Guarded Optimism for 2013 from U.S. Gulf Boatbuilders
Caveats and some doubts remain.
Marine companies along the Gulf of Mexico will be busy in 2013 producing offshore vessels to meet expected growth in the region’s deepwater drilling sector over the next several years. Vessel repairs will be active too. Worker training will be stepped up to address a skilled labor shortage. And nearly three years after BP’s spill off coastal Louisiana, safety will remain a priority. But with the nation teetering on a fiscal cliff – which may spur tax increases and government spending cuts – demand for official and military vessels could be affected, industry members say.
Gulf’s Deepwater Rig Count Slated To Expand
New York-brokerage International Strategy and Investment, with an office in Houston, predicted on December 10 that the deepwater rig count in the U.S. Gulf would grow from a current 36 floating rigs to roughly 50 such rigs by mid-2014 and 60 or more during 2015 to 2017. ISI senior managing director and oil-services research head Jud Bailey said the deepwater GOM is in its early stage of an extended growth cycle after being almost left for dead following BP’s Macondo blowout. Further exploration in the GOM, along with development of discoveries – including Anadarko Petroleum-operated Lucius, ExxonMobil-operated Hadrian, Chevron-operated Big Foot and Jack/St. Malo, and BP-operated Tiber and Kaskida – should fuel that growth, Bailey said in early December. Separately, and buoyed by that optimism, Gulf Coast builders and operators have stepped up their activities, hiring and output.
Bollinger Busy with Backlog
In Lockport La., Chris Bollinger, executive vice president of new construction at Bollinger Shipyards, Inc., said “2013 looks promising for the U.S. shipbuilding market overall, with order books filling for new-generation, platform supply vessels and support vessels, as well as OPA 1990 tank barges and support tugs.” Certain vessels must comply with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, intended to prevent spills after Alaska’s 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.
Bollinger said the company’s “new construction activity will continue with a backlog of activity for both our government programs and our commercial activity. Our Lockport facility continues to progress with our U.S. Coast Guard contract to build eighteen fast-response cutters, with options on up to 34 of these cutters. Backlogs at our other facilities exist for several tugboats, sludge ships, large PSVs and barges.” The company is evaluating new opportunities to build offshore vessels, dredgers, tugs, barges and government boats. He added, “Our eight repair facilities continue to successfully pursue regulatory repairs for a diverse customer base. “Recently, we were awarded major conversions for a fleet of six PSVs. We anticipate a strong year for our repair group, and we’re looking to expand our footprint in Port Fourchon, and other key locations.”
Bollinger said to meet current and future demand, the company is focused on developing skilled workers. “We grow our most important resources by training and educating our workforce, both on and off the job,” he said. “Our Quality, Safety, and Environmental programs are essential to our day-to-day business, and we continue to improve these systems to make sure we get them right. Our employees, along with our subcontractors and vendors, are the company’s heartbeat, and their safety is paramount to our success.”
Chouest Builds Deepwater OSVs
Edison Chouest Offshore or ECO in Cut Off, La. will continue its aggressive new-build campaign in 2013. ECO, which has 25 vessels under construction worldwide, said in September it would build an additional eight, Jones Act-class, deepwater OSVs for delivery within 24 months. Hulls 14-21 in that series of 300’ class OSVs are in early-construction stages, with steel and equipment having been ordered. Those eight builds will take place at four Chouest affiliate yards on the Gulf – North American Shipbuilding in Larose, La., La Ship in Houma, La., Gulf Ship in Gulfport, Ms. and Tampa Ship in Tampa, Fl. The eight builds will be on speculation because the company has enough confidence in the market and state of the industry to start construction before customers have signed on the dotted line.
Chouest’s 2012 deliveries included platform supply vessels built in Brazil at its affiliate Navship yard in Navegantes, along with well-stimulation vessels, fast supply boats, a Norwegian-built PSV and the ice breaker Aiviq. The latter vessel is now working in Alaska.
Chouest is expanding international orders to replace Jones Act tonnage that will soon return to the Gulf of Mexico after moving away during the U.S. drilling moratorium in the Gulf two years ago. That segment includes six boats under construction at Remontowa S.A. in Gdansk, Poland, and eleven vessels – nine PSVs and two anchor handlers – at Navship in Brazil.
ECO also has four 194’ fast-supply vessels that are under construction at Breaux Brothers Enterprises in Loreauville, La., and are expected to work in the Gulf of Mexico.
Candies Produces Offshore Support Vessels
At Otto Candies LLC in Des Allemandes, LLC, president Paul Candies said “from our yard in Houma, we’ll take delivery on a 280’ dive support vessel in first-quarter 2013, under contract for Petrobras Brazil. Also from Houma, we’ll take delivery on a 290’ PSV in the first quarter, under contract here in the Gulf. We have two more 290’ PSVs under construction in Houma, one for delivery in third-quarter 2013 under contract for the Gulf of Mexico and one for delivery in second-quarter 2014.”
Candies also insists, “If necessary, we will expand our launch facility in Houma this year to accommodate larger vessels. Our staffing should remain about the same in 2013.” He added, ”We will continue to expand our safety programs in 2013. Safety is the most important aspect of our activities.” Every Candies employee is authorized to stop a work activity if an unsafe situation is observed.
“We will continue to learn from 2012 and from every day,” Candies said. He said the company has a reputation for finding new ways to tackle old problems. Candies has expanded its fleet beyond DP or dynamic positioning, offshore supply vessels and ocean tugs to state-of-the-art IMR or Inspection, Maintenance and Repair dive-support vessels. The company does pipeline and sub-sea inspections, repairs and installations with ROV or remotely operated vehicle-IMR equipped vessels, certified for saturation diving.
Otto Candies also provides customers with marine and engineering consulting services. Using its high-horsepower, Z-Drive tugs, the firm is experienced in TLP or Tension Leg Platform and SPAR (deep draft caisson-type vessel) tow-outs and offshore installations of drilling platforms.
Metal Shark Builds Government Boats
At Metal Shark Boats in Jeanerette, La., vice president Greg Lambrecht said “our yard is currently working on a U.S. Coast Guard RB-SII 28 Defiant Class, a USCG Cutter Boat Aton Large- 23’ Courageous Class and a USCG Cutter Boat Aton Medium- 18’ Relentless Class vessel. We’re working on a multinational riverine project- 24’ Relentless Class; and multiple, foreign military projects; 24’ through 45’ patrol, fire and ambulance vessels and on multiple U.S. state and local police, fire and law enforcement vessels-18’ through 45’.”
Labrecht continued, “Our 2013 projects are underway and/or planned. Recent infrastructure expansion allows us to meet all current and planned projects, and infrastructure enhancements will continue in 2013 in anticipation of further growth.” In 2013, Metal Shark expects to expand its staff from 150 employees in late 2012.
Lambrecht said vessel builders will be affected by the nation’s financial climate in 2013. “The current outlook for government spending is showing a decrease in available funds for out-year projects and the looming fiscal cliff is a serious concern,” he said. “Metal Shark has expanded its international presence to help mitigate some of this risk.”
Eastern Fulfills Contracts for Harvey Gulf, Hornbeck
In Florida, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. is under contract to build fifteen large, diesel-electric OSVs in its “Tiger Shark” series for customers in the United States and in Brazil. On Dec. 12, Eastern launched the HARVEY DEEP-SEA, the fourth of its Tiger Shark Class OSVs being produced for Harvey Gulf International Marine, LLC in New Orleans. Eastern is also under contract to build ten 302’x64’x26’ OSVs for Hornbeck Offshore Services in Covington, La. Because of upcoming manpower needs, Eastern has expanded its training programs. With two shipbuilding facilities in Panama City, Fla., Eastern builds, converts and repairs steel and aluminum vessels of all types.
GOM Outlook Tied To Region’s Offshore Sector
The health of the GOM’s oil-and-gas sector is critical to the region’s marine industry, though vessel builders also cater to domestic and foreign governments. A deadly oil platform explosion off Grand Isle, La. on Nov. 16 underscored the need for safety and recently tightened regulations on offshore oil. The marine industry watched closely as a federal trial in New Orleans kicked off late last year, intended in part to ultimately determine BP’s 2010 spill liabilities. Also of interest is the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s oil-and-gas lease sale, slated to be held in New Orleans on March 20, offering 38 million acres in offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
On balance, the Gulf marine industry expects to thrive in 2013, with several companies planning to expand their payrolls to fulfill vessel contracts. Uncertainties remain, but the uptick in GOM activity is expected to continue, regardless of what happens on a federal level in Washington. And, that’s because Oil & Gas and the marine sector that supports it remain one of the few bright spots in the so-far tepid economic recovery.
(As published in the January 2013 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)