Verret Partners With Arkansas Builder To Increase Construction Capacity

It’s been about 10 years ago now that leaders at Spartan Marine in Fort Smith, Ark., reached out to Ted Verret, who owns and operates Verret Shipyard in Plaquemine, La., just outside of Baton Rouge.

“Some years back, Spartan contacted us to look at a project they were working on,” Verret said. “After advising them, we kept in touch, and our relationship has grown over time.”

When the towboat construction market heated up over the past few years, though, Verret Shipyard was facing a mounting construction backlog, with the need to boost production in a short amount of time. One morning, after a lot of thought and prayer, Verret said he felt led to fly up to Fort Smith to meet Spartan’s founder, John Langdon, and propose the possibility of collaborating on projects. Verret said he sketched out the proposal during the flight up to Fort Smith.

“I said, ‘Son, here are three cabins,’” Verret recalled from that meeting. ‘“I think you can do that, and we’re going to help you.’

“Spartan considered it a blessing, as did we,” he added. “A lot of planning and prayer through the years has gone into setting up this business relationship, and we have now put a long-term construction agreement in place with Spartan at a build site in Arkansas.”

That agreement essentially means Verret Shipyard, in partnership with Spartan, can operate as a multi-site shipyard. Spartan crews fabricate and assemble vessel components in Fort Smith. Those components are then transported down the Arkansas River to the Mississippi, then through the Port Allen Lock and down to Verret Shipyard.

“We’ve worked with Tim Stagner, Spartan’s foreman, to train and develop crews to work to our standards of production and quality,” Verret said. “Spartan is able to build and assemble steel components for us and transport those components to us for final assembly or outfitting. We’ve invested a lot of time and capital getting things off the ground with crewing, tools and equipment, and technology and communications.”

Verret said there’s even a digital conference room in place, which allows him to track construction progress in real time and review and edit electronic plans and documents remotely.

“The technology we’ve implemented gives us the ability to overcome any distance and allows us to use Spartan as another arm of Verret Shipyard Inc.,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s a fun way of doing things.”

That initial agreement was for Spartan to build three towboat cabins, Verret said, and construction at the Arkansas yard is flourishing. The Spartan crew, which has grown from just a small handful of workers to 15, has one vessel under construction with three more to follow.

Langdon started Spartan Marine in 2000. Verret Shipyard was founded in 1942 by Ted Verret’s grandfather, CP Verret, his father, Murray Verret, and uncle, Perry Verret.