repair, Mobile, Ala. takes on the really big projects … sometimes taking several years to complete. In 2002, they completed the largest single ship project in the history of the company. Over a four- year period they lengthened, repowered and completely rebuilt a Russian freighter to become the USNS Lance Cpl. Roy Wheat, an 864-ft. vessel that is one of three ships that will preposition Marine Corps equipment and supplies in the Western Pacific.

The project involved replacing both gas turbine engines, adding ventilation to the cargo holds, adding ammunition storage on the top deck, a new emergency generator system, new HVAC and basically rebuilding all accommodations spaces and the bridge. The four-year project reportedly cost in excess of $170 million. Addition al post delivery work at Norshipco will bring the total cost to over $200 million. A private contractor for the Military Sealift Command will operate the vessel.

By the end of the year Bender is scheduled to finish converting a 1967 Lykes Bros Steamship freighter into the Enterprise to be used as a training ship for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Prior to her conversion, the vessel was a part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet and named the Cape Bon. The $24.4 million conversion will add living accommodations for about 600 cadets, officers, faculty and crew. The galley and stores area will be enlarged, classrooms built and an auxiliary engine room built with a new diesel engine powering a generator that can be used for diesel engine training. The original steam propulsion plant will be retained. Bender delivered the vessel in December 2002.

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