Twenty-five years ago, there were no bigger names in the Tier II shipyard market than Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La., and troubled Halter Marine, Gulfport, Miss. Both yards have gone through significant changes. Bollinger was sold to Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) in 2014 and VT Halter Marine, Pascagoula, Miss., to ECO’s Bollinger in November for $15 million. Bollinger purchased the companies from ST Engineering North America, a technology, defense, and engineering group.
In addition to the $15 million, ST Engineering may receive another $10.25 million, subject to the award of certain future shipbuilding contracts to Halter that meet certain conditions.
The deal was framed as an acquisition, which also included ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore (STEHMO) and two dormant yards north of Pascagoula. The Pascagoula facilities have direct, deepwater access to the Gulf of Mexico and included corporate office space, engineering, fabrication, warehousing, and a foreign trade zone.The newly acquired yards have been renamed Bollinger Mississippi Shipbuilding and Bollinger Mississippi Repair.
“We have experienced challenges and losses in the past years operating the two U.S. shipbuilding and ship/
rig repair businesses,” Vincent Chong, group president and CEO of Singapore-based ST Engineering, said after the deal closed last year. “After a thorough review of strategic alternatives, we made this difficult decision to exit the U.S. marine business.”
All ongoing VT Halter programs have been transferred to Bollinger with the transaction, including the Coast Guard polar security cutter (PSC) program and the Navy auxiliary personnel lighter-small (APL(S)) program. Those programs will continue to be built at Bollinger Mississippi Shipbuilding.
PRIVATE EQUITY OWNERS
Vigor Industrial LLC, Portland, Ore., changed hands from one private equity firm to another in February.
Back in 2019, The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm, and private equity firm Stellex Capital Management acquired and merged Vigor and MHI Holdings LLC, a ship repair and maintenance company (MHI Ship Repair & Services LLC) based in Norfolk, Va.
Frank Foti founded Vigor in 1995 as a provider of vessel fabrication and ship repair services. By 2019, the shipyard employed 2,300 people and operated eight drydocks across the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, including the largest floating drydock in North America. MHI Ship Repair had 800 employees at the time of the 2019 sale.
This year, Carlyle and Stellex announced they had agreed to sell Titan Acquisition Holdings to an undisclosed affiliate of Lone Star Funds.
Titan is made up of Vigor, MHI Holdings, and Continental Maritime, San Diego. The transaction is expected to close later in 2023. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Key Titan customers include the Navy, Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, and other commercial U.S. government customers, as well as Boeing, cruise lines, fishing fleets, barge operators, and ferry services.
Meanwhile, another Northwest-based shipyard — Safe Boats International LLC, which designs and manufactures aluminum boats ranging in size from 21' to more than 100' — recently transferred 100% of the company’s ownership to its employees.
The company’s employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) acquired Safe Boats in April, completing a process that began in late 2022. Safe Boats was founded in 1996 and now has more than 250 employees in two locations. The company has several significant contracts, including the Coast Guard response boat-small (540 boats), the Coast Guard special purpose craft-law enforcement (58 boats), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection coastal interceptor vessel (52 boats), and the flagship Navy MK VI patrol boat (12 boats for the U.S. Navy and eight boats for the Ukrainian navy).
OFFSHORE WIND FACTOR
Americraft Marine, a subsidiary of Libra Group, acquired St. Johns Ship Building in May 2022. Libra Group is a privately-owned international business group whose subsidiaries own and operate assets in nearly 60 countries.
Based in Palatka, Fla., near Jacksonville, St. Johns builds and repairs steel and aluminum vessels, including ferries, tugs, deck and tank barges, landing craft, and general cargo vessels. The shipyard has also gotten very involved in building vessels that support and service offshore wind farms.
Americraft officials said the purchase of St. Johns comes at a time of significant need for Jones Act-compliant vessels.
With facilities including a storm-protected 100-acre inland campus with an 850-ton floating drydock, the shipyard said it has positioned itself to accelerate the production of Jones Act-compliant vessels, particularly the construction and maintenance of offshore wind supply and support vessels.
St. Johns has two 82.8' Chartwell crew transfer vessels (CTVs) and two Incat Crowther 98.4' CTVs set for delivery this year to Atlantic Wind Transfer (AWT) and Windea, respectively. Construction will begin this year on two additional vessels for AWT and another CTV for an undisclosed customer.
Americraft plans to bolster capacity at St. Johns through workforce training. “Generally, we’re revamping almost our entire infrastructure to support individual build slots for CTVs while still maintaining our steel line,” Jim Cutts, who heads up the CTV program for St. Johns, told WorkBoat earlier this year. “We haven’t set an exact percentage yet, but it’s fair to say that we’ll maybe be in the 75 percent to 25 percent range of aluminum versus steel.”