Swiftships, the Morgan City shipyard whose roots can be traced to 1969, has been back in the commercial end of the industry for about a year now. And it’s paying off.
Among the yard’s current commercial contracts are a 200' aluminum crewboat for Y&S Marine, Belle Chasse, La., two 175' fast supply boats for Lafayette, La.-based Rodi Marine and two steel-hulled 145' OSVs for South Oil Co. in Iraq.
The shipyard is still a player in the military market, but not in the same manner as it’s been the last few years. The yard’s contracts to build vessels for the Foreign Military Sales fleet during those years were profitable yet all but took them out of the commercial side of the industry altogether. And the U.S. Navy buttoned up the yard as though it were a Cajun naval base.
Co-owner and chairman Calvin LeLeux, a 45-year veteran of the shipyard industry, decided to bring in Shehraze Shah, chief executive officer, and Khurram Shah, chief strategy officer, as partners and let them and Calvin’s son, Jeffery LeLeux, president, take on the bulk of the responsibility of running the yard’s day-to-day operations.
“It just got to be too much. I couldn’t be out-of-pocket,” Calvin LeLeux told me while I was at the yard on Tuesday for a demonstration of its 35' autonomous prototype Anaconda Navy vessel in conjunction with the University of Louisiana Lafayette. “It started to affect my health, and I knew there had to be some changes. So, I’ll still be involved, but not like I have been in the past. I told them I want to see what they can do.” LeLeux said he's traveled more than four million miles over his career.
The yard is expanding its operations and already has customers interested in filling the new slots as quickly as Swiftships can get them ready. “We’re building a complicated marine structure,” said LeLeux. “We’re building some steel vessels like the OSVs for South Oil, but aluminum is still our bread and butter.”