As land continues to erode from coastal Louisiana and recent natural disasters have made shoreline resilience a bigger U.S. priority, marine and dredging contractor Weeks Marine Inc. has “stepped on the gas” in the environmental services sector, says CEO Richard Weeks. The Cranford, N.J., contractor debuts among the Top 200 firms this year at No. 34, with $327.6 million in 2013 list revenue. “We saw a need, and it’s become a much bigger part of our business,” he says.
Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill revved up an already developing market for Weeks in Louisiana coast rebuilding, marsh creation and barrier island renourishment. "These things take a long time to unfold, but they have unfolded," Weeks says. "Things like Katrina and the BP oil spill just bring more focus to the issues."
Superstorm Sandy and predicted climate-change impacts elsewhere also have boosted attention—and funding—for protective upgrades.
Steven Chatry, senior vice president, says up to 75% of the firm’s dredging work now increasingly involves restoration. That work includes a $70-million effort, begun last year, in Port Fourchon, La., to create 300 acres of beach and dunes along six miles of coast as well as accelerated work on Northeast shorelines, particularly as New York and New Jersey lawmakers and the Corps of Engineers execute post-Sandy resiliency strategies.
Weeks also is eyeing the clean-energy market in a big way; on Aug. 5, it was awarded a contract, with Seattle-based Manson Construction, to build the $2.5-billion Cape Wind offshore wind farm, off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers confirmed to ENR that Weeks and Manson will replace the joint-venture team of Flatiron Construction Corp., Cal Dive International Inc. and Cashman Equipment Corp., which the owner selected in 2012 but did not contract to build the project.
In anticipation of a developing U.S. offshore wind energy industry, Weeks is investing in construction of what will be the first U.S.-made custom turbine installation barge featuring a 280-ft boom that can extend more than 350 ft into the air when jacked up offshore and can carry three wind turbines at one time, says Rick Palmer, Weeks-Manson project director.
The barge, called the R.D. MacDonald and soon to be completed, will allow Cape Wind participants to comply with the 1920s-era Jones Act, which bars use of foreign-made vessels to transport shipments to the wind farm's offshore location—as well as to others now being eyed in the Atlantic. Such vessels now are primarily made in Europe, where the offshore wind industry is further along.
While the cost of the barge has not been released, Rodgers says Cape Wind developers "were impressed with the investment Weeks made in the emerging US offshore wind industry supply chain." Weeks also has been advising Fisherman's Energy, which seeks to build a wind farm off the New Jersey coast.
Rodgers says Cape Wind expects to complete financing by year-end and start construction offshore next year.