New ship to help save Louisiana’s coast
Officials gathered in Houma to christen the dredge today.
Clad in a white dress and hefty protective gloves, Amanda Chatry struck a cloth-covered champagne bottle against the newest addition to Weeks Marine’s fleet during a christening today.
Amanda Chatry is the daughter of the ship’s namesake, Steve Chatry, a senior vice president of Weeks Marine’s dredging division, based in Covington.
The $60 million, 310-foot-long oceangoing dredge, also known as a hydraulic dredge, is designed to be highly-automated and multi-functional as the most advanced ship in its category. Dredges are used to collect sediment from water bottoms to use in coastal-restoration projects, as well as to keep navigable waterways clear for boat traffic.
“Today’s a real special event for us,” said Weeks Marine President Eric Ellefsen said during the event at the company’s Houma yard off Coteau Road. “We’re adding a new tool to the toolbox.”
The company is celebrating its 100th year in business and was joined by its 91-year-old chairman Dick Weeks, and his son and CEO Rich Weeks.
Weeks Marine has completed several projects in coordination with the state, including the Caminada Headlands in southern Lafourche Parish, Louisiana’s largest coastal-restoration project to date.
State Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, and Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board Chairman Chip Kline spoke during the ceremony as well.
“I can not wait to put that baby to work that right there sitting behind me,” said Kline, pointing at the vessel from the podium.
Kline surprised the company by announcing that the state will award Weeks Marine a contract to restore two barrier islands and one strip of sand off Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. The multi-million-dollar project will restore about 1,400 acres of habitat on Trinity-East Island and Timbalier Island off Terrebonne Parish. And the West Belle Barrier Headland project, along the border of both parishes, aims to restore beaches and dunes that help protect the oilfield service hub at Port Fourchon.
“I want to congratulate Weeks Marine for being awarded that contract,” Kline said.
The vessel’s technological advancements will enable it to go out to sea longer, saving both the company money and the taxpayers by finishing projects faster, as well as keep workers safer, officials said.
U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Maritime Administrator Richard Balzano also spoke at the ceremony, thanking staff for their work to keep navigational pathways clear and preventing the economy from slowing.
“You all are the unsung heroes of this industry,” he said.