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AEP Safety Star

Marine Builders Delivers Safety Star

 — by Jeff L. Yates

Marine Builders Inc., Utica, Ind., recently delivered the mv. Safety Star, the third in a series of six boats ordered by J. Russell Flowers Inc. for lease to AEP River Operations fleet. Identical to several similar “Safety” boats constructed by B & B Boatbuilders in Bayou la Batre, Ala., the boats from Marine Builders are 70 by 28 feet and are powered with a pair of Caterpillar 3508 diesel engines.

The Safety Star passed Golconda, Ill., in tow of the Caleb Lay on August 17 for delivery to Cairo, Ill., where it was to be placed in a tow heading down the Lower Mississippi River. The vessels are designed for use in AEP’s bustling Convent, La., fleeting operations and are also running along the GIWW.

Two of the remaining three boats on order will be rated at 2,000 hp. and all are scheduled for delivery by the end of October, according to David A. Evanczyk, company president. The next two boats to be delivered will be named the Safety Goal and Safety Voyager.

Also nearing completion during this writer’s recent visit was another Cat-powered vessel: the Patriot, a 56- by 22- by 8-1/2-foot twin-screw harbor and shift boat for the Tennessee Valley Authority. The 1,200 hp. boat is powered by a pair of Caterpillar C-18, Tier II diesels and will be assigned to the Cumberland City, Tenn., power plant at Cumberland River Mile 103.5. Although similar to many dinner-bucket boats delivered during the company’s 30-year history, the Patriot is the first in a new series with a new stern design to reduce vibration, according to Evanczyk,

“The idea is to improve vibration issues to produce a very smooth boat with high horsepower in a small hull,” he explained.

Multi-Boat Contracts

Reflecting on the delivery of five 99- by 35-foot, 3,200 hp. boats to SCF/Waxler during the past two years and the current series of 70-foot boats under construction for Flowers, Evanzyk said the company is geared to handle more multi-boat contracts. Thanks to the success of several government projects in the 90s, his firm learned the science of building superior, high-tech boats and has applied it to the commercial market, he said.

“As a result of that knowledge and experience and our reputation, this allows us to consider expansion to build vessels up to 1,200 tons dead-weight (approximately 180 feet).”

He went on to say the family-owned yard has remained in operation for the past 38 years in spite of fluctuations in the construction and repair market. His father, David W. Evanczyk, started the yard in 1972 and he joined the operation 20 years later following graduation from Purdue University, with his brother Byron coming on board at about the same time. Byron is now vice president-production. David A. Evanczyk’s son Matthew also recently graduated from Purdue with an engineering degree and is also associated with the firm.

“He has made an immediate impact toward our expansion,” his father boasted.

Marine Builders operates a full-service shipyard and a small protected harbor for final outfitting along the right descending bank of the Ohio River at Mile 595.7, immediately upstream of Jeffersonville. Included within the 23-acre facility are a 14,000-square-foot fabrication structure, with two 100-by 50-foot under-cover construction bays, a 115-ton crawler crane, a 50-ton floating crane and painting equipment to move each vessel from design to delivery.

In addition to building dinner-bucket and line-haul towboats, the company builds truckable towboats, passenger vessels and custom yachts and is also known for construction of specialty barges.

Evanczyk said the firm is not interested in building simple deck barges or making routine hull repairs.

“We’re not a typical ‘pick up, repair and drop-back-down’ shipyard,” he remarked. “We have special skills that are better utilized in custom services.”

Rebuilding The Elva Lee

While continuing with several new building projects, the yard has also taken on an unusual task of creating a “new” towboat from the remnants of a veteran Upper Mississippi River towboat. The former Elva Lee is being rebuilt from the hull up and will bear no resemblance to its former profile or design.

Evanczyk said the company acquired the 46-year-old boat from Newt Marine Service, Dubuque, Iowa, as part of a deal involving two new 400 hp. truckable towboats built by Marine Builders. The original cabin has been stripped off the 114- by 33-foot hull and will be replaced with a new four-deck superstructure with quarters for a crew of eight to 10 people, with individual staterooms. Engines and reduction gears had not been decided upon during a recent visit, but the boat will be rated at 3,000 hp. when finished. The pilothouse will provide a 32- to 34-foot eyelevel when the project is finished next year, Evanczyk added.

When completed, the “new” boat will be offered for sale.