Feature: Getting on an Even Keel

Thursday, October 23, 2003

By Larry Pearson

Without much fanfare, VT Halter Marine, Gulfport, Miss. is completing a number of very large and capable vessels for both commercial and U. S. Government interests. The company seems on track with the objectives set last year by CEO Boyd E. "Butch" King to add additional projects to their two shipyards located in the Pascagoula, Miss. area.

Moss Point Operations

For example, the company will christen the Oscar Dyson October 17. This is a very unique Fisheries Survey Vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a Federal Government agency. The vessel is 208 ft. long with a 49-ft. beam and a relatively deep 28-ft. hull that has a maximum draft of 19 ft.. The Oscar Dyson has a steel, ice-classed hull with an aluminum deckhouse and is anticipated to run at 14 knots.

The vessel features diesel/electric power for all operations. The power is supplied by a pair of Caterpillar 3512 diesels, each producing 1,340 kW and two Caterpillar 3508 engines producing 910kW each. For propulsion power, a pair of Ansaldo electric motors connected in series and rated at 3,016 total HP drives a Rolls Royce propeller that is 169-inches in diameter with five blades. The propeller spins at 134 rpm.

A 720 kW Elliot White Gill bow thruster is included for vessel maneuverability and ease of docking and undocking operations. Sine the vessel is SOLAS classed, it has a emergency 170 kW generator powered by a Caterpillar 3306 diesel

The navigation, communications, mission electronics and integrated bridge are supplied by Seacoast Electronics. The fisheries vessel will carry a crew of 39 persons. Tank capacities include 400 metric tons of fuel, 375 metric tons of ballast and 36 metric tons of fresh water.

As a fisheries research vessel, the Oscar Dyson is outfitted with a Rapp Hydema trawling system, a Huber Stern gantry crane and side frame and an Amclyde Centerboard Handling system.

The Oscar Dyson is the first of four planned Fisheries Survey Vessels. "The ships in our fleet are 32 years old," said retired Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacker Jr., NOAA administrator. Named after a late Alaskan fishing executive, the Oscar Dyson is a $38.3 million contract for VT Halter Marine. Total cost of the vessel including outfitting is $55 million.

The vessel will be one of the most advanced in the world with ability to track fish using hydro acoustic technology. Fishing grounds management is critical, according to Lautenbacker. "We are the custodian of one-fifth of the world's fishing grounds and this vessel will have a $3 billion impact on the U.S. fishing economy," Lautenbacker said.

The Oscar Dyson is expected to be complete and on sea trials during the first quarter of 2004.

LSV

The largest contract at VT Halter Marine is for two Logistic Support Vessels (LSV) for the U.S. Army. LSV-7 has a length of 313 ft., a beam of 60 ft. and a depth of 19 ft.. It is designed and built to carry of 2,000-deck cargo that could include combat vehicles or armament cargo. It has a drop down bow ramp facilitating the loading and unloading of this cargo on unimproved beaches anywhere in the world. LSV-7 is essentially finished and will be delivered in 2003. LSV-8 is under construction and will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Supply Boat

The first vessel to be delivered this year from VT Halter Marine's Moss Point Operations is a 220-ft. by 46-ft. by 17-ft. supply boat for undisclosed interests. It is similar to many high capacity supply vessels built this year with a pair of Caterpillar 3516 main engines and a Caterpillar 3508 driving a 1000 HP bow thruster. Two additional Caterpillar engines drive liquid mud pumps on one end and the compressor that powers the bulk mud system on the other end. The vessel is classed DPS-1 and can carry 5,100 barrels of liquid mud, 6740 cubic ft. of dry bulk along with fuel oil and fresh water.

Delivery is set for the fourth quarter, 2003.

The Moss Point Operation is also building some subassemblies for the Pure Car Carrier described below. The subassemblies are much more than the welding of flat plate. Rather, sophisticated three-dimensional shapes are being fabricated that look as much like metal sculptures as they do parts of a vessel.

Pascagoula Operations

The most impressive vessel from a size or deadweight ton carrying capacity being built anywhere on the Gulf Coast today is the Pure Car Truck Carrier being built at VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula.

The vessel is a 579-ft. long by 102 ft. wide by 91.9-ft. RoRo car and truck carrier being built to a proven design. There are six other similar vessels currently in operation.

The Jean Anne will be DNV classed and U.S. flagged for International service. The vessel can carry up to 4,300 vehicles and will work between the Hawaiian Islands and the U. S. West Coast.

The vessel will be propelled by a single screw, slow speed MAN B&W diesel propulsion plant capable of generating 11,300 kW and driving the vessel to speeds no less than 20.1 knots. The slow speed engine outputs directly to the shaft. There is no reducing gear and it is for sure the vessel will never go in reverse.

There is a 1,000 kW bow thruster and an 800 kW stern thruster. Three MAN B&W 920 kW generators provide ship's power.

The Jean Anne is essentially a powered 11-story floating parking garage with steel-box like construction. The vessel's 11,192 short tons of steel is configured to form 10 flat steel storage decks with ramp access for drive on loading of the vehicles. Three of the decks (5, 7 & 9) are lift decks to accommodate vehicles of different heights. There are two loading ramps side starboard and starboard aft. These storage decks have minimal outfitting required requiring reduced multi-craft interface, resulting in low risk, simple construction. VT Halter Marine is building 332 assemblies and 107 pillars for the vessel. Crew size is 23.

The three areas of the vessel which contain major outfitting are the engine room, bow thruster space and the accommodations house. These spaces are a very small area of the overall area of the Jean Anne and can be isolated to provide additional protection for delicate materials and equipment such as machinery, piping systems, and accommodation furniture and bulkhead finishes.

To date about 500 ft. of the hull is complete and about half of her 11 decks have been installed When complete in 4Q 2004 the Jean Anne can carry about 13,000 dwt, the largest commercial ship built in the Gulf Coast for quite some time.

Superstructures

The Moss Point Operations has an active aluminum fabrication area with two major projects underway. The company is building the superstructure for the renovation of the U. S. Coast Guard's 49 Island Class patrol boats. The vessels were originally built by Bollinger Shipyards and the Coast Guard is returning the vessel to that shipyard for the renovation. VT Halter Marine builds the shell of the superstructure and barges them to Bollinger. The superstructure is approximately 15.7-ft. high, 28.5 ft. long and 13.85 ft. wide. To date, Halter has shipped one superstructure to Bollinger with a second to be shipped in October.

Passenger Ferry

VT Halter has also reentered ferry business with an all-aluminum vessel capable of carrying 272 passengers. The vessel is 95-ft. by 24 ft. by 9 ft. and has an enclosed main deck, a second deck open on the sides with bench seating and additional seating on an open third deck behind the pilothouse. Powered by a pair of MTU 12V2000 engines, the vessel is expected to reach 18 knots. Twin Disc gears transfer power to a pair of 42-inch fixed pitch propellers. Electrical power comes from a pair of John Deere 30 kW units. Delivery is set for first quarter 2004.

Towed Container

VT Halter Marine has also landed a new contract for the Pascagoula operation. They will build a very large towed container vessel for use on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts with a specialized deck configuration that contains fittings for ocean-going carriage. The 343.5-ft. by 94-ft. by 21-ft. vessel will be ABS Classed A-1 Ocean Service with USCG Certificate of Inspection under Subchapter CG-257. The deck is designed for 3,200 lbs per square ft. and 40-ft. ISO containers with a stack weight of 275,000 lbs. There are 24 under deck compartments with two full-length longitudinal bulkheads and seven transverse bulkheads. The vessel will have a raised forecastle deck with a breakwater.

Delivery is planned for the second quarter of 2004. Additional details regarding the customer and the major equipment and systems will be released at a later date.

It is clear that VT Halter Marine is back as a major shipbuilder. It has obtained large military and commercial orders as well as aluminum work for smaller vessels. Both yards are very busy and with new work on the horizon, VT Halter Marine is one shipyard that has emerged from past financial difficulties with a strong order book and a management team that knows where it is going.

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