Weeks Marine to Build Two New Oceangoing Dredges
The new dredges represent an investment of more than $125 million, and the creation of 125 permanent well-paying jobs, according to Richard S. Weeks, WMI president.
Construction of the Weeks 314 is underway at Corn Island Shipyard on the Ohio River in Indiana. The new dredge is the product of WMI’s in-house engineering effort. The keel has been laid, all major components are on order, and completion is scheduled for an end-of-year delivery.
The Weeks 475's engineering package was developed jointly by WMI and IHC Merwede, and the keel will be laid in October of this year, with delivery scheduled two years later. The Weeks 475, will become WMI’s third hopper dredge, and will be the company's fastest, most fuel efficient, most powerful pumping, and most highly
automated hopper dredge. The dredge will double WMI’s hopper dredge capacity.
Both vessels will be equipped with EPA Tier II engines, and will feature the latest in world class dredging technology, including state of the art AC drives to power the pumps, winches, cutter, jetting and other systems, all of which will be controlled by fully-integrated and advanced automated systems.
The dredges are designed for conditions found offshore of the U.S. coast, and are part of WMI’s three-year, $200 million plus capital investment program in five vessels.
“The two new dredges alone, built in U.S. shipyards, represent new investment exceeding $125 million, and will result in the creation of 125 permanent new well-paying jobs,” said Richard S. Weeks, WMI President. “I am very optimistic about the future of the U.S. marketplace. Both the growth of international trade and the U.S. seaport industry, and the wide acceptance of beach nourishment and
coastal restoration as the shore protection option of choice, call for new energy efficient tools to be brought into the marketplace. I am exceedingly proud of our team as we put together these two projects – vessels which will provide a strong platform for our future growth.”
“The new dredges will add substantial capacity to the domestic dredging fleet, and coupled with WMI’s dredging expertise, strong field management, and formidable support network, will significantly enhance our competitiveness in the marketplace,” said Eric Ellefsen, senior VP of the Weeks Dredging Division. “Weeks Marine prides itself in being a leader in the dredging industry. The expansion of our dredging fleet demonstrates our commitment to better serving our customers, particularly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Navy.”
“While the U.S. dredging industry is strong, and our competitors have added substantial capabilities over the last decade, these two investments will contribute even further to the overall capabilities and productivity of the US dredging industry,” continued Ellefsen . “We are dedicated to building and operating the most technologically advanced, fuel efficient, and environmentally sensitive equipment in the market place.”
Weeks Marine, Inc. (WMI) is a diversified marine contractor involved in construction, bulk stevedoring, heavy lift, salvage, towing, and dredging. With historic roots in the New York metropolitan region, WMI was a regional dredging contractor until 1993 when the company purchased American Dredging Company, Camden, New Jersey, then America’s third largest dredging company.
With the American Dredging purchase, WMI acquired the RN Weeks, entering the hopper dredging market for the first time. In early 1998, WMI purchased Gulf Coast Trailing Company from T.L James & Co., acquiring a second hopper dredge, the BE Lindholm. Later that year, WMI purchased most of T.L. James’s remaining marine assets—at the time the second largest US dredging company. Over the years, the company has operated a varied fleet of pipeline dredges to service Corps requirements on the East and Gulf coasts.
WMI also continues to operate clamshell/bucket dredges for both the Corps and private terminal clients.
WMI is ranked 86th on ENR’s 2011 top 400 contactors list.
The two major additions announced today substantially grow WMI’s U.S.-flag capability and continues the company’s pro-U.S. investment strategy, further improving the company’s capability in certain dredging sub-markets. In recent years, WMI has added two highly automated, ocean-going boosters, four 7,800 cubic yard hopper barges for long distance hauling, various dump scows, and deck barges and numerous other support vessels. It is re-powering two workhorse dredges: the 4,000cubic-yard hopper dredge BE Lindholm, and the cutter suction pipeline dredge Capt. Frank, and plans are in place to re-power the EW Ellefsen, also with EPA Tier II engines.
Dredge pump and booster capacity is very important, as beneficial uses of dredged material, further and further from the dredge cut, has become the “new norm” in a world where environmental sensitivity and restoration is a sought after societal objective.
The private sector hopper dredging industry got its start in the late 1970s. The dredges are manned by USCG-licensed seafarers and are used, most critically, to maintain the ocean entrance channels to the nation’s seaports and naval facilities. More and more frequently, hopper dredges are the tool of choice for beach restoration as quality sand “borrow areas” are being found further from the placement area.
As entrance channel hopper dredging was transformed from government-owned, steam powered vessels, to modern private sector diesel electric vessels in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Corps eventually settled on operating four government hoppers. Two of these are now operated in ready reserve status, as part of the Corps’ commitment to “using industry first.” This policy is implemented through an emergency response protocol called “raise the flag,” a procedure that was developed by the Industry-Corps Hopper Dredge Management Group (ICHDMG).
“Using industry first” produces the highest demand possible for new equipment and private sector investment. It is one reason why WMI is eager to build a new 8,500 cubic yard hopper dredge, the largest single investment in the company’s history. The private hopper dredge fleet was largely built from 1977 to 1987. Prior to 1999, WMI’s dredge RN Weeks, was the nation’s newest hopper dredge, having been christened in 1987. Since 1999, the dredging industry has built three new large hopper dredges. The Weeks 475 will be the 14th U.S.-flag hopper dredge.
Weeks Marine’s Dredging Division is located at 304 Gaille Drive, Covington, Louisiana 70433.