Vessel Repair To Build Newly-Designed Towboat, Add Drydock

About halfway between New Orleans, La., and Corpus Christi, Texas, on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) lies Vessel Repair, a Port Arthur, Texas-based shipyard.

That strategic location along one of the nation’s busiest waterways—and on the top energy waterway in the country—makes Vessel Repair a prime place for servicing both barges and towboats moving east and west on the GIWW. With that in mind, Vessel Repair leaders say they’re preparing to both grow the shipyard’s newbuild portfolio and dramatically expand its repair capabilities.

Vessel Repair has recently completed four vessels for Kirby—all built from an original design by the shipyard. Those towboats measure 88 feet by 32 feet and produce 2,680 hp. They also feature an innovative, patent-pending hull that is single-chined forward and double-chined aft. Vessel Repair’s “Pacesetter Class” of towboats combine the maneuverability during flanking of a single-chined (or flat-bottom) hull forward with the efficiency of a doubled-chined hull aft.

Now, the shipyard is preparing to begin construction on a smaller version of Pacesetter Class vessel, which will measure 71 feet, 9 inches, by 30 feet and produce 1,600 hp. Like the larger design, this upcoming vessel, to be built for E Squared Marine, will feature Vessel Repair’s innovative hull design to maximize maneuverability and fuel efficiency.

“We’re really looking forward to having another boat in our Pacesetter Class,” Vessel Repair’s Kurt Moerbe said. “We feel like we’ve really fine-tuned the design.

“A big contribution to the fine-tuned design is the managers, supervisors and craftsmen who took it upon themselves to not only build a good boat, but strive to build the best boat,” he added. “Their sense of pride and attention to detail have contributed great ideas to improve the design and the efficiency of the builds.”

The shipyard team is excited to continue to challenge themselves and add to their design portfolio in order to serve towing companies of all sizes.

Also on the construction side, Vessel Repair is in the midst of a 12-barge series, with the first barge launched just a couple weeks ago.

Small Shipyard Grant

On the repair side, Vessel Repair is celebrating the recently-announced Small Shipyard Grant Program awards. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration announced in June grants totaling $19.6 million for 28 shipyards, with Vessel Repair one of the successful applicants. Vessel Repair will receive just over $1.3 million, which will go toward a new drydock that will measure 280 feet by 80 feet. The Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation has also committed $350,000 toward the project. The new drydock is part of a $6 million expansion at the shipyard, which will almost double the yard’s repair capacity.

The new drydock and rail system will allow Vessel Repair to haul out 30,000-barrel tank barges and transfer them directly to rail. The yard already has the ability to haul out 10,000-barrel tank barges, but the Vessel Repair team said there’s a definite need for servicing the larger barges. For example, some of the same customers Vessel Repair has been building new vessels for only push 30,000-barrel barges. And with few yards capable of hauling out 30,000-barrel barges, Vessel Repair leaders see a definite need and an opportunity to better serve their customers.

The shipyard is already busy dredging in preparation for the drydock and running new utilities and rail work. The shipyard hopes for a May 2020 delivery for the drydock, with about six weeks of in-house outfitting after that.

Vessel Repair previously had a 250-foot drydock that was destroyed in Hurricane Rita in 2005. But that loss also led to development of the shipyard’s innovative rail transfer system. Now, the company will build on that rail design and add the drydock in order to better serve GIWW operators and nearby fleets. The shipyard’s capabilities combined with its location and innovative approaches make it an ideal stop for vessel construction and repair, the shipyard team said.

“We’re right between Houston and New Orleans,” Vessel Repair’s Ron Moerbe said. “When you’re transiting the GIWW, you have to go through Port Arthur. If you’re headed east or west, you have to pass by our facility.”

The Vessel Repair team said all of this coincides with the shipyard’s 35th anniversary. The yard opened for business on March 26, 1984.