VT Halter Marine continues to secure construction contracts for articulated tug-barge units, while enhancing its knowledge and reputation building LNG-powered vessels
VT Halter Marine has established an enviable position in the North American workboat and barge construction sector, thanks to its engineering expertise, design capabilities and safety regimes. This Pascagoula, Mississippi shipyard has a strong and diverse orderbook that includes construction of articulated tug-barge (ATB) combinations, ferries, bunkering barges, naval vessels and container roro ships.
It has achieved its reputation by adopting high safety protocols, utilising the latest 3D-engineering software and keeping its skilled workforce trained in the latest ideas and technology.
“Halter has delivered over 2,600 vessels to commercial and government customers in 29 countries, and has a reputation for quality,” said VT Halter Marine senior vice president Robert Socha. “Relationships, some going back over 37 years with return customers like Bouchard Transportation, are paramount, allowing us to grow along with our diverse customer base.”
Indeed, Mr Socha noted the shipyard’s history and financial stability as core reasons why it retains clients and attracts repeat business.
VT Halter has produced medium-sized vessels for 70 years and uses engineering and design capabilities from worldwide resources. “We leverage the core engineering competencies of the ST Engineering Group in Singapore whenever we can, to enhance our capabilities,” said Mr Socha. “We also use outside design agents when they bring designs or core competencies that we do not have.”
This expertise, coupled with outside design and engineering contractors has enabled VT Halter to build a comprehensive orderbook of newbuildings for the next two to three years. For example, it is currently building the second of two LNG-powered container/roro (Conro) ships for Crowley Maritime, scheduled to be delivered before the end of this year.
These ships, El Coqui and Taino, are built with MAN Energy Solutions 8S70ME-C8.2-GI main engines and three of its 9L28/32 DF auxiliary engines. These are installed in a hull based on Wärtsilä Ship Design’s CRV 2400 WB standard model. Wärtsilä also supplied its propeller, rudders, transverse thrusters and shaft line, along with its bearings and stern tube.
“Relationships, some going back over 37 years with return customers, are paramount, allowing us to grow along with our diverse customer base”
VT Halter is also engaging its construction expertise to build a set of 67 Class barracks barges for the US Navy that are anticipated to enter service in Q2 and Q3 2020. It is also completing a passenger ferry for the Virginia Department of Transportation that will operate between Jamestown and Scotland in that state.
However, its experience in constructing tugs and barges generates the main elements of its existing orderbook and it has contracts for conventional and LNG-based units. VT Halter has a contract with Bouchard Transportation for the construction of two twin-screw ATB units for operations in New York state.
The first of these ABS-class ATBs, Evening Breeze, is scheduled for delivery in Q1 2019 and the second, Evening Stroll, in Q1 2020.
These will both have an overall length of 34 m, breadth of 10.5 m and 5.2 m hull depth. They will each have combined power of 2,990 kW and be classed for ocean towage. Both ATBs will meet US Coast Guard’s Subchapter M and SOLAS requirements and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 4 emissions regulations.
In one of the most ingenious ATB projects yet to be instigated, VT Halter is combining the engineering of ATBs with LNG cargo to build a 4,000 m3 capacity LNG transportation and bunkering barge and an LNG-powered tug for an ATB project for Quality LNG Transport (Q-LNG).
The project will provide LNG bunkering services, under a long-term contract to Shell, and will be operated by Harvey Gulf International Marine when it comes into service in Q1 2020. Shell will use this ATB to refuel cruise ships and other dual-fuel vessels in the southeastern US.
According to Mr Socha there are contract options to build another ATB tug for Bouchard Transportation and four more 67 Class barracks barges for the US Navy; this could keep the shipyard busy into 2021. VT Halter is also set to build an 8,000 m3 capacity ATB for Q-LNG, which will be a scaled-up version of the smaller bunker vessel, with the same design features.
“As the largest US builder of medium-size ships, our facility is capable of supporting multiple building programmes at any one time,” said Mr Socha. The Pascagoula operations facility covers more than 331,800 m2, with the main undercover fabrication and assembly buildings covering 68,500 m2.
The operations facility has erection and launch facilities that are suited to both large- and medium-size vessels. It also has a blast and paint facility and more than 3,420 m2 of warehouse space for storing and distributing vessel construction materials.
It operates almost 7,000 m2 of offsite warehouse space, including 460 m2 of climate-controlled warehousing for the storage of sensitive electrical or electronics components.
Its Pascagoula shipyard has a direct, nine-nautical mile, unobstructed deepwater access to the Gulf of Mexico. It can process more than 40,000 tonnes of steel per year. The under-roof areas are dedicated to the cutting, shaping, fabrication, assembly, erection and inspection of large construction modules and assembly blocks.
VT Halter’s facilities are equipped with crane and lifting units for single or multicrane lifts. This includes:
The shipyard has multiple options for transferring a fully assembled vessel from land to afloat. The three methodologies most frequently used are side-launch using tilt-beams, end-launch via the launch dock, or side-launch using cranes.
Software and training
VT Halter uses a variety of design and engineering software that enhances its naval architecture and ship construction. Mr Socha said the group uses AutoCAD for 2D drafting and then ShipConstructor for 3D product modelling and NavisWorks for model viewing, display and analysis.
Its engineers can then use Rhino for further 3D modelling and AutoDesk Simulator for finite element analysis of these 3D models. Mr Socha said the shipyard uses ShipWeight for weight control software and Pipe-Flo for fluid flow analysis. It utilises Creative Systems’ General HydroStatics for stability and hydrostatics calculations, Primavera P6 for scheduling and then Microsoft Office for documentation and other office software requirements.
When this is not enough, VT Halter engages outside assistance. It is working with Downey engineering on the US Navy’s barracks barges and TAI on engineering heavy Polar ice breakers for the US Coast Guard. It is using two third parties on Crowley’s Conro programme, including Wärtsilä Ship Design and TGE for the LNG system design.
Other elements that enhance VT Halter’s services are its safety strategies, procedures and training. “To reduce our incident rate our upper management supports and buys into the safety programme,” said Mr Socha. “Management and production leadership work together to hold front-line supervision accountable and they in-turn hold the employees accountable.”
Its safety training includes a five-hour orientation for all employees, using various materials including presentations and video. There are weekly safety meetings, with tool-box topics covered for different crafts and supervisor training provided.
VT Halter also provides additional specialty training, such as forklift, man-lift, overhead crane, fire watch, and remedial training. Training covers the latest regulations and class rules from classification societies ABS, DNV GL and from the US Coast Guard. For LNG projects, the shipyard follows IGF Code.