Off the Radar, But Very Much on the Ball

Joseph Keefe (taken from June MarineNews edition)
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Overhead view of the Sensco Shipyard in North Kingstown, RI.

Senesco Marine Steps Out Into the Broader Commercial Build and Repair Markets. The largest mid-tier yard in the U.S. Northeast touts deep experience and high standards. Suddenly, operators have another viable choice for newbuild and repair work.


After being off the radar for perhaps as many as 12 years – during which the yard was itself quite busy primarily servicing internal Reinauer requirements – Rhode Island-based Senesco Marine LLC has moved more aggressively into the outside commercial markets. Although perhaps representing a somewhat new entity to some clients, Senesco is anything but new on the scene. An accomplished builder of modern tonnage, it is more than capable of taking on any mid-tier shipyard newbuild or repair challenge. Boat operators and competing shipyards are about to discover how, and more importantly, why.

Now & Then
In operation since 1999, the Senesco shipyard of today was born when the original developers of the then relatively new shipyard encountered construction difficulties with a very large ATB unit that in many aspects was an attempt at a  “bridge too far” at that point in the yard’s development. At the same time, Reinauer Transportation Company had received two tank barges completed by the yard, with an ambitious OPA-90 driven fleet replacement program also planned. The obvious quality of the workmanship found in the first two Reinauer barges with plans for more led to the rescue and redirection of the yard by Reinauer. Another driving force of the acquisition was the lack of open slots in Gulf Coast yards at the time, especially following the now-famous hurricane activity that took its toll on Gulf Coast infrastructure. Craig Reinauer characterized the deal by saying, “The shipyard was obtained at a good price, at exactly the right time.”

Dedicated to a fleet replacement program, the yard remained for more than five years, more or less as a captive operation by Reinauer.  New management directed by Mike Foster (VP & GM) and Joe Bush (VP Operations) redirected the yard over the next several years into an efficient, high quality builder of ocean class petroleum ATBs for Reinauer.

With the end of OPA-90 fleet replacement activity for both Reinauer and the Jones Act industry in general, the yard is now engaging the commercial marine industry at large. Senesco personnel now regularly attend industry events, seeking exposure and opportunity with the larger marine community. The successful first few steps of the yard are evidenced by the orders now in house for a dry dock, tractor tug, wind energy structure and some lesser contracts with expectations of others projects to follow. So far; so good.


Capabilities & Infrastructure
Senesco Marine operates two facilities which include a new building yard and a repair yard both located on the deep water of Narragansett Bay. Both facilities are situated on a southern portion of the very large Quonset Business Park about 15 miles south of Providence, RI.  Once a large amphibious air base, but now reborn largely as an industrial park, Senesco holds a lengthy ground lease with Quonset, providing the footprint of two yards. The new construction yard consists of about 29 acres with more than 248,000 square feet of covered fabrication space including a separate ocean tug construction shelter.  The main portion of the 248,000 square feet of space boasts updated and increased overhead crane capability enabling almost all of the steel preparation and fabrication to take place in weather protected environments with final erection of prefabricated modules taking outside on erection/launching slabs. The entire 29+ acres of the yard are paved in concrete providing for a clean work environment, even in inclement weather.


Senesco’s repair yard is located nearby on about 4 acres including a 1,200 foot deepwater pier with a floating dry dock with a capacity of 4,500 tons and internal dimensions of 400 x 82 feet. Beyond this, the yard’s collective assets are impressive.


Upgrading infrastructure at this Rhode Island yard has always been a priority. To that end, Senesco has also received two ARRA grants. The first, $1.8 million towards the erection of an overhead, 20-ton double-girder underhung crane system for Building 1, updated facilities left over from the 1940’s. Senesco also purchased a new ship section lift transporter with some of the proceeds of this grant. Another ARRA grant, still in progress, includes the acquisition of
Launch Airbags, Ship Estimating Software and training and Ship Constructor Software and training.

Senesco currently launches all new vessels by way of rolling onto a floating dry dock and lowering the dock in deep water accomplishing a gentle float off launch.  A heavy waterfront “transfer station” is incorporated into the yard waterfront to provide a stable dock interface for the transfer of heavy weights from the yard to the dry dock or in reverse for transferring materials and heavy structures from arriving heavy ocean deck barges to Senesco’s paved yard for further fabrication or storage in holding for projects such as completed or semi-finished offshore wind energy components.


Deep Experience – and a Backlog, too …
Although not necessarily visible to the commercial marine industry at large, Senseco has rarely if ever been idle. A total of 46 hulls were built and delivered during its first six years (1999-2005), under the original private ownership. Under Reinauer’s ownership (2006 until today), another 21 vessels were completed; all of which were built as part of the double hull fleet replacement program for Reinauer under the OPA-90 dictate. And, although Reinauer still has a few hulls still working in the yard, Senesco has branched out in recent years, now boasting a healthy backlog.


With only limited interaction with the commercial market in the recent past, some operators might be hesitant to entrust an unknown entity with a significant newbuild contract. On the other hand, Senesco’s parent owns and operates more than 75 vessels; one of the youngest and up-to-date fleets on the East Coast. Many of those vessels – consisting in part of a new fleet of articulated double hulled barges and a new class of tugs – were built at Senseco.


Recognized as a safe and progressive operator of marine tonnage, the quality of the work accomplished at Senesco shows through on Reinauer’s hulls, where 66 percent of the current barge fleet and about one-third of their tugs are of Senesco origin.

Senesco’s contract for the construction of a 120 x 420-ft., 7300 long-ton hauling capacity Dry Dock with Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Company is good example of the trust already building between this well-placed northeast shipyard and the maritime industry. Steve Kalil, President of Caddell’s stated that after Senesco delivered a new dry dock in July of 2011 it was easy to execute the second new build given the quality and workmanship experienced throughout the construction of the first unit. But, Senesco is no stranger to series build efficiencies, delivering numerous barges and tugs in recent years, including 22 large ATB’s (40 – 60 – 100K bbl units). “That’s our sweet spot,” says Senesco Business Development VP Tom Johnson. He also noted that the ATB total lifting capacity in the domestic Jones Act trades now exceeds that of the domestic tanker fleet. Hence, when the time to perform ATB maintenance arises, Senesco will be ready.

Senesco’s initial push into the outside commercial markets has already yielded dividends, achieving contracts that include new dry docks and a McAllister tractor tug. For his part, Craig Reinauer, President and CEO of President of both Senesco and Reinauer Transportation Company, told MarineNews in May, “We’ve come out strong, but now, we have to deal with other customers and other types of vessels.” And, according to Reinauer, that’s exactly where Senesco wants to be. He added, “We’ve built for our own fleets in different yards, we know what is out there and we know the quality of what we provide.”


Although Senesco is just now pushing its way onto the national, commercial stage, it has always enjoyed strong relationships with commercial vendors. According to Craig Reinauer, that’s always been the case since purchasing the yard in 2006. “We are loyal to our business partners and that loyalty has paid handsome dividends over the years; for us and for our customers.” As a perfect example, Senesco lists W&O – one of the world’s largest suppliers of valves, pipe, fittings, engineered products, valve automation and data management systems for the marine and offshore industries – as one of its strongest partners.

As a major supplier to coastwise and inland vessel builders, owners and operators, W&O remains ahead of the curve in many ways, offering high performance parts and customized service to their shipyard customers. Because W&O specializes in scalable solutions to meet any size marine vessel, the W&O relationship is therefore an important one for Senesco.

As a perfect complement to the Senesco tank barge and ATB markets, W&O also offers innovative solutions for new regulations on VOC emissions and inert gas requirements on tank barges. W&O is offering the latest technologies in pressure/vacuum relief valves and nitrogen generating systems from Pres-Vac. These valves offer high velocity tank vapor relief, higher operating pressures, and quick opening and shut-off capabilities to minimize VOC releases. Pres-Vac has also introduced a new self-contained nitrogen generating system called MIGS. These units are scalable to meet the inert gas generation capacity of many different size barges and offer multiple options for installation and operation. And, this remains important because  new IMO regulations reportedly could soon reduce the size of the tank vessel that will require inert gas systems from 20,000 DWT to 8,000 DWT.

Senesco also is working actively to develop an inventory of vessel designs and estimating knowledge to allow for rapid / confident correspondence with new client projects. This has led Senesco to examine marketing alliances with certain naval architects, including the Elliott Bay Design Group


Just over the Horizon
A new world is developing along the global waterfront in many regards and Senesco is working to place itself strategically in the best position to take advantage of it. The expectation that offshore wind development will finally come to fruition has Senesco looking to be at the heart of effort. With a favorable geographical location for wind power growth, Senseco believes that the demand for larger (300 foot plus) ocean deck barges with heavy deck ratings will only grow. These will be needed to transport heavy structures such as offshore wind energy components and assist in removal of dormant Gulf of Mexico oil production platforms.

With a solid track record of building modern and reliable ATB’s for the U.S. coastwise markets, Senesco also hopes to ride the coming shortsea shipping boom. In particular, the advent of smaller container feeder vessels could be just around the corner, especially with a larger Panama Canal now promising to bring super TEU carriers. Add to this the need for replacement of last generation OSV’s with much larger multi-purpose OSVs, renewed interest in ice class vessels developing and the very probable development of LNG powered ferries, accompanied by conversion of existing vessels to LNG, and the recipe for continued success is arguably at hand.

This capable and experienced mid-tier shipyard is looking to expand its horizons after (successfully) completing a backlog of internal assignments. New equipment, situated in one of the youngest yards in the country, augmented by experienced personnel is awaiting new challenges from industry. Operators looking for a build and repair yard run from the standpoint of and understanding the needs of the smaller, mid-size, shortsea market operator may have just found a match. What’s not to like?


+ Taken from the June print edition of MarineNews magazine +


Joseph Keefe is the Editor of MarineNews magazine.

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