On Friday, about two hours after leaving Houston, I reached the gates of Signal International’s Orange, Texas, location. I was met by Rodney Meisetschlaeger, Signal’s Texas division general manager, who treated me to a thorough tour of the company’s newbuild facilities.
And it was impressive. I had already visited the company’s ship repair division in Mobile, Ala. (rig repair is handled at Signal’s Mississippi division location in Pascagoula, Miss.), so I was interested to see how the company was faring at its newbuild site, purchased in 2003.
The yard boasts plenty of room — 450,000-sq.-ft. of covered area, 20 acres of outside fabrication area, and 70,000-sq.-ft. of warehouse space. The yard also features a 385-ton floating crane, panel line equipment, and a Wheelabrator. The Texas yard has a backlog of about $100 million, which consists of the two 600-foot articulated tug-barges now underway for Kirby Ocean Transport Co., Houston. But, as Meisetschlaeger pointed out, they have plenty of room for new projects and need more work, especially after the Kirby ATBs are delivered later this year. The good news is that Signal has been bidding on a lot of work, so the hope is that something will be inked soon.
When I visited, workers were busy under cover with two of the ATB tugs and one of the barges (though modules of barge one, which was out in the yard, were also underway in the shed). Each ATB is made up of a 20,000-DWT oceangoing bulk barge and a 6,000-hp ocean tug. The 480’x90’x36’ barges and 125’x42’x22’ tugs will be delivered in the fourth quarter. Meisetschlaeger expects the first ATB to be delivered early in the quarter and the second ATB following about mid-quarter.
The work on this project is keeping about 500 skilled workers busy. With business picking up offshore and elsewhere, the hope is that Signal will land more newbuild contracts to keep these workers and others busy in 2013 and beyond.