By Larry Pearson
The picturesque town of Bayou La Batre, Ala. has long been known for its production of shrimp trawlers. Normally, about 150 of these 90-105 ft. vessels come out of 8-10 yards set up specifically to produce these boats. Increasingly, however, large deepwater offshore service vessels are taking their place along side of the trawlers as the Bayou La Batre boat builders join with their Louisiana cousins in producing vessels for the oil patch. Interestingly, it is many of the same builders who construct dozens of trawlers a year that are in the forefront of OSV production.
Master Boat Builders
One of the prime examples is Master Boat Builders, Coden, Ala., about three miles south of Bayou La Batre. Under the leadership of Andre Dubroc, Master Boat builds a couple of dozen single screw and twin screw shrimp trawlers a year ranging in length from 95 to 102 ft. long. Most are built for Vietnamese fishermen who trawl for shrimp in the area. The engine setup on these vessels is typically a pair of Caterpillar (CAT)
3412's for propulsion in twin screw vessels and a single 850 hp Caterpillar 3508 for single screw vessels. A pair of 99 kW gensets is also onboard and they may be powered by Caterpillar, Cummins (CMI)
, Isuzu or John Deere power plants.
Virtually all of the fishing vessels built in Bayou La Batre today use a refrigeration system to individually quick-freeze shrimp. As soon as the catch is brought onboard it is graded and put in onion sacks and immersed in a stainless steel brine tank. After freezing, the shrimp are stored in the hold, kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit by plate freezers.
"We in effect run two production lines…one for trawlers and one for OSV's," Dubroc said. Right now Master Boat Builders is in the middle of a four boat OSV contract for Abdon Callais, LLC. Each of the vessels is 170 ft. long by 46 ft. wide by 13 ft. deep.
"Flexibility and adaptability are key factors in the design of these vessels," said Dubroc. "They can work cost effectively on the shelf, yet have an ABS Full Oceans Loadline for deep water work," Dubroc added.
Last year, Master Boat Builders delivered the Harold J. Callais and also a smaller 145-ft. OSV the SPT Relentless to Callais. They have just completed the Isaac C. Callais and work is proceeding on the other vessels. Caterpillar engines supplied by Thompson Power, Mobile, Ala, power the 170-ft. Callais offshore vessels. A pair of Caterpillar 3512's provide propulsion power while two Cat 3404's run 99KW gensets and a 165 hp Caterpillar 3406 diesel supplies power for the bow thruster and PTO's off this engine run fire pumps and other devices. Reduction/reversing dears are Twin Disc supplied by Sewart Supply, New Orleans, La.
La Force Shipyard
A slightly different product mix is seen at La Force Shipyard, located on Shell Belt Road. La Force builds shrimp trawlers similar to those built by many of the yards in the area, mostly 90 to 105 ft. long, either single or twin screw with Caterpillar propulsion power. In the workboat area, La Force has built several push boats in the past year including a pair of Cummins-powered 74- x 28-ft. vessels for American Tugs, Belle Chasse, La.
The latest pushboat project for La Force is a similar 74- by 28-ft. model, but is powered by Guascor engines, manufactured in Spain. Reagan Equipment Company's marine division in Plaquemine, La. is the distributor for Guascor engines in the Gulf South. The vessel, scheduled for fall delivery, features a pair of John Deere 60 kW gensets, also supplied by Reagan. The vessel is owned by Progressive Barge Line, Westwego, La. To show its versatility, La Force also has under construction a 160-ft. crew/supply vessel. This is an all-aluminum boat that will carry crew, cargo and vital drilling fluids to offshore oilrigs. The customer name has not been released, but the vessel is slated for a late 2002 delivery.
Because the demand for offshore service vessels has been so high, shipyards such as Boconco Shipyard, also on Shell Belt Road in Bayou La Batre, has been building only OSV's lately. Last year they delivered the 160-ft. Meg L. Skansi to Skansi Marine, New Orleans, La. and recently delivered the 170-ft. Nick L. Skansi. Both OSV's are totally Cummins powered with a pair of 850 hp KT-38's for main propulsion, two 6CT8.3 powering gensets and a 450 hp N-14 for the bowthruster and powering the fire pump.
The vessels feature a totally integrated navigation, communications and alarm system by EMI of Harvey, La. A dynamic positioning system is included in the navigation system.
"The versatility of our tanks is one of the features of these OSV's," said David Skansi, president of Skansi Marine. Skansi said the liquid mud and methanol tanks are crossed piped so that the liquid mud tanks can also carry water or fuel and the methanol tank can also carry fuel. Other features of these OSV's include a passenger carrying capacity of 36 people plus crew, an ABS Loadline and USCG certified less than 100 tons. Right behind the Skansi OSV's is an order for six offshore vessels for Barry Graham Oil Company of Bayou La Batre. All of the vessels are under construction simultaneously.
C&G Boat Works
C & G Boat Works is another shipyard in Bayou La Batre that is building oil field vessels at a frenzied pace. In the past C & G mainly built crew/supply vessels for its marine operation Graham Marine and were planning to consolidate their new construction and repair work in a new facility in Mobile. That was before Tidewater, Inc. decided they needed crew/supply vessels by the handfuls and began buying crew/supply boats that C & G had under construction for their own uses. Today, the two-vessel fabrication shed in which C&G builds their crew/supply boats is still full as C&G works on a four-vessel order for Tidewater.
The only down note in this otherwise commercial vessel boomtown is the bankruptcy of Horizon Shipbuilding. The company was building two 155-ft. crew/supply boats and a 200-ft. offshore supply/rescue vessel all for SLOK, Nigeria. The OSV is in the water but not completed and one of the crew/supply boats is still in one of the fabrication sheds. Work stopped on these vessels in January and no announcement has been made as to the disposition of the vessels or the company. Other than the failure of Horizon, Bayou La Batre is literally "bursting at the seams" with business. Yards such as B&B Boat Builders and Rodriguez Boat Building have opened up satellite shipyards to handle the shrimp boat business they have booked. The narrow roads that wind through this picturesque village are often clogged with semis and flatbeds delivering steel, aluminum, engines and the hundreds of other components that are needed to build shrimp boats and oil field vessels. Spin off economic development due to boat building is everywhere in Bayou La Batre, but no more pronounced than at the "The Lighthouse Restaurant," on the edge of town where it is almost impossible to get a table for lunch anymore.