The Oyster Creek is a 120'x30'x7' shallow-draft, self-propelled barge charged with oyster habitat restoration in the estuarine waters of North Carolina. The barge belongs to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF).  

The barge’s main propulsion consists of two Isuzu AH6K1X inline 6-cylinder diesel engines, producing 300 hp at 1,800 rpm each. The mains connect to four Kaplan manganese, bronze, 4-bladed 24"x20" wheels. There are also two Hydraulic Marine Systems diesel-hydraulic thrusters for added maneuverability.

Ship’s service power comes from two Isuzu 4JJ1 gensets, sparking 40 kw of electrical power each. The propulsion package gives the vessel a running speed of 7 knots.

Other specialized deck equipment includes a hydraulic bow ramp, two high pressure water monitors, and hydraulic spuds, all facilitating the transport and deployment of 155 tons of bulk material per trip. The vessel is outfitted with full crew quarters for 12 and boasts a loaded draft of only 4'.

Originally built by ABL Fabricators, Amelia, La., the Oyster Creek was purchased in April of 2022 while located in Houma, La. There, the vessel served as an oil pipeline recovery vessel serving in the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana bayou.

In August 2022, it was transported to Stevens Towing Company Shipyard for retrofitting in Yonges Island, S.C. The shipyard fabricated a hydraulic bow ramp, installed through-hull spuds, stripped and repainted it from the keel up, and performed other minor repairs. During this time, the hydraulic thrusters were removed and refurbished by the manufacturer, Hydraulic Marine Systems, in Deland, Fla.

In February 2023, the Oyster Creek, which has a 60'x30' cargo deck, was towed back to North Carolina and once again placed into the shipyard, this time at Safe Harbor Jarrett Bay in Beaufort, N.C. At Safe Harbor, multiple eastern-North Carolina vendors were hired to support specialized system retrofitting. James River Equipment, New Bern, N.C., engineered a high-pressure water pump system and rebuilt associated diesel engine. Powell Brothers Maintenance, Beaufort, N.C., installed dual high pressure water cannons, fabricated material retention bulkheads on deck, and built a custom stern cooler for propulsion enhancement. Powell Brothers also provided yard storage for the duration of the North Carolina retrofits.

ECI Communications, Morehead City, N.C. upgraded and modernized the vessel’s navigation and communications systems. Eason’s, Morehead City, N.C. provided new high pressure hydraulic lines, hydraulic systems repairs, and necessary upgrades to other hydraulic systems onboard.

A-1 Marine and Diesel, Newport, N.C., facilitated engine and generator systems repairs also while in the yard at Powell Brothers Maintenance.

The vessel’s home port is the NCDMF South River Stockpile Yard in Beaufort, N.C., where it will serve North Carolina Oyster Rehabilitation efforts.

There are accommodations for a crew of four and a maximum of eight additional passengers.

Capacities include 14,000 gals. of fuel, 14,000 gals. water, and up to 155 tons of limestone rock or oyster shell.


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.