On November 18, 2008, Edison Chouest Offshore officials appeared before the Tampa Port Authority in an effort to secure the assignment of Tampa Bay Shipbuilding and Repair’s long-term lease agreement with the port. The authority had no objection to the transfer and, on that date, Tampa Ship, LLC was born. Chouest assumed management and operation of the yard in early December.
The Tampa shipyard is a full service conversion, overhaul and repair facility that was previously owned by a group associated with Mobile, AL-based Bender Shipbuilding and Repair. The shipyard has been the only commercial shipyard equipped with four large graving docks (capable of servicing ships up to 150,000 DWT) and extensive crane facilities between Pascagoula, MS and Hampton Roads, VA.
“Tampa Ship provides us more capacity for new construction and the repair of much larger vessels,” said President Gary Chouest. “Now that we have closed on the purchase, we are looking forward to construction on our first new vessel this month.”
Although the shipyard specialized in recent years in performing repairs and overhauls, Chouest has agreed to assist in the phase out of a new construction deal with Bender. The previous owner has been building three large barges for Overseas Shipholding Group; Chouest will assist in completing that deal, slated for a late 2009 delivery.
“This is the premier location on the Gulf Coast and we needed more shipbuilding capacity with better depths available,” said Mr. Chouest. He also committed to the port authority that Tampa Ship will dredge slips within the facility to a 30 ft depth. The yard is directly accessible to the Gulf of Mexico via a 43 ft deep channel. Its location fronts Tampa’s Sparkman Channel, which has a 34 ft depth and a 700 ft turning width.
The yard covers in excess of 60 acres and also features two massive transporters, a 600 ft assembly building, lifting units and crawler cranes. The facility is served by a railway system and is located only minutes away from interstates and the Tampa International Airport.
In addition, Mr. Chouest is currently reviewing plans to modernize the shipyard. And, in regards to the current workforce of 500, he said the company remains committed to growing and developing that group of workers. That sizeable group of skilled men and women, when added to the existing Chouest shipbuilding workforce at North American Shipbuilding (Larose, LA), North American Fabricators (Houma, LA), Gulf Ship (Gulfport, MS) and Navship (Navegantes, Brazil), now totals over 3,000. Construction on Chouest’s new LaShip yard in Houma, LA this year will further increase that total.