Pascagoula, Miss.-based VT Halter Marine recently launched the first of two new 740'x105'x59' Commitment-class combination container/roll on-roll off (ConRo) ships for Crowley Maritime Corp., Jacksonville, Fla. The El Coquí and its sistership Taíno will be fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Each of the ships will be powered by a single MAN 8S70ME-GI marine engine, producing 26,160 kW (35,054 hp) at 91 rpm. Running speed will be 22 knots. Fueling the ships with LNG will reduce emissions significantly, including a 100% reduction in sulphur oxide (SOx) and particulate matter (PM); a 92% cut in nitrogen oxide (NOx); and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will be cut by more than 35% per container, compared with current fossil fuels, Crowley officials said.

El Coquí and Taíno will be able to transport up to 2,400 20-foot-equivalent container units (TEUs) and a mix of nearly 400 cars and larger vehicles in the enclosed, ventilated and weather-tight ro/ro decks. The range of container sizes and types the ships can accommodate rang from 20' standard, to 53'x102", high-capacity units, as well as up to 300 refrigerated containers.

Construction of both El Coquí and Taíno is being managed in the shipyard by Crowley Marine Solutions, which includes its naval architecture and marine engineering subsidiary Jensen MaritimeEl Coquí will undergo final topside construction and testing phase before beginning service in the U.S. Jones Act trade during the second half of this year.

“This was a special day for Crowley, VT Halter Marine and all of the men and women who designed, and who are constructing, this world-class ship,” Tom Crowley, company chairman and CEO, said in a statement announcing the launch. “We are extremely appreciative of all the work that has been accomplished so far and look forward to the successful delivery of El Coquí later this year and her sistership, Taíno, in the first half of next year.

“The ship launch also marks the beginning of a very momentous week for Crowley and our Commitment-class project,” Crowley continued. “We are expecting the arrival of three, new gantry cranes at our new terminal pier in San Juan later this week, and two, 1-million liter cryogenic tanks at our LNG bunkering facility being built at the Port of Jacksonville, Fla. Altogether, these investments epitomize the strong, long-term commitment we have to serving our customers and the people of Puerto Rico with the most modern and efficient supply chain services in the trade.” The ships are part of Crowley’s $550 million project to expand and modernize the company’s shipping and logistics services between Jacksonville and San Juan.

“The launch of the El Coquí is a strong indication of our commitment to the success of our customer Crowley,” Paul J. Albert, CEO, VT Halter Marine, said in a prepared statement. “Our thanks to both the shipbuilders of VT Halter Marine and the Crowley project team for all their hard work in delivering such a significant vessel. This is a great accomplishment for both teams; we very much appreciate this opportunity to build such a magnificent ship for such a great company.”

“The new ships and related improvements in Puerto Rico and Jacksonville will add speed and efficiency for our customers shipping goods between the mainland and the island,” John Hourihan, Crowley's senior vice president and general manager, Puerto Rico services, said in a prepared statement. “The environmentally friendly ships will replace tugs and triple-deck roll-on/roll-off barges currently sailing between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico.”

Hourihan also noted the importance of the Jones Act as it relates to Crowley’s $550 million overall investment in the trade, saying “the improvements we are making would not have been possible without the Act.”

The other project milestones expected to be reached soon include: In San Juan, Crowley is scheduled to receive three new, ship-to-shore gantry cranes, manufactured by Liebherr Container Cranes in Ireland as early as Wednesday at the company’s Isla Grande Terminal. The cranes, which will be offloaded onto Crowley’s new 900' pier over several days, will be the first new, specialized gantry cranes to be received for operation in San Juan Harbor in more than five decades.

In Jacksonville, two 260-ton, cryogenic LNG tanks, constructed by Chart Industries in Europe, are expected to arrive at Crowley’s leased property at JAXPORT’s Talleyrand Marine Terminal within a week. The facility, scheduled for completion this summer, will be adjacent to Crowley’s operating terminal and will serve as the fueling station for the LNG-powered ships.

In addition to the ships, cranes and tanks, Crowley’s $550 million investment includes a new 900'x114' concrete pier at Isla Grande and associated dredging needed to accommodate the two new ships; expanding terminal capacity for handling refrigerated containers; paving 15 acres to accommodate container stacking; adding containers and associated handling equipment to its fleet; installing a new electrical substation to provide power for the new gantry cranes; constructing a new seven-lane exit gate for increased efficiency; installing hardware required for a new, state-of-the-art terminal operating software system, and more.

“The ships, terminal and bunkering facility represent next-generation technology built for high performance and dependable service for our customers,” Crowley’s Tucker Gilliam, vice president, special projects, said in a prepared statement.

Crowley has served the Puerto Rico market from the 85-acre Isla Grande Terminal since 1954, longer than any other Jones Act carrier in the trade.


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.