Skilled workforce critical to VT Halter Marine operations

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Published: February 28,2005

VT Halter Marine Inc. (VTHM) based in Pascagoula is building a $31-million, 254-foot, double-ended passenger and vehicle ferry for the Nantucket (Massachusetts) Steamship Authority.

The contract, signed in late 2004, calls for the construction of a 1,200-passenger, 76-vehicle ferry to be delivered in the second quarter of 2006.

VTHM, a subsidiary of Vision Technologies Systems (VTS), of Alexandria, Va., was established in 1953. It has some 750 employees, including contract labor. With one operation in Pascagoula and two in Moss Point, VTHM has an economic impact of approximately $250 million, which includes contracts and options for 2004, according to Cynthia Borries, corporate communications manager.

In 2004, $2 million was invested in capital improvements, including an expansion of the side launch to accommodate vessels up to 600 feet in length.

All of VTHM’s locations — including all shipbuilding operations — are in Mississippi, Borries said.
“There are several advantages to being located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There’s deep water access. Jackson County has one of the nation’s lowest operating costs and Mississippi has a very pro-business posture.”

Borries added that the Gulf Coast workforce is well-known for its skills in shipbuilding and marine engineering.
VT Halter Marine CEO Boyd E. King streamlined operations in the spring of 2004 by centralizing the shipbuilding, engineering and corporate headquarters in Jackson County. Previously, the headquarters and engineering were located down the Gulf Coast in Gulfport.

The design for the new ferry provides hydraulic lift decks for 16 cars, which will give the vessel greater flexibility in the loading configuration. It is powered by two direct drive diesel engines and reaches a top speed of some 16 knots. Because of its double-ended design, the ferry will be able to head efficiently into a slip without having to turn around.

The ferry will replace the 54-year-old ferry Islander in the authority’s fleet that serves the Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard route. The ferry fleet, often referred to as “the lifeline to the islands,” is a public entity of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

It is responsible for providing adequate year-round transportation of people, vehicles and the necessities of life for the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
King said that the company was honored to be chosen to build the ferry.

“We’re eager to begin work on this extensive project. Backed by our expertise in the building of technically sophisticated vessels, I’m confident that VT Halter Marine will deliver a vessel of superior quality to serve the needs of the Nantucket Steamship Authority.”

The new ferry will be named Island Home, according to Kathryn Rossel, a spokesperson for Martha’s Vineyard. “We anticipate a quality, purpose-built ferry for our Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven route.”

VTHM is the largest designer and builder of small- to medium-sized ocean-going vessels in the United States. The company has delivered more than 3,000 vessels to commercial and government clients in 29 countries on five continents, including such government entities as port authorities, coast guards, navies, defense departments, customs services, harbor and coastal police and national energy companies.

During the last decade, VTHM built more than 30 ferries for 20 different customers, including the Staten Island ferries for New York City and the newest passenger/vehicle ferry for the State of Alaska.

In October of last year, VTHM announced the launch of the MV Jean Anne, an ocean-going vessel which is 579 feet long, has a beam of 102 feet, a draft of 28 feet, weighs 13,000 dwt, can run at 20 knots and has three decks that can transport more than 3,000 vehicles as well as other rolling stock, household goods and containerized cargo.

The ship has 10 decks, including three hoistable decks, is served by a 100-ton stern ramp that can handle heavy construction equipment and clear overhead heights up to 16.7 feet.

In March, the Jean Anne will begin service between California and Hawaii, according to George W. Pasha, IV, president of Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines.

“The launch of the Jean Anne is particularly significant for VT Halter Marine as it is the first pure car truck carrier to be built in the U.S.,” King said. “VT Halter Marine is proud to make our mark by setting a first in U. S. shipbuilding. The Jean Anne was designed and built to meet Pasha Hawaii’s requirements for faster delivery, expeditious processing, increased efficiency and lower cost.”

Other construction by VTHM in 2004 includes:

• The Seacor Pride, an offshore supply vessel.

• The Caribena, an all-aluminum ferry whose construction was based on a VTHM design.

• The MG Robert Smalls, a U.S. Army logistic support vessel.

Start of construction for a second NOAA fisheries survey vessel (FSV), which was celebrated by a traditional keel laying ceremony in May. The FSV’s are considered the world’s most technologically advanced fisheries research vessels.

The announcement of two Voith tractor tugs for Lockheed Martin, to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2005.
VTHM’s Jackson County locations are VT Halter Marine Pascagoula Operations (steel prep and large vessels), VT Halter Marine Moss Point Operations (government products) and VT Halter Marine Moss Point Marine Operations (commercial vessels).

VT Halter Marine is the maritime operation of VTS, which is a provider of integrated engineering solutions and specializes in aerospace, electronics, land systems and marine. It has locations throughout North America.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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