U.S. Builders Make Waves At Year End

Thursday, December 30, 1999
While consolidations and closures continue to reshape the ship and boatbuilding industry worldwide, 1999 ended on some positive notes, particularly for ship and boat building companies in the United States. U.S. builders, who have watched U.S. Navy business dwindle for more than a decade, have - with the help of the U.S. Maritime Administration - invested hundreds of millions of dollars and an endless amount of effort to restructure their shipyard's structures, machinery and work flows. The result: a smaller but more capable base of companies that are geared to fulfill demands of traditional clients down the block as easily as they fulfill the demands of customers around the world. A recent swing through the vibrant Gulf of Mexico region, however, helped quantify the level and expediency of change. Processing steel in a more effective, efficient and environmentally responsible manner has gone straight from the planning committee to real-world applications, and many of the GOM area yards currently have or will soon get some of the most innovative steel processing and cutting facilities in the world. From Steiner Shipyard's new subsidiary company - Enviro-Metals - in Bayou La Batre, Ala., to Bender's new First Operations Shop in Mobile, Ala, to Litton-Avondale's now thoroughly proven steel processing facility and Bollinger's enhanced capabilities, yards large and small have studied, emulated and improved on some of the world's premiere ship and boat building installations. Prospects: 2000 and Beyond While, by sheer number of dollars, the year 1999 may have not shaped up to be a record one for U.S. ship and boatbuilders, from a perception standpoint the industry advanced by leaps and bounds, particularly during the last four months or so. There has been a steady stream of unique and technically challenging orders being placed and beginning progress in U.S. yards of all shapes and sizes. Last year saw arguably the most significant new passenger ship order in U.S. history when American Classic Voyages' (AMCV) contracted with Litton's Ingalls Shipbuilding to build the first U.S.-flag cruise ships in more than 40 years. The $1.4-billion Project America ship is for two 1,900-passenger vessels, scheduled for delivery in 2003 and 2004. The fleet will sail under the United States Lines company name, will operate weekly cruises to the U.S. Hawaiian Islands. San Diego-based National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) - a General Dynamics company - has had its hand in an number of interesting projects, most recently winning a $300 million contract to build two RoRo vessels for Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) of Anchorage, Alaska. NASSCO will build two 839 ft. (255.7 m) RoRo vessels for its Alaska service. According to Robert P. Magee, TOTE's president and CEO, "This $300 million private investment will further our commitment to Alaskans well into the next century by enhancing Alaskan job opportunities on our vessels and shoreside." "These ships, which carry more than 50 percent more cargo than our present ships, are designed specifically to endure the harsh conditions of the Alaska trade," Magee added. The new vessels will be the same size as TOTE's existing three ships, "while maintaining extra capacity to fulfill any surge cargo needs and allow for seamless service during dry docks," Magee furthered. In the first part of the year, NASSCO signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the building of the first generation high-speed vessels comprised of the FastShip trans-Atlantic transportation fleet. FastShip is a gas turbine powered vessel concept that aims to economically fill the void between air transport and traditional ship transport. Under the proposed agreement, NASSCO, designer and builder of new ships headquartered in San Diego, will construct four revolutionary vessels in the FastShip fleet. The agreement establishes a timeline to finalize a construction contract to include definitive pricing, delivery schedule and performance guarantees. NASSCO has also agreed to consider a financing commitment to FastShip, Inc. Powered by five marinized aero-derivative gas turbines, each turbine will drive one Kamewa water jet, delivering a total of 250 MW or 335,000-hp. Earlier in the fall NASSCO was named the prime contractor on $17.4 million in research and development contracts awarded by the MARITECH Advanced Shipbuilding Enterprise (ASE) Program. In addition to the funds awarded by MARITECH, industry participants will invest $23.5 million of their own funds in the projects for a total program cost of $40.9 million. NASSCO will lead a team of U.S. shipbuilders, marine design and technology firms, and universities on two three-year projects to develop advanced systems for the construction of Navy and commercial ships. In mid-December, NASSCO launched USNS CHARLTON, the fifth strategic sealift ship being built for the U.S. Navy by NASSCO. Measuring 950 x 105 ft. (290 x 32 m), the strategic sealift ships are the largest ships ever launched down a sliding ways in the U.S. Halter Marine Launches Delta Mariner Halter Marine, Inc., the marine vessel division of Friede Goldman Halter, Inc., late last month christened and launched the M/V Delta Mariner, designed and built for Foss Maritime Company on behalf of The Boeing Company, at the Halter Moss Point shipyard on the Escatawpa River. The Delta Mariner will transport Boeing-built Delta IV rocket boosters from Decatur, Alabama to Cape Canaveral, Fla. and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, for participation in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The EELV program is a multi-year effort designed to reduce space launch costs by 25 percent. The vessel's sponsor was Patricia G. Smith, the Federal Aviation Administration's Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation. The vessel is 310 ft. (94.4) long, has a beam of 82 ft. (24.9 m), and is powered by a pair of 4,000 hp diesel engines. A unique feature of the DELTA MARINER is its dual mode design that enables it to operate in a shallow draft mode while in rivers and then ballast down to a deep draft mode for ocean passages. This variable ballasting system is incorporated with a stern-mounted ramp into the vessel's RoRo loading system. This design enables the smooth loading of aerospace hardware on and off the ship.
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