Edison Chouest to build new vessels, expand port facilities

07 10, 2013 by Houma Courier

Cut Off-based Edison Chouest Offshore is greatly enlarging its fleet of vessels and expanding its terminal facilities at Port Fourchon, which will result in an undetermined number of new jobs, company officials announced Tuesday.

During the next two to three years, Chouest will build more than 40 new vessels, but the company did not disclose their total value.

“In the company’s 53-year history, this is quite likely its largest or most significant” undertaking, said Lonnie Thibodeaux, Chouest director of corporate communications.

A vast majority of the vessels will be constructed at its four U.S.-affiliate shipyards: North American Shipbuilding in Larose, LaShip in Houma, Gulf Ship in Gulfport, Miss., and Tampa Ship in Tampa, Fla. It will also build vessels at its Brazilian shipyard, Navship.

“The two shipyards that are going to see the most impact are in Larose and Houma,” Thibodeaux said.

Thibodeaux noted LaShip is still seeking 300 to 400 skilled shipyard tradesmen and Tuesday’s announcement will increase that number. The company is in a “very active hiring mode,” he said.

Chouest’s worldwide fleet approaches 250 highly specialized offshore service and support vessels that it charters to customers, and Thibodeaux said it employs 10,500 workers at its locations.

“Reacting to customer demands, ECO continues to lead the industry by designing, building and operating new generation vessels featuring the latest available technology,” said Chouest President Gary Chouest.

The largest portion of its new building program are 17 vessels, with options for an additional 20, in a new class of 312-foot by 66-foot by 26-foot new generation, clean design, diesel-electric platform supply vessels.

This class features a new hull form that was designed to maximize deadweight while significantly reducing hydrodynamic resistance, thereby improving fuel efficiency, Chouest says. The result is a vessel that offers capacity for more than 22,000 barrels of liquid mud, more than 2,000 barrels of methanol and more than 14,450 cubic feet of dry bulk.

“ECO owns and operates the largest fleet of new generation, high deadweight capacity PSVs in the global offshore service vessel industry. The new series of 312-foot PSVs under construction represents an evolution of ECO’s proven proprietary hull designs,” said Chouest’s Executive Vice President Dino Chouest. “The 312-foot class meets 100 percent of ECO’s customers’ requirements for a high deadweight ton capacity, deepwater PSV that is extremely fuel efficient.”

The Chouest building program also includes two new high ice class AHTS vessels for Arctic service, which are being designed. The vessels will mark the fifth and sixth ice-breaking vessels in the company’s fleet, making Chouest the largest designer, builder, owner and operator of ice-breaking vessels in the U.S., it says. Additionally, Chouest will build four subsea construction vessels slated for service in the Gulf of Mexico.

Other construction will include a 1.5 million-gallon refueling vessel, a multi-purpose construction supply vessel with 150-metric-ton motion-compensated deck crane, a diesel electric well stimulation vessel and seven fast supply vessels.

Thibodeaux said the Chouest does not disclose how much the vessels cost because of confidentiality agreements with customers and company policy. But Gary Chouest has said the company’s Aiviq Arctic supply vessel alone cost $200 million.

Chouest is also in the process of expanding its presence at Port Fourchon. Currently, 90 percent of all Gulf of Mexico deepwater activity operates out of Port Fourchon, with 85 percent being serviced by one of the Chouest port locations.

“Chouest is hands down the largest tenant of the (Greater Lafourche) Port Commission,” said Chett Chiasson, the port’s executive director.

The company opened its C-Port with nine slips at Fourchon in 1996 and later added its C-Port 2 with nine slips. Its C-Port 3 is under construction and will feature six more slips. Chouest’s C-Port 4, which may have nine slips, is being designed.

Chouest this year bought the C-Terminal facility at Port Fourchon, featuring 2,000 linear feet of bulk-headed waterfront property. The company announced plans to expand the C-Terminal work site, adding to its expansive outside storage area, warehouses, bulk, cement and barite plants, and fuel, water, mud and drilling fluid sales.

Design is also well underway for a major port development to support the company’s vast vessel fleet in Brazil, Chouest said.