I’m writing this from Houma, Louisiana, one of the nation’s top areas for ship construction and off shore support. With access to the Gulf of Mexico via the Inter-coastal Waterway about 25 nautical miles south and located about an hour southwest of New Orleans, the amount of vendors, suppliers, outfitters, tech-reps, and manufactures here is incredible. Before this project, I didn’t really appreciate just how much infrastructure and expertise is in this area. I had spent some time in Houma during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but that was spent 20 hours a day in the command center so I didn’t really get out much to see the area.
At the top of the pecking order are the shipyards of which there are several, including of course, our prime contractor–Gulf Island. Yesterday, OSU, NSF, and Gulf Island reps came together for our first formal meeting to kick off the project. And it was very evident that all sides are excited to get to the business of building these ships! We discussed schedules, logistics, safety, the contract and those types of things. But the main purpose of the meeting in my estimation was simply to get to know each other. We’re going to be working together for years to come and like most human endeavors both large and small, success or failure often comes down to relationships. How well do we work together? Time will tell, but I’m happy to report that from my perspective, we’re off to a good start. From the Vice President through the Project Manager, engineers, and support staff I’m optimistic for a very good working relationship.
OSU will have a permanent staff at the shipyard whose primary job will be to ensure that ship is built according to the contract. I may be biased, but our shipyard staff is absolutely top notch. Everyone on it is exactly who you’d want for such a job and their combined experience is mind blowing. I’ve heard it called “the dream team.” Leading the dream team is our Owner’s Representative who will act as our principal lead for all matters related to the construction. He’ll be supported by a deputy, contract manager, up to four inspectors, and the marine science technical director whose job it is to ensure that these oceanographic research ships are actually capable of conducting oceanographic research. They’re also actually currently hiring an admin assistant, so feel free to throw your hat in the ring if you want to join the dream team!
This model of shipyard staff is somewhat of a hybrid between a large on site staff that the Navy might employ and a smaller footprint that commercial customers might use. We think we have a good balance of insight/oversight and cost. Needless to say that when we’ll have three ships under construction at the same time, it’s going to be hopping! If funded as we hope, by the way, that will be in 2020.
One last point and I’ll sign off. It was pointed out to me that I had a mistake in my last post (I’m sure it won’t be my last). I had mentioned that European research vessels don’t use a standard deck bolt pattern. While this may be true for many European ships, the U.K. has employed such a concept as far back as the mid ’80s and today can be found on both R/Vs Discovery and Cook, though the bolts are on either 50cm or 1m centers and not 2 foot centers as they are in the U.S. I should have remembered this having visited them a few years back. Both ships have served as inspiration in many ways to the RCRVs.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe (see right hand side of this page). Feel free to comment or drop a question and I’ll do my best to respond.