In 2011, Aries Marine had just taken delivery of its second 292'×64' Tiger Shark platform supply vessel from Eastern Shipbuilding Group. The company wanted to continue growing its fleet, but, unlike many of his competitors, Aries Marine president Court Ramsay didn’t look to go bigger on his next newbuilds.
“We looked at what others were putting out, and we thought there was an underserved part of the market that needed this size boat,” he said.
Not far down the road from Lafayette, La.-based Aries, Leevac Design Services in Jennings had designed the 266' PSV Cindy Brown Tide for Tidewater Marine and was also working on a design that would become the LDS 270 DE.
By early 2013, Aries and Leevac Shipyards LLC had signed a contract to build two new diesel-electric, DP-2, 270'×56'×21'6" PSVs. The two boats, the first built to the LDS 270 DE design, would become the 4,000-dwt Ram Nation and Ram Country.
“This design kind of started with the Cindy Brown Tide,” Christian Vaccari, Leevac’s president, said from the rear cargo deck of the Ram Nation following its October christening in Lake Charles, La. “Everybody in the workplace seemed to be looking for diesel-electric-powered vessels because they’ve been recording a 20 percent to 30 percent fuel reduction.”
The Aries team worked with Leevac’s designers in putting together vessels that would be unique to the owner/operator. “The design phase is an exciting time. That’s when the owner and the shipyard pour over documents and drawings and tweak this and that, and we had a great time doing that with the Leevac team,” Ramsay said.
“Sure, the boat owner is always a part of the design phase,” said Vaccari. “That’s when we discuss exactly what the owner wants.”
That the boats would be diesel-electric was a given from the start. The Eastern boats were diesel-electric powered, and Ramsay was more than satisfied with how they operated. “We’ve had great performances out of the diesel-electric boats with fuel savings and better performance in general,” he said. “The diesel-electric power packages are quieter, cleaner and more efficient. There have been some wonderful advances in that area.”
Main propulsion comes from four 3516C Caterpillar generators, producing 1,825 kW of electrical power each. Propulsion is provided by a pair of Schottel 2,500-kW SRP 2020 SP, 4-bladed, 106"-dia. Z-drives and a pair of 1,180-kW Schottel tunnel thrusters forward. The main engines are located on the main deck instead of down below to facilitate installation and to provide additional tank farm capacity.
The diesel-electric propulsion package is part of the Siemens BlueDrive PlusC integrated electrical system, which ties together and automates the vessels’ power management, engine controls, machinery, alarms and auxiliary power. Each engine, generator, propeller and thruster is independently controlled, which provides greater flexibility.
The BlueDrive system also allows for variable-speed generators, which saves fuel and reduces emissions. Essentially, the system optimizes the functions of all parts, resulting in substantial cost and energy savings. Introduced in 2011, Siemens says the BlueDrive system uses less fuel, resulting in substantial cost and energy savings, and emits fewer NOx emissions and greenhouse gases than comparable vessels with diesel or gas operations.
Another unique feature of the new boats is that they have one central corridor instead of corridors port and starboard. “Most vessels have two corridors. We went with a central corridor and can use the space elsewhere,” said Vaccari. “What do you need two corridors for? The guys on the boat love it.”
The new PSVs are fully SOLAS, so they can work anywhere in the world. Vaccari said that some overseas operators don’t like the look of many Gulf of Mexico PSVs, so the bow has a different profile than others that operate in the Gulf. “The look is more of a European look,” he said.
“I think boats are sexy, and, I think, this is one of the sexiest ones out there,” Ramsay said.
Leevac’s three Louisiana shipyards are located in Jennings, Lake Charles and Houma. Leevac purchased the former Quality Shipyards in Houma last year from Tidewater and renamed it Leevac Shipyards Houma LLC. Leevac purchased the 35-acre yard to expand its repair facilities, but demand for newbuild vessels has forced the company to use part of its new yard for newbuild projects.
“We built these boats using all three of our shipyards,” Vacarri said. “When we bought the yard in Houma, we were able to build some of the module pieces in that yard. It’s not something we expected. It helped us stay on schedule being able to use all three yards.”
More important than the boats’ good looks are what they can carry. Capacities include 261,400 gals. of fuel oil; 426,300 gals. drillwater; 12,580 bbls. liquid mud; 8,490 cu. ft. bulk mud; 75,400 gals. potable water; and 17,500 gals. miscellaneous tankage. Cargo transfer rates are 1,000 gpm of liquid mud (cargo) and 750 gpm of fuel oil and drillwater.
Siemens brought in its own crew to install the BlueDrive system, but Leevac’s employees were also a part of melding that system with the other features of the new boats. “There is so much technology in these boats that we had to pick up some more project engineers,” Vaccari said.
Though he admitted that personnel issues are always a concern, Vaccari said that the yard is currently “not trying to add people anymore,” he said. “We’re trying to upgrade the quality of the people we have. And you have to take care of them and treat them right.”
Vaccari said the economic value of Louisiana companies such as Leevac and Aries is important. “What we do is very important to the economy of Lake Charles and to the state,” he said. “[Leevac] is in the top 100 drivers of the Louisiana economy.”
“This is a sign of growth and advancement of our company and the economy,” added Ramsay.
With that in mind, Vaccari said it was important that Aries build its new boats in Louisiana. “We wanted to keep you guys local,” he told Ramsay during the christening ceremonies. “This is a challenging industry. The jobs we create have an immeasurable effect on our economy.”
Marine Technologies LLC was responsible for the DP-2 systems, International Marine Systems provided the electronics suite and Marine InteriorSystems did the joiner work. All are Louisiana companies.
Ramsay said Aries and Leevac had been in contract discussions in the past and were happy that they were finally able to get together.
“We do a great job of operating boats,” he said, “but we’re not boatbuilders. Leevac is a superior yard with a great reputation. They were cooperative all the way through the process. And they’re local.”
As for the future, Ramsay said, “Our customers are bullish about deepwater. I think they’re going to stick with it.”
Ram Nation, Ram Country SPECIFICATIONS
Builder: Leevac Shipyards
Designer: Leevac Design Services
Owner: Aries Marine
Mission: Supply liquid and bulk cargoes for offshore oil and gas structures
Depth (molded): 21'6"
Capacities (gals.): Fuel, 261,400; drillwater, 426,300; potable water, 75,400; bulk material, 8,490 cu. ft.; liquid mud, 12,580 bbls.
Rear Cargo Deck: 172'x48'6", 2,000 LT freight
Main Propulsion/Ship’s Service Power: (4) Caterpillar 3516C diesel generator, 1,825 kW; (2) Siemens alternator
Z-Drive: (2) 2,500-kW Schottel SRP 2020 SP, 4-bladed, 106" dia.
Bowthruster: (2)Schottel 1,180-kW tunnel
Steering System: (2) independent high lift rudder system
Speed (knots): 12
Deadweight Tonnage: 4,000 gt
Crew Capacity/Passenger Capacity: 32 (total)
Electronics: International Marine Systems electronics suite; Marine Technologies DP-2 system
Important Ancillary Equipment/Systems: Hydra Pro HP 48/20T deck crane
Classification/Certification: ABS classed Maltese Cross A1, ACC Offshore Support, DP-2, FiFi-1; USCG certified Subchapters I and L; Full SOLAS, Worldwide Operations
Delivery Date:Ram Nation, November 2014; Ram Country, first quarter 2015