By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Soon after the Xiang Yan Kou, a 711-foot Chinese offshore heavy lift ship from Singapore appeared in Resurrection Bay February 28th to dry tow Royal Dutch Shell’s drill ship Noble Discoverer to South Korea, Catalyst Marine Engineering., a local marine welding, fabrication, and vessel support company was ready to position, fit and secure 44 sea fasteners to the deck of the XYK for the trip across the Pacific.
For five days, beginning the night of March 2nd, CME began its work. Two crews, each with eight welders and two supervisors, worked day and night in shifts to accomplish the job. “We got on board the night of the second and worked round the clock, 24 hours a day till the 7th,” said Jonah Swiderski, the shop manager. He was one of the supervisors, along with Catalyst Marine owner Joe Tougas, and Seth Price, all Seward men.
The welder’s task was to unfasten each of the tow ship’s 44 sea-fasteners, and re-weld them directly onto the hull of the drill ship and to the deck of the XYK. They would secure the drill ship and prevent it from shifting, moving or swaying, even if the vessel encountered high seas. The fasteners were spaced out along the hull’s center, its bow and stern. It took the 20-person team five days and nights to accomplish the work.
Catalyst contracted with 11 members of the Pile Drivers and Divers Local 2520. Seven of the workers were Seward locals, and nine of them had graduated from AVTEC, Alaska’s Institute of Technology welding program, also located here in Seward. None of the hired help came from out of state.
These activities were aided by the tugboat Junior, and the Chahunta, both vessels with local captains who transported the workers and equipment to and from the XYK. Their forklifts moved heavy equipment such from inside the ship vessel via mid-size water-tight hatch that opened onto the deck. The Seward welders who had trained at AVTEC included Kyle Kain, Sam Werner, Hill Novel and Scott Reierson. Others who had trained here were supervisor Seth Price, Neal Ricerson, Kele Bottineau, Morgan Provost and Justin Flowers.
Once the work was completed, each of the welds was carefully inspected and certified by Alaska Industrial X-Ray, Inc.
The XYK and ailing Noble Discoverer thus equipped, left Resurrection Bay March 9th.
Seward has seen a dramatic increase in industrial-marine activity recently, so the ability to fit right in and participate in the Shell-drill ship related port activity brought a sense of local pride, and demonstrated that even local businesses and workers already have many of the needed skills and qualifications, and also that they stand ready to play a major role in the future boom in Arctic-related shipping to come, Swiderski said.
Catalyst Marine Engineering is located inside a warehouse that includes Tougas’ Major Marine welding shop on Alameda Street, a lane that runs off of Port Avenue.
“I think that this job really showed that Seward is capable of taking on jobs of this size and of this magnitude, relying on local hires, and contracts with other statewide resources,” said Swiderski. “The whole thing is very exciting.”
Seward-based longshoremen and women also have been busy working under contract with the Noble Discoverer and other freight ships at a time of year that is generally slower for them.
Tougas and Swiderski don’t believe that all the activity is due only to Shell drilling activities, although they definitely were contributors this past summer and winter. We’re also seeing plenty more commercial industrial size barges and vessels period, they noted. The new security dock has enabled more large-size vessels to dock here, and has played host to at least five of Coastal Villages’ commercial fishing vessels. In recent weeks, the Aiviq, a 360 foot vessel docked here, along with the Sisuaq, a 300-foot offshore supply vessel, they said. The oil spill response vessel Nanuq also was here, and there was even a coal ship in.
“If you could tally up the feet of industrial vessel that was sitting here at any given time it would be off the charts for what Seward usually sees,” Swiderski said. Meanwhile, at Seward Marine Industrial Center shipyard, folks were busy working on the state marine ferries the Tustumena and Aurora, and Seward Ships has a waiting list of other boats to be worked on.
Looking at the increase in freight coming through Seward, the Alaska Railroad Corporation recently presented its board with an ambitious $80 million master plan to develop its own land near the port of Seward. Among other things, the plan calls for widening the existing ARRC freight dock, moving and fortifying its jetty, and dredging the basin adjacent to it to create an additional barge docking area. If done, there will be even more trains and barges coming and going.