By Larry Pearson
Family businesses are not only numerous in the offshore vessel owners arena, but among the shipyards that build these boats as well. Gulf Craft, owned by the Tibbs family, is an excellent example of a company that has been building aluminum boats during the last five decades and has prospered under two generations of family ownership, and is positioned for a smooth transition to the third generation.
The shipyard is located in Patterson, La., along Bayou Teche. The yard was founded by Scott Tibbs in 1965 and began by building small aluminum vessels of all kinds.
By the early 1970's, Gulf Craft built its first crew boat for Norman McCall Boat Rentals, a 75-ft. vessel named the Joseph Alan. Since then they have built over 50 additional crew/supply boats for McCall and the present company Seacor Marine.
"Over the past 30 years there has almost always been a McCall or Seacor Crew vessel under construction at Gulf Craft," Scott Tibbs said.
Scott's three sons Scott II, Kevin and Bryant began their shipyard careers early in life, Scott II (or Scottie) remembers. " We began working in the yard as teenagers after school and in the summer." Today Scottie (41) is Comptroller, Kevin (40) is President and Bryant (39) is the Purchasing Agent. Scott, now 64, has turned the operation of the shipyard over to his three sons.
"The business of building crew/supply boats has become much more technical with computer aided design," Scottie said. Regulations are also tougher. "Sometimes we are building vessels that have to meet two different sets of regulations," Scottie added.In addition to their12-acre shipyard on Bayou Teche, Gulf Craft has a yard in Simmesport, La. that builds major vessel components such as frames, bulkheads, tanks, rails, etc. All final assembly takes place in Patterson.
The company moved into a new 7,500 sq. ft. office and engineering center.
Today, Gulf Craft remains very busy. They have a 150-ft. passenger catamaran under construction to carry people from Ft. Myers, Fla. to Key west. This 40-knot vessel is one example of the diversification of the shipyard. In addition to crew/supply boats, they build whale watch vessels, party fishing boats, dive boats, tenders and other passenger and research vessels.
In the crew/supply boat area they completed earlier this year a series of three boats for Trico Marine and have just completed construction a pair of 175- by 30-ft. water jet crew/supply boats for Seacor Marine and are working on two more of 150- by 27-ft. boats also for Seacor .
It would appear that the next generation of Tibbs children will be ready to take over the company when Scottie, Kevin and Bryant are ready to give up the reins. Totally there are five young Tibbs children in the wings waiting to show they can make the transition to the third generation as smoothly as their fathers took over from their father.