Earlier this week, the phone rang and the caller ID flashed “Geo Shipyard.” I wondered if I was seeing things — a dead yard calling me. It was Halloween, after all.
Let’s back up a minute. I’ve been putting together WorkBoat’s Construction Survey ever since I started with the company back in 1997. When I called Geo Shipyard last year to see what was going on in the yard in New Iberia, La., one of the owners, David LeCompte, told me the family decided to close the business after 40 years.
This was a disappointment. It looked like the oil and gas industry falling into another dimension had claimed another victim. After all, when Tidewater files for bankruptcy is any business connected to the oil industry safe? That’s not to say that Geo didn’t build vessels outside of the offshore energy sector. It did. But David told me that all the workboat sectors that Geo serviced were all slumping at the same time. So the decision was made.
Selfishly, I liked going to visit the yard. I always felt welcomed there. The place had an easy going feel to it that reflected the personalities of its owners. Easy going, yes, but hard working at the same time — a rare combination that the LeCompte family was able to capture.
Anyway, it was Randy LeCompte, David’s brother and company president, on the phone, announcing that he had reopened the yard. He had been doing some repair work there of late, but had put a good crew together and was ready to get back into the newbuild business. David was coming back part-time, for now. “We own the yard, the equipment and we have no debt,” said Randy.
Geo Shipyard got its start by building small, specialized aluminum monohulls for the geophysical industry. Those boats have been shipped around the world supporting those in search of oil and gas deposits. The business continued to expand and grow over the years, which lead the boatyard to build for many different markets.
“In 1994 we built our first catamarans for the geophysical industry that were shipped to Russia to operate in the Caspian Sea. Since that time we have built catamarans for whale watching, dinner boats, pilot boats, crewboats, research boats, passenger boats and that is just to name a few,” said Randy LeCompte. “Our company experienced a downturn in all of the markets that we were building for and in 2016 we made the decision to close. My father retired some years before and it was my brother, sister and I left to run the business. We decided to go our separate ways and try our hand at different industries.”
Randy stayed in the boat business working for a boat company in Florida as an engineering supervisor. But after only nine months, he realized that he really missed boatbuilding and repair and decided to move back to Louisiana to reopen the shipyard. “After all, it’s been my passion in life for 40 years,” he said.
LeCompte said he hopes owners and operators will give Geo an opportunity to earn (or earn back) their business. “We guarantee to deliver on time with the highest quality vessels,” he said.
Well, I can tell the LeCompte family that it can have its place back in WorkBoat’s Construction Survey, and I hope I’ll be invited back to see the next newbuild at New Iberia’s Geo Shipyard.