U.S. Northwest Shipyards Remained Active In 2010: Guarded optimism for 2011
by peter marsh

The northwest was the last corner of the United States to be hit by the recession, but by 2010 most sectors were experiencing the downturn. While the marine industry has not been immune to the wider trend, most of the small ship and boat builders in the region have continued to be fairly busy. Many of these yards have earned a reputation for technically challenging vessels, and 2010’s output included several notable achievements, including catamaran ferries and pilot boats with Tier 4 diesels, an 11 931 kW ATB tug, and a 25 m low-wake catamaran.

Widening and lengthening of a fishing boat in an Astoria, Oregon, U.S.A., shipyard with a new Northern Lights gen-set about to be dropped into place.

There has only been one notable casualty:
Aluminum Chambered Boats (ACB) of Bellingham, Washington, U.S.A. The economy was not the only factor here, however, since it had recently secured a US$38 million contract for 80, 10 m trailerable port security boats for the U.S. Coast Guard. ACB had been in business for 12 years, relied heavily on military orders and had a workforce of 60 last summer. Successful yards have prospered by avoiding this type of specialization a lesson they learned in the early 1990s when a decade-long boom in fishing boats ended. Building on their reputation for seaworthy craft, the survivors began to diversify into a wide range of commercial types, partnered with naval architects offering new ideas from Z-drive tugs to hovercraft, and adopted computerized systems to speed production.

Versatility is Key
Before it had completed the 89 m Cade Candies, the third Inspection, Maintenance and Repair (IMR) boat for oil patch operator Otto Candies, Dakota Creek Ind. in Anacortes, Washington, had begun work on another challenging project: three 45 m ATB tugs for Crowley Maritime with twin 5965 kW Wärtsilä C32 dual-fuel engines. The unusual hull design is by Naviform of Vancouver, B.C., Canada; the bottom is formed into two streamlined pods that house the two fully independent engine rooms.

In 2010, Nichols Brothers completed a series of five 30.5 m Jensen-designed Valor-class tugs fitted with Caterpillar 3516c engines and Rolls-Royce Z-drives.

The first vessel, the MV Legacy, was delivered in November, and the second, MV Legend, is scheduled for a June 2011 delivery. The third hull for the MV Liberty is under way, and the yard is also building two small barges for Crowley. “But we don’t see any more new construction beyond this,” said Dakota Creek vice president Mike Nelson. “Oil patch work has dried up for us, and we haven’t seen anything else yet. In February, there was a state ferry in for its winter maintenance, and the MV Coho for its biannual haul-out.” Because most high-tech boats rely on some government funding, Kvichak Marine Ind. is looking to other sectors during the current fiscal environment. One successful line for the company is a filter-belt oil skimmer built under license from Marco since the early 1990s. An order for 30 of these outboard-powered craft for the gulf spill had the shop humming last summer.

Another long-term investment paying dividends for Kvichak Marine is the decision to compete for a U.S. Coast Guard contract. In 2006 Kvichak partnered with Marinette Marine of Wisconsin, U.S.A., and won the contract for the Coast Guard’s new Response Boat-Medium (RBM) to replace its 12.5 m utility boats. They are now splitting construction between the two states at an overall rate of one vessel per month. The 14 m RBM is powered by two 615 kW MTU Series 60s for a top speed of 30 knots. The order has grown to 100 boats and could reach 250.

Built by Kvichak Marine, the 22 m Dutch pilot boat, Aquila, is powered by twin Caterpillar ACERT engines rated 970 kW at 2100 r/min.
Caterpillar ACERT engines rated 970 kW at 2100 r/min.

“We have recently seen an uptick in inquiries about all types of boats,” explained Keith Whittemore, one of Kvichak’s three partners. “Customers are very interested in Tier 2 for fuel efficiency, and also environmentally if they are involved with the public.” He has noticed that Scania engines are getting more attention, and he put two in a 16.5 m catamaran the yard launched in December for its own charter business. SAFE Boats International (SBI) based in Port Orchard, Washington, has built hundreds of small patroltype craft since 2002. It has now moved into the 12 to 14 m range, and has a full order book from various government agencies, and some international customers. A notable achievement in 2010 was the delivery of six 15 m

Riverine Command Boats

(RCB) to the U.S. Marine Corps. This is a multipurpose craft based on a Swedish design. Power comes from a pair of 633 kW Scania DI16 diesels coupled to Rolls-Royce FF410 waterjets, with a speed in excess of 40 knots. The RCB has been tested on a 50/50 fuel blend of algae-based biodiesel and NATO F-76 fuel. Tugs, Catamarans and Ferries Northwest yards have profited by meeting the need for specialpurpose tugs, custom catamarans and ferries.

J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding of Tacoma, Washington, was the first U.S. yard to build a compact Z-drive tug from naval architect Robert Allan of Vancouver, B.C., in 1989. By 2000, these tugs were being built all over the world, and Martinac is now completing its eighth Allan tug in three years. The last four were for the U.S. Navy shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, and are driven by twin Caterpillar 3512s with a total of 2684 kW. With the fourth one sheduled for sea trails in January, Joe Martinac was cautiously optimistic, saying there were, “decent prospects for another tug order for the navy or possibly a commercial operator.”

Seattle, Washington-based naval architects Jensen Maritime Consultants of Seattle (now a Crowley company) have also drawn numerous powerful Z-drive designs built all over the United States. In 2010, Nichols Brothers completed a series of five 30.5 m Jensen-designed Valorclass tugs fitted with two 2554 kW Caterpillar 3516c engines and Rolls-Royce Z-drives. However, Jensen’s most consistent customer is tug operator Western Towboat in Seattle. This year it will launch its 16th Jensen tug, a Caterpillar-powered 36 m vessel.

Dakota Creek Ind. began work on three 45 m ATB tugs for Crowley Maritime with twin 5965 kW Wärtsilä C32 dual-fuel engines. The unusual hull design is by Naviform of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The bottom is formed into two streamlined pods that house the two fully independent engine rooms. The first vessel, the MV Legacy, was delivered in November, and the second, MV Legend, is scheduled for a June 2011 delivery.

Smaller northwest yards have the flexibility to meet the need for smaller special-purpose tugs. Last summer, Fred Wahl’s mid-Oregon coast yard launched the 28 m triple-screw Dana Cruz for Foss Maritime’s Alaskan arctic service, and is now finishing a sister ship and a 17.5 m fishing vessel. The Foss yard in Rainier, Oregon, U.S.A., is also building a shallowdraft tug 22.5 m long. Diversified Marine in Portland, Oregon, has started work on a pair of 24 m Z-drive tugs for Shaver; the design is by Capillano Marine Design of Vancouver and power is twin MTU 16V4000 engines, each rated 1998 kW. At its Mount Vernon, Washington, plant, Rozema Boat Works built two 20 m steel and aluminum harbor tugs that were recently shipped to the Kuwait navy. This year, they are working on four 17 m seagoing oil skimmers for the Clean Sea Coalition of Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A.

Sea trial of the Chetzemoka. The final cost of this Washington, U.S.A., ferry was almost US$80 million. The delivery came too late for the 2010 summer season. On the sea trials, excessive vibration in the shaft line was discovered. It took another three months to solve the issue in the control software and to train the crew.

Nichols Brothers was the pioneer in aluminum catamaran building on the West Coast. It has delivered 45 catamarans, including many ferries for the Bay Area and Catalina Island. The yard has contracted to overhaul five of these vessels and replace their old Detroit engines with a total of 16 Tier 2 MTU 4000s. The third vessel is now in the yard, with the last two scheduled for the spring and summer. “I think we are looking at some good prospects for the coming year,” said Matt Nichols. “We have seen interest in fishing boats growing, and more tugs are still needed on the West Coast. Meanwhile, our catamaran repower program and third state ferry superstructure will carry us into the summer.”

All American Marine of Bellingham, Washington, is nearing completion of a 25 m high-speed ultra-low-wake catamaran using an experimental hydrofoil design with an aluminum hull and a composite superstructure to save weight. The wake is a crucial issue because a previous catamaran service between Bremerton, Washington, and Seattle was halted by wakeinduced shoreline erosion. Propulsion comes from four Caterpillar C18 ACERT diesels rated at 651 kW driving Hamilton waterjets, giving a speed of 34 to 36 knots.

All American, exclusive U.S. builder of Teknicraft Designs of New Zealand, has begun work on its biggest project to date a 41 m catamaran for C & C Technologies in Louisiana, U.S.A., to be fully equipped for geophysical survey work in the gulf. This will be driven by four Caterpillar twin C32 ACERT engines and twin C18 ACERT engines for a maximum of 1603 kW giving a 20 knot top speed.  In 2009, the world’s first diesel-electric hybrid tug was introduced by Foss Maritime at the Port of Long Beach, California. Now, a second grant from the California Air Resources Board will allow Foss to retrofit another 22 m Dolphin tug with the Foss/Aspin Kemp hybrid technology at its Rainier, Oregon, yard, starting in the fall. The boat will have the same 3728 kW output, and could save more than 378 541 L of diesel fuel annually, according to the company.

The biggest contract in the Pacific Northwest is for three new 64-car class ferries for Washington State Ferries (WSF). They are designed by the Elliot Bay Design Group of Seattle. The prime builder is Todd Pacific Shipyards of Seattle, while Nichols Brothers supplies the aluminum superstructure.

Power is by two EMD
710 12-710s, each rated 2237 kW at 900 r/min, connected via mechanical drive systems for double-ended operation. The first vessel, the Chetzemoka, went into service in November. The second ferry, Salish, will enter service in spring of 2011. The third boat, Kennewick, is not due for delivery until winter 2012. The Washington ferry system oper- ates under a legislative mandate requiring all ferries must be built in-state, and it was looking for a local bid of around US$50 million per boat. However, Todd was the only bidder, with an original estimate of US$65.5 million. The final cost of the Chetzemoka was almost US$80 million. Because of changes to the plans, some to comply with new fire and ADA requirements, the delivery came too late for the 2010 summer season.

On the sea trials, excessive vibration in the shaft line was discovered, and it took another three months to solve the issue in the control software and to train the crew. The fixed cost for the three-ferry contract has been set at US$213 million. Todd is also responsible for detailed planning for WSF’s long-delayed 144-car ferries.

Looking Ahead

With an impressive record for advanced designs, the northwest will  continue to win orders for high-tech boats, but the current economic climate demands that the shipyards also look to more traditional types. Yards are stressing productivity and versatility. Several may be reduced to maintenance and repair work unless there is a major turnaround. One possibility is a customer who has been noticeably absent for many years the fishing vessel owner.

Recent years had been very  good for many fishermen, and their 1980s boats are showing their age. Shipyards are heavily promoting new designs for fishing. This includes Delta Marine of Seattle, which stopped production of its respected 17.5 m fiberglass seiner 20 years ago, and devoted itself entirely to building luxury motor yachts up to 50 m long. The company has already laminated several new 17.5 m vessels in the original mold and is fitting them with engines around 372 kW for delivery this spring.

Fishing vessels like these have always been classed as “uninspected” by the U.S. Coast Guard and are not required to comply with any technical construction standards. But this will change in 2012 when the sweeping provisions of the Maritime Safety Act of 2010 take full effect. It requires that all fishing vessels over 15 m long must be designed and built to the class rules of the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) or other independent classification society, and regularly surveyed.

This is standard procedure for ensuring high standards of safety in design, equipment and construction of commercial vessels (but will increase costs significantly). In addition, all vessels 24 m or longer must have an official load line. The rule was written by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, who fought to include it in the 2010 Coast Guard Authorization Bill during House-Senate negotiations. “It has been nearly four years in the making to get this important legislation through Congress,” she said in a Senate floor speech after the Senate passed the measure.

Source: Diesel & Gas Turbine Worldwide

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