Panama City, Fla.-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group has received the formal notice to proceed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to design and construct a new medium-class hopper dredge for the Department of Defense. The contract award, valued at close to $257 million, was first announced just over a month ago.
Eastern will build the dredge at its Allanton and Port St. Joe facilities, with delivery expected in 2027.
“On behalf of the highly skilled workforce at Eastern, I thank the Army Corps for entrusting us with this historic hopper dredge project that will serve an indispensable role in our national maritime priorities,” Eastern Shipbuilding Group CEO Joey D’Isernia said. “Eastern is the only U.S. shipyard to have delivered comparable dredges in the past 15 years. We look forward to a strong partnership with USACE as we deliver this significant project on their behalf.”
The new dredge will replace the 57-year-old dredge McFarland, which is based in the Philadelphia Engineer District and serves in both the Corps’ Ready Reserve fleet and as part of the Corps’ minimum dredge fleet. Other hopper dredges in the Corps’ minimum dredge fleet include the Essayons, the Yaquina and the Wheeler. Built in 1967, the McFarland’s area of responsibility ranges from the Delaware River and Bay and along the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. In keeping with its Ready Reserve role, the McFarland, and its forthcoming replacement, must be able to respond to dredging needs in its area of responsibility within 72 hours.
“Keeping channels open for maritime commerce is critical to the economy and national security, and the minimum dredge fleet plays a role in enabling USACE to continue to deliver its navigation mission,” the Philadelphia District said in a statement after awarding the contract to Eastern.
According to the contract specifications, the forthcoming dredge will be equipped to support up to 18-day deployments without taking on supplies, while working 24 hours a day with a crew of 26 on board. As an oceangoing vessel, the new dredge will have the ability to operate in 6-foot significant wave heights, or in maximum wave heights of 12 feet. The dredge will also feature a diesel electric power system, Z- or L-drive thrusters, wildlife protection measures and the ability to deploy from Philadelphia to the mouth of the Mississippi River without refueling or resupply.
The new vessel will measure 320 feet by 72 feet, with a hull depth of 28 feet. With the hopper empty, the dredge will draw 11 feet, 3 inches. Fully loaded, the vessel will have a draft of 25 feet, 6 inches.
In recent years, the Philadelphia District has spent $16 million to keep the McFarland up to speed. Those increased maintenance costs, along with the legislation that established the Corps’ minimum dredge fleet, led the Philadelphia District to pursue replacing the McFarland.
“The language of PL95-969 (1978), which established the Corps minimum fleet, also addressed replacement of the Corps hopper dredges,” the Philadelphia District said. “The law states, ‘The minimum federally owned fleet shall be maintained to technologically modern and efficient standards, including replacement as necessary.’
“The new dredge is projected to provide cost savings beginning [around] 2027 through reductions in maintenance repairs, personnel costs and improved fuel efficiency,” the district said.
Eastern Shipbuilding Group, which has delivered three hopper dredges to industry since 2017, has partnered with Royal IHC on the design of the forthcoming dredge. The hull design of the new dredge is based on Royal IHC’s Beagle trailing suction hopper dredge series and “provides the best balance of proven carrying capacity, dredging performance, seakeeping and open water transit operations, as well as highly predictable operating characteristics,” according to Eastern. Royal IHC designed the dredge Magdalen and the dredge R.B. Weeks, both of which Eastern built for Weeks Marine.
Caption for photo: Rendering of new medium-class hopper dredge for the Corps of Engineers that will replace the Dredge McFarland. (Courtesy of Eastern Shipbuilding Group)