Building ‘CALM buoys’ brings jobs to Port Arthur

Thanks to the manpower provided by Gulf Copper & Manufacturing, 7200 Hwy 87 East, three large freshly finished Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring (CALM) buoys are now fully operational and ready for delivery to Houston-based mooring company SOFEC Inc. at the end of the month.

Gulf Copper Keeps “Calm”

Gulf Copper’s Port Arthur facility earlier this year completed a unique 10-month project to build the three massive buoys for SOFEC, buoys which will be used to offload liquid product such as diesel or gasoline in places lacking deepwater ports.
In total Gulf Copper received two separate contracts to build a total of five CALM buoys (3 and 2), for SOFEC. The order is of particular interest from the yard’s view as it is a new line of business for the company.

The massive buoys pictured here are Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring System, or CALM buoys, and SOFEC is a global leader in the supply of CALM and SALM terminals globally. Each unit weighs in at 230 to 260 tons (depending on the number of heads) and the floating hull of the buoy is tethered to the ocean floor offshore of a storage or processing facility. “SOFEC Inc. has manufactured and delivered a total of 44 CALM buoys to date,” said Claude Signori, Project Manager, SOFEC, when Maritime Reporter checked in with him last month. “These have been delivered and installed evenly between Latin America, the Middle East and South East Asia. The demand for CALM buoys has been fairly steady since the early 80s and is expected to remain steady for the foreseeable future.  Prior to the arrival of the offshore terminal, vessels were obliged to moor to Jetties in a harbor/port.  This would mean the construction of Jetties, the addition of transfer hoses or mechanical loading arms and in most cases the expensive dredging and upkeep of channels to accept the medium to very large vessels used for the transport of liquid hydrocarbons.”

CALM

CALM refers to Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring, and the CALM Buoy is a floating hull with a rotating head to which vessels can moor. The CALM buoy falls under the category of a Single Point Mooring (SPM) typically with a turntable positioned above the geostationary hull mounted on a roller bearing. Flexible large bore rubber hoses are used to connect the subsea pipeline to the hull. Similar floating hoses are employed when connecting the buoy to a tanker prior to transferring liquid hydrocarbons. Central to the main bearing is a product swivel which allows fluid to transfer between the geostationary hull and rotating turntable while the moored vessel weathervanes. The primary benefit of a CALM Buoy over a SALM Buoy is ease of maintenance. The mechanical U-Joints of a SALM are removed, and the fluid swivel is located above the water surface. The vast majority of Marine Terminals installed since the mid 1990s have been CALM Buoys because of these design improvements.

While the technology is proven and accepted, demand can be tricky to gauge, according to Signori. “We have seen various increases and decreases that are very difficult to predict.  These marine terminals are not market followers since delivery from concept can be 24 months or more.  What we do see is a high demand for new refineries and power plants in remote regions where ports are not part of the local infrastructure.  It is much less costly to develop a system using a marine terminal than building a new port or harbor.”

One advantage of the CALM buoy for the operators is the ability to locate these terminals offshore in a suitable depth of water with an easy installation of the buoy connected to shore to via a pipeline.  Another advantage, the environmental signature of an offshore installation is considerably less than a shore side terminal.  These two factors, coupled with an expected operating life of 30 plus years will continue to drive the future market, according to Signori. “Also, as developing countries rely on importation of crude or refined product, we continue to see an increase in demand.  For instance, as India invests in relative remote areas with refineries for their internal needs, the supply of marine terminals to import the feedstock has increased.  The same will be true of power plants that rely on liquid hydrocarbons for operation.”

A Partner in Gulf Copper

The project was a first for Gulf Copper, and according to Eric Callarman, Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corp., it presented its fair share of challenges along the way. But he credits SOFEC, their technical expertise, experience and willing to partner to resolve issues as they arose as helping the yard to build its best practices even further.

According to Callarman, challenges started with the schedule which demanded a 10-month production deadline. In addition, it was the biggest fabrication project to date for the Port Arthur facility, and construction far exceeded simple fabrication, involving electrical, mechanical, critical machining and FAT testing. “With the help of our client, we raised our level of quality to meet project requirements. We actually look forward to utilizing this new level of quality on projects moving forward.” For example, “we originally thought that the fabrication of the CALM Buoys was going to be the most difficult and time consuming portion of the project but as we started the mechanical and integration portion of this project, we quickly learned that this was actually the most difficult and time consuming.” The final challenge is one familiar to most any ship construction facility on every continent: the location and hiring of qualified craftsman to execute the contract. In total Gulf Copper added 50 positions for this project alone. But by the account of the client, all challenges were met.

“SOFEC is very pleased with Gulf Copper’s performance,” said Signori. “The quality is very good, and financial performance solid.  Some of the mentioned challenges appeared in the form of schedule challenges, but these were overcome with hard work and more than a couple long days.  Nonetheless, the project met both the Owner and SOFEC expectations.

“We were interested in contracting this work on the Texas Gulf Coast,” Signori said. “We were sure the proximity of SOFEC in Houston to a Gulf Coast fabricator would provide an advantage.  And given that the local fabrication would support the end user with regards to transportation and importation obligations at the final destination, it was an easy decision to try to work locally.  The difficulty would be to choose the right partner. SOFEC selected Gulf Copper based on their solid ship repair and fabrication experience,” Signori added. “SOFEC audited the yard and came away certain they could do the work.”

Two additional CALM buoys are currently being fabrication at Gulf Copper and will be delivered in December 2013.  “There is every reason to believe we will work with Gulf Copper on more projects in the future,” Signori concluded.

And while the business value of winning this contract and building these complex systems is self evident, Callarman sees a value to the project that will extend to and through the work of Gulf Copper. “The biggest lesson learned from this project is that we thought we were a very good fabricator, and we are, but this project exposed areas of needed improvement,” said Callarman. “Everyone at Gulf Copper, and on this project team, really got on board with this project and we made many improvements throughout this project. We are really excited by the improvements that we made and what this will do for Gulf Copper moving forward.”

Gulf Copper Ship Repair (GCSR) Milestone Safety Achievement

Gulf Copper Ship Repair (GCSR) employees in Corpus Christi, Texas recently surpassed 1,000 days worked without a lost time incident. This achievement is even more significant considering that this division carries out projects all over the world for both commercial and U S Government customers.

A GCSR team recently returned from Japan upon completion of modifications to a US Navy ship. Another team is making preparations to travel to Bahrain for a similar project. GCSR has an envied reputation for quality work with their customers, both in the Corpus Christi area and abroad. As an employee-owned company, Gulf Copper has a slightly different perspective on safety in the workplace. Watching out for their fellow employee shareholders takes on a new meaning, and the GCSR team exemplifies this watchfulness. Pictured above are just a few of the employee-owners who made this milestone a reality. Gulf Copper Ship Repair, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corp.

Founded in 1948, Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corporation is an employee-owned company that repairs and refurbishes marine vessels and offshore rigs and fabricates specialty components for the oil and gas market. The company operates strategically located shipyards, drydocks and fabrication facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Gulf Copper serves the marine transportation, offshore construction and offshore drilling markets in addition to various United States government agencies.

Oil Crisis? Keep CALM (Buoy) and Carry On!

CALM buoys have long been utilized to safely and reliably transfer liquid petroleum products between a vessel and a shore facility without the need for a jetty extension into deeper water. These buoys have been used around the world as marine terminals in water depths ranging from shallow to ultra-deep water. Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corporation recently completed a unique project to build five (5) massive CALM buoys for SOFEC Inc. which are now being used to offload liquid product such as diesel or gasoline in Latin American locations lacking deepwater ports. The project is of particular interest from Gulf Copper’s view as they represent a new line of business for the company.

The buoys pictured above are Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring System, or CALM buoys, and SOFEC is a global leader in the supply of CALM and SALM terminals globally. “SOFEC Inc. has manufactured and delivered a total of 44 CALM buoys to date,” said Claude Signori, Project Manager for SOFEC. “These have been delivered and installed evenly between Latin America, the Middle East and South East Asia. The demand for CALM buoys has been fairly steady since the early 80s and is expected to remain steady for the foreseeable future.

Prior to the arrival of the offshore terminal, vessels were obliged to moor to Jetties in a harbor/port. This would mean the construction of Jetties, the addition of transfer hoses or mechanical loading arms and in most cases the expensive dredging and upkeep of channels to accept the medium to very large vessels used for the transport of liquid hydrocarbons.”

CALM is an acronym referring to Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring, and the CALM Buoy is a floating hull with a rotating head to which vessels can moor. The CALM buoy falls under the category of a Single Point Mooring (SPM) typically with a turntable positioned above the geostationary hull mounted on a roller bearing. Flexible large bore rubber hoses are used to connect the subsea pipeline to the hull. Similar floating hoses are employed when connecting the buoy to a tanker prior to transferring liquid hydrocarbons. Central to the main bearing is a product swivel which allows fluid to transfer between the geostationary hull and rotating turntable while the moored vessel weathervanes. The vast majority of Marine Terminals installed since the mid 1990s have been CALM Buoys.

While the technology is proven and accepted, demand can be tricky to gauge, according to Signori. “We have seen various increases and decreases that are very difficult to predict. These marine terminals are not market followers since delivery from concept can be 24 months or more. What we do see is a high demand for new refineries and power plants in remote regions where ports are not part of the local infrastructure. It is much less costly to develop a system using a marine terminal than building a new port or harbor.”

One advantage of the CALM buoy for the operators is the ability to locate these terminals offshore in a suitable depth of water with an easy installation of the buoy connected to shore to via a pipeline. Another advantage, the environmental signature of an offshore installation is considerably less than a shore side terminal. These two factors, coupled with an expected operating life of 30 plus years will continue to drive the future market, according to Signori. “Also, as developing countries rely on importation of crude or refined product, we continue to see an increase in demand. For instance, as India invests in relative remote areas with refineries for their internal needs, the supply of marine terminals to import the feedstock has increased. The same will be true of power plants that rely on liquid hydrocarbons for operation.”

The project was a first for Gulf Copper, and according to Fabrication General Manager Eric Callarman, it presented its fair share of challenges along the way. But he credits SOFEC, their technical expertise, experience and willingness to partner to resolve issues as they arose as helping the yard to build its best practices even further.

According to Callarman, challenges started with the schedule which demanded a 10-month production deadline. In addition, it was the largest fabrication project to date for the Port Arthur facility, and construction far exceeded simple fabrication, involving electrical, mechanical, critical machining and FAT testing. “With the help of our client, we insured our level of quality met project requirements. We look forward to utilizing this level of quality on projects moving forward.” For example, “We originally thought that the fabrication of the CALM Buoys was going to be the most difficult and time consuming portion of the project but as we started the mechanical and integration portion of this project, we quickly learned that this was actually the most difficult and time consuming.” The final challenge is one familiar to most any ship construction facility on every continent: recruiting and hiring qualified craftsman to execute the contract. In total Gulf Copper added 50 positions for this project alone. But by the account of the client, all challenges were met.

“SOFEC is very pleased with Gulf Copper’s performance,” said Signori. “The quality is very good, and financial performance solid. Some of the mentioned challenges appeared in the form of schedule challenges, but these were overcome with hard work and more than a couple long days. Nonetheless, the project met both the Owner and SOFEC expectations.

“We were interested in contracting this work on the Texas Gulf Coast,” Signori said. “We were sure the proximity of SOFEC in Houston to a Gulf Coast fabricator would provide an advantage. And given that the local fabrication would support the end user with regards to transportation and importation obligations at the final destination, it was an easy decision to try to work locally. The difficulty would be to choose the right partner.”

Gulf Copper completed fabrication of the fifth and final buoy in December 2013 and the customer took delivery in 2014. These buoys are an excellent example of the type of specialty marine fabrication that Gulf Copper executes for number of key customers in the oil and gas industry. Founded in 1948, Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corporation is an employee-owned company that repairs and refurbishes marine vessels and offshore rigs and fabricates specialty components for the oil and gas market. The company operates strategically located shipyards, drydocks and fabrication facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Gulf Copper serves the marine transportation, offshore construction and offshore drilling markets in addition to various United States government agencies.

Gulf Copper Managers recently attended a Risk Assessment training course

Fifteen senior managers and shipyard superintendents from Gulf Copper Manufacturing recently attended a Risk Assessment training course presented by Signal Mutual Safety professionals at Galveston , Texas. The course was developed through the efforts of Signal Mutual’s Safety Committee, made up of member representatives from the Maritime Industry. Gulf Copper’s Risk Manager, Mike Haughton, is an active member of the Signal Mutual Safety Committee.

The training course was designed to teach supervisors to assess the risks in a marine workplace, including:

  1. Identification of hazards
  2. Determining who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluating the risks and deciding on precautions
  4. Recording significant findings
  5. Reviewing assessment and updating as necessary

Signal Mutual instructors provided guidance on use of a risk matrix with weighted values to determine level of risk associated with shipyard tasks. Participants used interactive techniques to familiarize themselves with the risk assessment process. Gulf Copper attendees found the course very helpful in promoting the safety culture critical to daily operations at their shipyards. Signal Mutual is now working with Gulf Copper to schedule additional on-site training for supervisory personnel at other shipyard locations.

Established in January 1986 to meet the demands of multiple industries for reasonable and stable workers’ compensation insurance rates, Signal Mutual Indemnity Association Ltd. is now the largest self-insured group provider of Longshore benefits in the United States. The Membership of the Association is drawn from a broad range of employers throughout the United States in the stevedoring, shipbuilding/ship repair, offshore, marine construction, and professional/technical industries. Signal’s role is to assist the senior management of Members to reduce both the frequency and severity of claims. The Managers through its own staff of safety professionals provide the Members with an extensive range of safety resources.

Founded in 1948, Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corporation is an employee-owned company that repairs and refurbishes marine vessels and offshore rigs and fabricates specialty components for the oil and gas market. The company operates strategically located shipyards, drydocks and fabrication facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Gulf Copper serves the marine transportation, offshore construction and offshore drilling markets in addition to various United States government agencies.

Gulf Copper Announces Dredging Completion at The Harbor Island Facility

Gulf Copper acquired the former McDermott rig yard at Harbor Island (Port Aransas) last year and has just completed Phase I of its renovation with the completion of maintenance dredging at the Cargo Dock to -33’ MLLW.

Gulf Copper Harbor Island is now the first deep water stop on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. The facility boasts a 650’ cargo dock, a 500’x1200’ harbor, and access to Gulf Copper’s vessel repair and services.