Feature: VT Halter Marine A Shipbuilding Company Reborn

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Boyd E. "Butch" King is a man on a mission. The new CEO of VT Halter Marine, Inc. is rebuilding the shipbuilding company one contract at a time. "Our goal is to reestablish VT Halter Marine's world-wide reputation as a builder of midsize commercial and military vessels," King said from his office in Gulfport, Miss.

King is a retired Brigadier General with a 35-year career in the U.S. Army culminating in his appointment as Director of Transportation, Energy and Troop Support on the Army staff. During his Army career, King was in charge of the management and tracking of 12,000 ocean shipping containers worldwide and headed various logistic operations including the shipment of combat equipment in support of operations in Haiti.

King, 59, is a graduate of the Army War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. King also holds a MBA degree from Florida Institute of Technology.

Vision Technologies Systems (VTS), a defense contractor in Arlington, Va acquired all the assets and intellectual property of the Halter Marine Division of the bankrupt Friede Goldman Halter, Gulfport, Miss. in October 2002.

"The Halter name has a rich history in the shipbuilding business and retaining the name in our new company is one of our main strategies as we reenter the marketplace," King said.

Currently VT Halter Marine is operating two of the six shipyards purchased in the sale. "Halter-Moss Point and Halter-Pascagoula are busy building a variety of projects," King reports with Moss Point Marine being "a lady in waiting." The Moss Point Marine facility will be reopened as new business warrants.

The shipyard in Lockport, La. has been sold to a non-competing shipbuilder while the two Gulfport, Miss. yards and the shipyard in Port Bienville, Miss. remain closed.

King is quite upbeat in his assessment of the future of VT Halter Marine. "For the first time we are hiring and our first objective is to hire back former Halter workers," King added. "We want them to 'come back home.'"

King emphasized that this is not exactly a typical startup. "We have a very skilled and dedicated workforce that has experience in building a wide variety of commercial and military vessels. We also have several senior shipbuilding executives that have "hung in there" through the peaks and valleys that Halter has gone through during the past several years and I personally want to see this dedication rewarded," King added.

King also noted that VT Halter Marine starts with a backlog of several projects that were either booked or started under the previous Halter company. "VT Halter Marine has a number of projects that are being revitalized now that the company is on solid financial footing," King noted. "We are very grateful that these owners have confidence in us to deliver their vessels on time and on budget," King said.

Car Carrier

VT Halter Marine has a variety of work at the two shipyards that are open. For example, remediation work is underway on a huge 4,300-vehicle car carrier that was about 40 percent complete when work stopped about 18 months ago. The 579-ft. by 102-ft. vessel will carry vehicles from California to Hawaii for Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines. It has a design draft of 25 feet.

"We need to basically clean up the vessel by removing what has accumulated on the steel in the last 18 months, King reported.

"Funding for the vessel is complete and as soon as a couple of issues are worked out, work will resume on this vessel," King stated.

The contract is worth about $47 million to complete the car carrier Jean Anne for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2004. Since the vessel will work between two U.S. ports, it is constructed for the Jones Act trade.

A slow speed diesel will drive a single screw enabling the 13,000-ton deadweight vessel to maintain a cruising speed of 20 knots. Crew complement is 23 persons. Construction will conform to Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and the vessel will be classed as an A1A Car Carrier upon delivery.

LSV

VT Halter Marine is also building two Logistic Supply Vessels (LSV) for the U.S. Army with the first to be completed this December and the second in later 2004. These RoRo vessels are 314 ft. long with a 60-ft. beam and a molded depth of 19 ft. An option for a third vessel is in the contract

An LSV provides worldwide transport of general and vehicular cargo. Six of these vessels are in the Army inventory. The 10,500 sq. ft. deck area can hold 2,000 short tons of equipment that might include 21 to 24 M1 main battle tanks or 50 double-stacked 20-foot ISO containers. The LSV has a speed of eight knots with a range of 5,500 miles with a 25% margin. There are accommodations for 32 persons.

Main engines are a pair of Caterpillar 3516 B diesels with an output of 2,260 hp each. The vessel has a bow thruster driven by a Caterpillar 3408 engine rated at 540 hp and an electric driven stern thruster rated 300 hp. Two Caterpillar 3406 diesel engines will generate 320 kW each for ship's power and a Caterpillar 3304C will act as the emergency generator.

VT Halter/Bollinger Joint Venture

VT Halter Marine will team with Bollinger Shipyards on two major parts of the Coast Guard Deepwater program that will add 91 new vessels to the fleet, retrofit 49 existing patrol boats and bring 35 fixed wing aircraft and 34 helicopters into the service. VT Halter Marine will participate in the refit and upgrade of 49 "Island Class" patrol boats. VT Halter Marine will build new skeleton superstructures for the vessels and ship those units to Bollinger where the rest of the retrofit will occur.

VT Halter Marine will also build one-half of the 58 Fast Response Cutters with Bollinger building the other half. The contract is still being finalized, so no immediate time line has been established.

NOAA

VT Halter Marine will also be building a fisheries survey boat for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. To be named the Oscar Dyson, the vessel will be 208 x 49 ft. with a 28-ft. depth and a maximum draft of 19 ft.

Oscar Dyson is a well-known fishing activist in Alaska and has served as an advisor to industry and government officials. Delivery of the $38.3 million vessel is estimated to be in 36 months. Depending on Congressional funding, three more vessels may be built, raising the total contract to $165 million.

Propulsion power is from a pair of Ansaldo slow speed engines (134 rpm) rated at 3,016 hp each, Ship's service power is provided by a pair of Caterpillar 3508 diesel engines producing 1,360 kW each and two Caterpillar 3508 engines rated at 910 kW each.

The vessel will be constructed with a steel hull and an aluminum deckhouse. Equipment includes a Rapp Hydema trawling system, a Huber stern gantry and side frame along with an Elliot White Gill bow thruster.

Looking Ahead

King sees a bright future for VT Halter Marine. "We intend to be proactive in the OPA-90 market. Our shipyard personnel are very familiar with building ATBs and double-hulling existing barges," King said.

The offshore market is another target for VT Halter Marine. "We currently have a Platform Supply Vessel (PSV) order for an undisclosed interest and this contact contains options for six addition vessels," King said.

"We have under design a state-of-the-art PSV," King added. A VT Halter Marine-designed, VT Halter Marine-built PSV will generate a great deal of customer interest, King believes.

King is also looking at VT Halter Marine reentering the repair business. " We have our toes right up to the line," King said. "It's a matter of which yard or yards to use and financing the infrastructure such as dry docks," King observed.

"Our main focus would be to repair larger vessels such as supply boats, barges and other such craft, King said.

VT Halter Marine is also looking at building vessels for other countries, although they do not have any such business now.

"Because of the peaks and valleys in shipbuilding, we are trying for a 50-50 split between military and commercial business," King said. " A little heavier on the commercial side would be ideal," King added.

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