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New Weeks Hopper Dredge Launched at Eastern Shipbuilding’s Allanton Yard

On March 31, Weeks Marine new hopper dredge Magdalen waits to launch, where it was built at Eastern Shipbuilding’s yard near Panama City, Florida.

On March 31, Weeks Marine new hopper dredge Magdalen waits to launch, where it was built at Eastern Shipbuilding’s yard near Panama City, Florida.

A crowd gathering at the launch of the Magdalen, an 8,550 cubic yard hopper dredge set move to New Jersey to work along the coastline

Helen McLaughlin, niece of dredge Magdalen namesake Magdalen Weeks, shatters a bottle of champaign against the hull of the vessel, with the help of Eastern Shipbuilding Founder and CEO Brian D’Isernia.

From left to right, Steve Chatry, senior vice president of Weeks’ dredging division; Ted Weeks, brother of Weeks Marine Chairman Richard N. Weeks; Helen McLaughlin, niece of Magdalen Weeks; Weeks Chairman and Founder Richard N. Weeks; Deacon Earl Mirus of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Panama City, Florida; and Brian D’Isernis, CEO of Eastern Shipbuilding Group

Weeks Marine Inc. and Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. celebrated the launch of the hopper dredge Magdalen March 31 at Eastern’s Allanton shipyard near Panama City, Florida. With a capacity of 8,550 cubic yards, the Magdalen—Weeks’ third hopper dredge—will more than double the company’s total hopper dredging capabilities. Final outfitting and sea trials will take place at Eastern’s Nelson Street Shipyard. Eastern expects to deliver the dredge Magdalen before the end of the year.

The sprawling dredge Magdalen measures 356 feet long by 79 feet 6 inches wide and boasts some 13,842 total installed horsepower. The dredge, named for Weeks Chairman Richard N. Weeks’ mother, represents $110 million of the company’s multi-year dredging division’s $200 million investment initiative. The Magdalen is the largest single capital investment in Weeks’ near 100-year history. The dredge features efficient, clean-burning engines and state-of-the-art frequency drives to power the vessel’s pumps, jetting and other systems. The Magdalen has twin GE 16V250 main engines producing 5,685hp each, a GE 6L250 auxiliary engine producing 2,009hp. Two 3,400kW shaft generators and a 1,500 kW auxiliary generator make up the ship’s primary power generation plant. In addition the vessel is also equipped with a Caterpillar C18 emergency/harbor generator that produces 425 kW. The vessel has a booster pump powered by two 1,600 kW electric motors, and a dredge pump powered by a 1,600 kW electric motor. Two 445 kW jet pumps round out the dredging plant. The Magdalen is outfitted with a 730 kW fixed pitch tunnel thruster unit.

Once completed, the dredge Magdalen’s first dredging work will be to renourish the beaches along the New Jersey shore.

“Today marks a very important milestone for Weeks,” Weeks President Richard S. Weeks said in a statement. “With the demand for land reclamation and beach nourishment growing, we believe that better tools are needed to retain our competitive edge. I am exceedingly proud of our team that helped deliver the Magdalen to the water and look forward to her christening in the months ahead. She is a very important part of our continued growth as a fully integrated marine construction company.”

The dredge Magdalen was engineered and developed jointly by WMI and Royal IHC, an engineering and dredging company based in The Netherlands. Eastern Shipbuilding took over the project just two years ago after the Magdalen had floundered at another shipyard.

“We at Eastern wish to thank Weeks for the trust they placed in us to build their vessel,” said Eastern Founder and CEO Brian R. D’Isernia. “Incidentally, there are two 300-foot dredges as we speak working off Panama City Beach renourishing the beaches. Those are Weeks dredges, so when the Magdalen takes her ‘first bath’ in a few minutes, she’ll be in good company.”

Steve Chatry, senior vice president and dredging division manager for Weeks, echoed that sense of thanks and partnership.

“It’s been a long road to get to where we are today,” Chatry said, adding that the Magdalen got off to ‘a little bit less than a stellar start.’ “Fortunately, we found our way here to Eastern and were greeted by an exceptionally competent, capable and talented group of shipbuilders. We’re so thankful for that.”

Weeks signed a contract with the original shipyard in August 2011. The mid-body of the ship, along with a wealth of other components, were moved to Eastern in the spring of 2015. Eastern took it from there, re-cutting steel for the bow, stern and coaming deck sections of the vessel and constructing the dredge’s superstructures. Steve Berthold, vice president for sales and marketing at Eastern, said the shipyard has built a reputation for finishing projects that have floundered at other yards.

“We have a history of picking up the football when it gets fumbled in this industry,” Berthold said. “This isn’t new to us. There’s at least a dozen others over the course of 30 years.”

After a brief prayer of blessing over the vessel, Helen McLaughlin, niece of the vessel’s namesake, shattered a bottle of champaign over the vessel’s skeg. McLaughlin then shared a thought on her aunt.

“To me, she was just ‘Aunt Maddy,’” McLaughlin said. “She was just a wonderful woman who was good to everyone. She was very enthusiastic, and I know how thrilled she would’ve been by this event.”

Since the late 1970s and early 1980s when the Corps of Engineers made the switch from using government-owned dredges to private dredges, the industry has built four large-class hopper dredges. The Magdalen will bring the U.S. hopper dredge fleet to 15, marking a significant increase in capacity for maintaining the nation’s channels and beaches.

“The Magdalen will make a considerable contribution to overall industry capability,” Chatry said. “At Weeks, we are dedicated to building and operating the most technologically advanced, fuel efficient and environmentally sensitive equipment in the marketplace.”

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