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Tuesday | 02 November, 2010 | 6:57 am

Steel and the sea

By Lisa Rummler

October 2010 - In the oceans, the blue whale reigns supreme. It is the largest animal on the planet, with adults weighing up to 150 tons and stretching up to 100 feet long--the size of a Boeing jet, according to the Discovery Channel’s website. In addition, a blue whale’s heart is the size of small car, and 50 people could stand on its tongue.

But even considering their immense size, blue whales have nothing on the Tiger Shark series of offshore support vessels from New Orleans-based Harvey Gulf International Marine LLC, "a marine transportation company that specializes in towing drilling rigs and providing offshore supply and multipurpose support vessels for deepwater water operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico," according to the company’s website. The Tiger Shark vessels, which will help move people and products to and from offshore oil platforms and other offshore structures, will measure 292 feet by 64 feet by 24 feet, 6 inches.

"The vessels’ cargo-delivery systems and crew accommodations are built upon an exceptionally stable platform particularly suitable for the long-distance, all-weather operational requirements associated with deepwater operations," according to Harvey Gulf’s website. "The vessels’ cargo systems can deliver over 5,600 deadweight tons of cargo at load line to these remote locations at approximately 12.5 knots speed."

Each Tiger Shark vessel will have 11,000 square feet of clear deck space and cargo capacities of 19,500 barrels of liquid mud in six tanks with an advanced mud-circulating system, as well as 14,350 cubic feet of dry bulk in seven tanks and 1,700 barrels of methanol in two tanks.

Additionally, the ships will have diesel electric propulsion systems from Converteam, Massy Cedex, France, and Z-drives from Schottel, Spay, Germany, with a total propulsion output of 5,000 kilowatts. "[Combined] with overall power provided by four Cummins QSK60M diesel generators rated at 1,825 kilowatts each, these vessels have been engineered to provide Harvey Gulf with fully integrated, fully automated offshore support vessels," according to a press release from Harvey Gulf.

Team effort
In January, Harvey Gulf awarded a contract to Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc., Panama City, Fla., for the construction and delivery of six Tiger Shark vessels.

"Delivery of the first vessel will be in 19 months, with the additional vessels to be delivered in five-month increments thereafter," according to a press release from Harvey Gulf.

A year before that, Eastern contacted Superior Supply & Steel, Lake Charles, La., a large-plate distributor, to source the materials needed for the Tiger Shark project.

"We knew they had the potential to buy for the entire contract and not just for one ship," says Scott Sandifer, vice president of plate divisions at Superior. "At that time, we were very well stocked in materials and had many key vendors step up and help us with the items needed to complete the project.

"We basically worked with [Eastern] in trying to not just sell them material for one ship but go into a kind of material-supply arrangement so that we could have staggered deliveries. It’s kind of like what you might call a ‘roll and hold,’ where we would deliver material over an extended period of time, protecting them on price when there are price escalations in the market."

Superior learned it had been awarded the purchase orders for the Tiger Shark vessels at the beginning of the year, and it began shipping plate material to Eastern almost immediately thereafter, says Sandifer.

"We started the project with inventory we had on the ground, with deliveries starting back in January," he says. "From there, we had materials that were shipping in both [by] barge directly to the customer and rail."

The project was to be shipped over the first half of 2010, and Superior was turning about 20 loads a week on its fleet of trucks, says Sandifer.

Material matters
The Tiger Shark project required more than 2,200 steel plates, all in grades approved by the American Bureau of Shipping.

The plates were up to 480 inches long, and their widths ranged from 96 inches to 120 inches. In terms of thickness, they were 0.25 inch to 2.5 inches.

"The plates were welded to make the hulls and various other parts of the ship," says Sandifer. "Most of the plates on the vessel were over width, requiring us to have permit loads on trucking from the Department of Transportation."

Drawing on experience
The Tiger Shark project is one of the largest Superior has undertaken in terms of shipbuilding. The company has tackled other ship and barge work, however, as well as offshore drilling projects. These include inland barges, which can range from 100 feet to 140 feet long and are used to traffic any type of material, from grains to oils to agricultural commodity products, says Sandifer.

Additionally, this year, Superior partnered with Cashman Equipment Corp., Boston, to supply materials for two 160-foot deck barges.

"The deck barges are to be used for the oil industry moving product on inland waterways," says Sandifer. Superior also worked with Cameron Offshore Engineering Ltd., Leeds, England, on the construction of deep-sea manifolds off the coast of Africa. Work on this project wrapped up at the beginning of the year. "This project used over 4,500 tons of high-graded steel of API-2H 50 and API-5L x-52," says Sandifer. "These manifold units are very large, towering over 16 stories high and will set in waters as deep as 5,000 [feet]."

In addition to the offshore, ship and barge industries, Superior serves the drilling, petrochemical, tank, and commercial and industrial construction markets.

The company consists of three divisions--service centers, plate centers and the flat-roll division--and it has 11 locations that carry all carbon steel grades in a wide variety of widths and lengths.

Superior’s service centers carry angles, channels, flats, beams and fittings. They also provide plasma cutting, drilling, punching, rolling, blasting and coating services.

"In the past 28-plus years, we have always been a carbon steel supplier to various market sectors worldwide, whether it be for high-rise buildings, stadiums or full refineries," says Sandifer. "Land, sea or air, Superior has been there." MM

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