ROCKLAND, Maine — It isn’t the most popular time for oil-drilling ships to be visiting Maine, but according to officials at Cianbro Corp., the midcoast has received a 750-foot-long, 358-foot-tall oil drilling ship warmly.
“The Stena Forth is here for maintenance and not looking for oil. People realize this is more an opportunity for the state of Maine than a threat,” said Brian Rancourt, project manager for Cianbro.
Rancourt said he never expected protests from Mainers, and so far his expectations have been met.
“It is helping the local economy and this is a new client for us,” he said.
Rancourt said ship crewmembers coming ashore and Cianbro employees working out of Rockland have helped boost sales at area hotels and restaurants. Prock Marine is also benefiting as Cianbro is basing its operations for the repairs out of that facility and using some of its equipment.
Cianbro has about 25 workers on the project with 18 members aboard the ship, Rancourt said. He did not know how many Stena crewmembers were on the ship or visiting the area, and officials from the ship could not be reached Monday.
Rancourt said some of Stena’s noncritical personnel had to come off the ship because there is only so much room on the vessel and the space is needed for repair crews.
The Stena crewmembers have been pleased with their stay, and the scenery, with the lighthouses, mountains and islands, and 70-degree weather exceeds their expectations, Rancourt said.
“They were blown away,” he said.
On Monday, a tugboat brought Rancourt and several members of the media out into the harbor for a closer view of the drilling vessel.
“This really opens the doors,” Rancourt said Monday, referring to the potential for Cianbro to pick up future repair projects.
Cianbro completed two semisubmersible drilling rigs at the BIW drydock on the Portland waterfront in 2003 and recently completed construction of 51 modular units for a Texas refinery expansion at its manufacturing facility in Brewer.
The Stena Forth needs to replace three of its six thrusters, which are essential to the propulsion of the vessel. To fix the ship, Cianbro and Stena Forth’s teams will work from inside and beneath the ship to remove the old, bolted-in thrusters. Once that is done, the crews will place domes over the holes so no water gets in and then will attach cranes to the faulty 43-ton thrusters — with the help of divers. The old thrusters will be placed onto a boat that will bring them to shore. Then a similar, albeit reversed, process will be used to attach the new thrusters.
To do this work, Cianbro needed 75-foot-deep water and a protected place to do it. A mile and a half past the breakwater, Rockland’s water is 120 feet deep and the Coast Guard has implemented a 100-yard safety zone for the ship.
“You’re not going to be able to see anything we’re doing,” Rancourt told reporters aboard the tugboat.
“Most of what we are doing is underwater or inside,” said Cianbro President Andi Vigue.
The project was expected to take between a week and two weeks to complete, depending on weather.
Although the project has gone smoothly so far, the Coast Guard is ready to respond to navigation and pollution emergencies, said Laura van der Pol, the chief of the Waterways Management Division for the Coast Guard.
“We have all the equipment and response on scene,” she said.
Originally the Coast Guard set a half-mile-radius safety zone for the Stena Forth, but after discussions with local fishermen and Marine Patrol, the restriction was reduced to 100 yards. Now, van der Pol said, if fishermen need to get to their lobster pots within the safety zone, they need only ask the Coast Guard if it is safe to do so at that time. If it is not safe, the fishermen will be asked to come back at a later time.
From shore the huge vessel dominates the otherwise sparse seascape of sailboats and the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. At night, the Stena Forth glows like a Christmas tree and is clearly visible from land.
According to the Stena Forth’s website, it is equipped to drill in 10,000-foot-deep water and can hold 10,000 cubic meters of crude oil. The vessel also has room for a helicopter and has a sauna, gymnasium, hospital, eight offices and 180 cabins, according to the site.