Under construction: The largest hopper dredge in America

Written by Heather Ervin
Largest hopper dredge in United States by Manson Construction

Photo Credit: Manson Construction Company

Manson Construction Company, headquartered in Seattle, Wash., turned heads last fall when it announced that it would be building the largest U.S.-flagged, self-propelled hopper dredge in the United States. The company, which builds ferry and cruise terminals, bridges, and so on, contracted with Keppel AmFELS to build the giant dredge, named the Frederick Paup, at its Brownsville, Texas, shipyard.

Henry Schorr

When putting our bids for the construction of the dredge, Manson had discussions with around seven shipyards. “Ultimately, we decided that Keppel AmFELS was the best alternative for us,” says Henry Schorr, who oversees Manson’s dredging division and who has been fundamental in the design and construction process of the dredge. “We were pleased with their capability and professionalism and look forward to them delivering a superb vessel.”

At 15,000 cubic yards, the dredge—designed in collaboration with Hockema Whalen Myers Associates Inc. (also of Seattle)—has a length of 420 feet, a breadth of 81 feet and a draft of 28.5 feet. Schorr says that once the design package was essentially complete, Manson approached the shipyards and made the decision as to which shipyard would be utilized.

“Hockema worked closely with Manson in the overall design of the vessel, including the review and selection of the engines,” says Schorr. The group selected Wabtec engines.

“After review of the current emissions regulations during the design process, it was determined that Tier IV engines would be required,” says Schorr. “Upon researching available technology and options, Manson determined that the Wabtec engines were preferred. A large consideration in that preference was the ability to proceed without aftertreatment due to the complexities of that system.”

The dredge will be propelled by stern Z-drive unites and will have two bow thrusters forward, according to Hockema.

While the dredge won’t be completed until 2023, it was able to achieve funding by a U.S. bank-led syndication. Schorr says the total cost of the vessel will be over $100 million once completed.

“As a result of Manson’s strong financial status and long history with our banking business partners, the financing was largely just another step in our normal business practices, though certainly not easy,” says Schorr. “We are very appreciative of the support that we have received from our lenders and the bonding company.”

Back in September, the dredge’s namesake, Manson’s chairman of the board, Frederick Paup, exclaimed that the dredge is the culmination of years of work by its dedicated team. “I’m honored to bear its name,” he said. “We are proud that it will be U.S. built, U.S. flagged, and U.S. crewed, and will support the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ mission of keeping the marine transportation highway open throughout the United States.”

Mohamed Sahlan Bin Salleh, president of Keppel AmFELS said, “We are pleased to be selected by Manson Construction to build the largest U.S. hopper dredger. It is a testament to the capabilities of our shipyard to build a wide variety of vessels for the Jones Act market. This project will be supported by our highly skilled local workforce and suppliers across the U.S. This is our first newbuild project with Manson and we look forward to supporting them as they grow their fleet of vessels.”

Other Projects for Manson?

Meantime, Manson Construction continues to work on its other projects and looks to new opportunities, including in offshore wind.

“Manson is always on the lookout for new opportunities,” Schorr says. “The most active of those at present appears to be offshore wind. We are continually reviewing how Manson may best approach these potential opportunities, whether it be offshore or building land-adjacent staging areas.”

Just this month, for instance, Manson was awarded a $101,430,000 firm-fixed-price task order under previously awarded multiple-award construction contract for the replacement of Pier 6 at Naval Base San Diego, Calif.

The task order contains three unexercised options that, if exercised, would increase the cumulative task order value to $105,650,000. Work will be performed in San Diego and is expected to be completed by September 2023.

And in January, Manson was awarded a $9,847,000 firm-fixed-price contract for maintenance dredging in the Port of Alaska. Work will be performed in Anchorage, with an estimated completion date of January 26, 2022.

In late September 2020, Manson was awarded a cutterhead dredge contract by the Corps of Engineers for deepening of the Mississippi Valley River Ship Channel to 50 feet.

The overall project will provide a draft of 50-feet from the Port of Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico—over 256 miles of the Mississippi River. In addition, the material dredged from the first 30 miles of the project near the mouth of the Mississippi River will restore an estimated 1,462 acres of critical marsh habitat.

These are only a few of the projects recently awarded to the company, which has been around since 1905 when it was established by an enterprising Swedish immigrant named Peter Manson.

According to the company, Manson’s innovation and imagination allowed him to expand the size and number of his floating equipment fleet as well as the number of employees. His vision allowed the company to expand its areas of operation outside of the Pacific Northwest, finding work all over North America.

In addition to its Seattle headquarters, the company has operations located in Northern and Southern California, Louisiana, and Florida.

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