Fort Lauderdale became a little quiet as far as big yachts are concerned this summer, so we got on the road and called on a few American shipyards. One of them was Trinity Yachts, which we found busy with new yachts deliveries plus significant commercial and military work.
On a hot and sunny day in Gulfport, Miss., Trinity’s Frank Allen walks briskly through the sprawling shipyard’s enormous sheds. Conversation levels rise to a whole new pitch as he passes a monumental hull and loud resonating clanks fill the hall. A heavy-duty plasma-cutting machine (with the made-for-TV name of Avenger 2) chews effortlessly through sheets of steel while a few steps away, highly pressurized water as precise as a laser beam carves the intricate Trinity Yachts logo out of stainless steel.
Just outside, a flurry of activity surrounds three yachts in late stages of commissioning, including a 242-foot custom steel and aluminum yacht (the largest yet built at Trinity) and the 187-foot Lady Linda, since delivered to her owners. The third is the attractive 164-foot Tsumat. At press time, we expect to see one or more of these yachts at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show this year.
Trinity acquired this sprawling waterfront facility in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and its devastating floods shut down the company’s New Orleans shipyard and displaced many of its employees. Shortly after the storm, four yachts in various stages of completion were towed from New Orleans to Gulfport, including Lady Linda’s predecessor. Since then, most of the Trinity yachts have been built in Gulfport, even after the New Orleans facility reopened in 2006. This is about to change.
In July, the Trinity shipyard had front-row seats to another historic moment for New Orleans—the completion of a floodgate complex that is part of a multi-billion dollar project designed to keep the city dry. For the most part, the gates at the entrance of the Industrial Canal linking the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain will be open to boat traffic but, in the event of a storm, they will be closed and act as flood barriers.
While the inauguration of this massive project received surprisingly little attention outside of New Orleans—at least until Hurricane Isaac, a very wet category 1 storm, drenched Louisiana in late August—it was big news in town and at Trinity. The inauguration of the Seabrook flood complex reopened the access to Lake Pontchartrain, an event that a yacht captain close to the shipyard witnessed first hand. Captain David Doll, who was headed to Key West from New Orleans after a movie charter aboard the 164-foot Trinity Wheels, heard about the opening and decided to cruise through the Industrial Canal. She was the first vessel to do so.
Moving forward, all yacht construction will return to New Orleans, according to Billy Smith, Trinity Yachts VP of sales and marketing. The Gulfport location will handle commercial and military contracts for boats 60 meters and larger. These contracts, which are keeping the yard very busy these days, include the construction of support vessels for the offshore oil industry. Powered with liquefied natural gas (LNG), they are the first of their kind to be built in the United States.
Harvey Gulf International Marine ordered four of these 302-foot by 64-foot boats, featuring a Wärtsilä dual-fuel power plant. They will be compliant with the American Bureau of Shipping’s Enviro+ Green Password requirements that mandate, among other things, that a certified environmental engineer be aboard at all times. Trinity is also building ten 90-foot patrol vessels and ten 300-foot fuel barges, with an option for eight more.
This flurry of commercial work does not mean that Trinity has given up on yachtbuilding; the two endeavors are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the commercial and military contracts, on occasion, provide new options for yacht owners, including more environmentally friendly power.
One of the reasons that offshore oil companies are choosing LNG (natural gas in liquid form) is that it is a clean-burning fuel, which simply evaporates if spilled. It is also not brand new, which is a bonus. “The owners may want to be ‘green’ but they don’t want to be guinea pigs. This is off-the-shelf technology now,” Smith says.
There are other ways to approach the “green” question, by using Tier 2 or Tier 3 engines, installing particulate filters, non-toxic bottom paint and more. But this is another option for owners who want to build a large long-range full-displacement yacht. And, “the engines using LNG will last forever,” Smith says.
The Trinity team has been working on a couple of truly out-of-the box projects of late, including an expedition vessel able to carry two motor sailboats and a vessel with diesel electric propulsion, which Smith describes as “the most unusual we have ever seen.” The yachtbuilder may owe these recent inquiries to the range it has shown over the years.
On the yacht side of things, Trinity is currently building a 120-foot all-aluminum yacht with raised pilothouse well suited for shallow waters thanks to deep tunnels housing shafts and propellers. The owner of this new project plans to keep the yacht in Daytona, Fla., and she was designed specifically to be able to access the area.
When we checked in last, Trinity was close to delivering the 242-foot Top 100 worthy custom yacht (project name New Horizon), an imposing and elegant six-decker with great details. The yacht, built for a private owner, underwent successful successful sea trials in August.
Deliveries in 2012 so far include the 198-foot Areti—an all-aluminum yacht with interior by Patrick Knowles—for a private client and Lady Linda—a 187-foot all-aluminum yacht with a striking interior by Evan Marshall—both from Trinity’s “wide-beam” series. Lady Linda (see the Fort Lauderdale preview article this issue) is available on the charter market and is for sale.
For more information, see trinityyachts.com.