By Larry Pearson
While the market news from the passenger vessel industry has been anything but bright, a few shipyards are building new facilities to better serve their customer base.
One of the best examples is Island Boats, Jeanerette, La., Island Boats formerly was located on a very dry patch of land overlooking Highway 90 near New Iberia, La. . After construction, their vessels had to be trucked to the Port of Iberia, several miles away. "The cost to us and inconvenience to others in the Port was becoming a major problem as our boats got bigger," said Miles Thomas
, president of the firm.
The firm solved this problem in May by moving to a six acre plot of land that backs up to Bayou Teche, approximately eight miles from the Baldwin Canal that has direct access to the Intercoastal waterway. "The Corps of Engineers maintains a 50-ft. wide by 10-ft. deep channel through Bayou Teche," Thomas said.
On this land, Island Boats has built a 20,000 sq. ft. main fabrication shed, a 5,000 sq. ft. finishing shed and a 5,000 sq. ft. stores/prep shed. All of the fabrication areas are covered and the buildings are on concrete slabs.
"We have cut a 40-ft. wide launching area to the water," Thomas said. "The entire launch way area from the finishing shed to the water is about to be concreted," Thomas said "and then comes pilings and a pier to tie the boats against for final finish work," Thomas added.
The administrative staff is housed in a 1,600 sq. ft. office building. Computer facilities include a server (www.islandboats.com), PC's and high-speed Internet access.
Island Boats has built a good reputation for quality and on time delivery at their land locked facility over the past few years, building a variety of tenders for Norwegian Cruise Lines, ferry vessels for the National Park Service
and other vessels typically in the 65-ft. long range.
Now the company is branching out. The most recent delivery is an 82-ft. by 28-ft. catamaran ferry for Bald Island Transportation Company. This vessel is also the last one to be trucked to Port Iberia for launching.
"From now on, all vessels will be launched directly into Bayou Teche from our new shipyard," Thomas said with a great deal of pride.
Bald Head Island Transportation, Inc is unique in many ways. It transports residents and cargo from its dock at South Port, N.C. to the private resort island of Bald Head, a barrier island off the North Carolina coast.
Bald Head Island has year around residents in its several permanent communities and caters to summertime rentals and has hotel and motel properties as well..
The company has three monohulls, but this new vessel is its first purpose-built ferry. A major design consideration in the construction of this ferry was to make plenty of room for luggage carts for visitors.
"In the past, their vessels were too small to carry both passengers and luggage, so the luggage came on a separate trip," Thomas said.
The new vessel has room for 24 baggage carts with a maximum payload of 16,000 lbs.
"The vessel will leave our shipyard with a Subchapter T certification for 149 passengers," Thomas said. "However we have built the boat to Subchapter K regulations with structural fire protection, low fire load interiors and other necessary fire safeguards," Thomas added.The company will complete the paper work after taking delivery of the vessel in order increase passenger capacity above 149 persons as allowed by Subchapter K.
The $1.5 million vessel was built to an Schuller & Allan, Inc design and is powered by a pair of Cummins KTA 19M3 diesels, rated at 640 hp each. ZF gears, three-inch Aquamet shafting and Michigan Dyna Quad props complete the drive train.
Twin Isuzu 40 kW gensets provide ship's power.
Turnball booth type seating is featured in the main deck cabin with aluminum bench type seating on the upper deck.
The vessel was delivered in August 2003.
The next vessel from Island Boats will be a 55-ft. by 23-ft. passenger catamaran for Frogman Charters, Inc. of Lahainia, Hawaii.
The 149-passenger vessel will replace an existing catamaran vessel and allow the company to access additional areas due to higher vessel speed.
Main power will be from a pair of Luggar 600 hp diesels. Speed is expected to be 26 knots on the Subchapter T vessel.
Many of the tours offered by Frogman feature snorkeling. There is a swim up rear platform on the vessel as well as a glass bottom viewing area in one of the hulls.
The vessel will be the first boat to be delivered from the new shipyard.
Work was already begun on two vessels in a four-boat contract to supply passenger tenders for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The tenders will be based in Belize and carry passengers from RCCL larger cruise ships approximately four miles to the Belize mainland.
Each of the vessels is 68-ft. by 22-ft. and can hold up to 230 passengers. Propulsion power will be via a pair of Caterpillar 3406 engines, each rated at 700 hp.
"These vessels will be classed by DNV," said Thomas. "All Royal Caribbean vessels are DNV classed and these smaller vessels are treated no differently," Thomas added. All four of the tenders are set for delivery by November 2003.
Beyond the vessels now under construction, Thomas has major expansion plans for Island Boats. "The cruise line segment has been good to us and so has the vessels we have built for the National Park Service and others," Thomas said. "Now we think pilot boats are a logical next step," Thomas added.
With Island Boats in the heart of crew/supply boat territory, these all-aluminum craft may also be on the horizon. For sure, Island Boats now has the physical plant to produce almost anything they want in aluminum.