The Military Sealift Command [MSC] Special Mission Program manages the operation of four chartered ships used for deep submergence support, salvage support, submarine escort/rescue assistance and the Navy's advanced swimmer delivery system. MV Carolyn Chouest and MV Dolores Chouest operate on the Atlantic coast, MV Kellie Chouest operates on the Pacific coast and MV C Commando operates out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
MSC Charter provides funding for charter of CAROLYN CHOUEST and DELORES CHOUEST for sea trial escort, sonar calibration support, open ocean torpedo recovery, weapons system testing, special warfare training and escorts, Prospective Commanding Officer (PCO) training/evaluation, underwater search and recovery and submarine rescue. Additionally funding is provided for the charter of KELLIE CHOUEST. This ship is used to transport and deploy the deep submergence vehicles, operated by COMSUBDEVRON FIVE, for submarine rescue, salvage operations and scientific exploration.
The Navy has used lease arrangements to acquire the specialized support services of vessels owned and operated by Edison Chouest Offshore. The Chouest vessels have generally been leased on a short- term basis less than 5 years for transportation services and special missions, such as oceanographic surveillance and research. Under these leases, the Navy pays for the services of the vessel, crew, and its operation and maintenance (O& M) on a daily use basis. In 1998, the Navy entered into a 5- year lease for one of the Chouest vessels under the same type of daily use arrangement. The Military Sealift Command (MSC) is responsible for administering the Department of Defense's (DOD) auxiliary ship leases.
Flexibility and cost- effectiveness are cited as the primary reasons for leasing the Chouest vessels. Since 1988, the Navy has entered into short- term leases that generally consist of a firm period of 17 months or less followed by multiple option periods of 17 months or less that, when combined, do not exceed 5 years. Additionally, in 1998, the Navy entered into a 5- year lease for the Cory Chouest. The primary reason cited for these leases is the flexibility they provide because the Navy does not have a defined requirement for the extended use of these vessels. Since the leases are for shorter periods of time, leasing is likely to be more cost- effective than purchasing. A lease versus purchase cost analysis is not required for short- term leases and, therefore, such an analysis was only performed when the Navy decided to enter into a 5- year lease to acquire the services of the Cory Chouest.
The Laney Chouest was first leased in 1988 for 17 months with two 17-month extension options, then leased again under a new contract in 1992 for the same length of time, and then under a third contract beginning in 1997 for 15 months. In 1998, the Laney Chouest was returned to its owner.
Beginning in 1994, the Navy has also leased harbor tugs from Edison Chouest Offshore. As of 1998 a total of 13 Chouest tugs were operating under Navy leases in California, Florida, and Georgia.
Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) is a multimillion dollar company with subsidiaries operating throughout Louisiana. The company, based in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, is a vertically integrated enterprise engaged in a series of businesses providing the offshore oil and gas industry with marine transportation and other services. Edison Chouest Offshore is a $100 million Louisiana enterprise composed of 30 interlocking subsidiaries involved in shipbuilding and ship repair, offshore supply operations and docking operations, as well as payroll and holding companies. The company's primary subsidiaries are Galliano Marine Service (payroll), Shreveport Fabricators (shipbuilding), North American Shipbuilding (shipbuilding and repair), North American Fabricators (shipbuilding), Alpha Marine Services (holding company), Beta Marine Services (holding company) and C-Port 1, 2, and 3 (docking, tank cleaning, and resupply services). The various subsidiaries are part of a complex and integrated enterprise. None of the company's subsidiaries existed independently prior to creation by Edison Chouest Offshore.
MV Carolyn Chouest
SSV Carolyn Chouest is the designated support vessel for Submarine NR-1. NR 1 is 146-feet long, 12-feet wide and displaces 365 tons. Its mission is to search the ocean floor in support of geographical and oceanographical research and install and maintain underwater equipment. The sub and its support ship, SSV Carolyn Chouest are both homeported in New London, Conn.
SSV Carolyn Chouest is all-ocean certified and can operate worldwide. Her mission is to rapidly tow NR-1 to its work site and to carry additional crew, scientists, special materials, and supplies that may be needed to successfully complete NR-1's assignment. She also serves as the land communications link when NR-1 is submerged. Placed in service in 1994, SSV Carolyn Chouest continues to support Submarine NR-1 undersea research and recovery missions and expeditions. She was constructed by North American Shipbuilding and is owned and operated by Edison Chouest Offshore of Galliano, Louisiana.
The 238 foot, 1250 ton ship is powered by two 12-cylinder Caterpillar diesel engines providing a total of 10,800 horsepower to two Kort Nozzle variable pitch propellers. Maneuvering and station keeping ability are enhanced by a state-of-the-art, computer controlled 1000 horsepower, drop-down, variable speed, omni-directional thruster. The ship is capable of turning in her own length and accurately maintaining position, even in high seas. There is also a bow thruster for shallow water work and docking. Laboratory facilities onboard include a 1200-square-foot general purpose area adaptable to a wide range of studies, and a cold lab that can be used for the preservation of aquatic specimens. The large cargo hold accomodates an inventory of mission-critical spares and special equipment for NR-1. There is sufficient space for scientific aparatus that may be needed for a particular expedition. The living space available onboard Carolyn Chouest can accommodate up to 40 research personnel for extended periods in pleasant staterooms, each with its own bath.
Navigation and Communication capabilities include redundant SATNAV systems and complete marine radio equipment operating on LF, HF, VHF and UHF bands. Two Furuno 1510 radar sets are computerized in a state-of-the-art central command and control system. Telephone communication is provided via INMARSAT. A secure military communication link is also available for Navy use.
On October 31, 1999, EgyptAir Flight 990 from New York to Cairo crashed in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. All 217 passengers and crewmen were killed in the crash. EgyptAir's pilots reported no trouble before or during the airplane's plunge into the ocean. Edison Chouest Offshore's CAROLYN CHOUEST was called to the crash site, where it deployed its highly maneuverable Magnum robot to help in the recovery of the downed plane's black box. The Magnum was better suited for rougher seas than the Deep Drone, the robot submarine controlled from the Navy's salvage ship USS GRAPPLE. The Carolyn Chouest can float in a fixed spot without dropping anchor. The Carolyn Chouest is equipped with thrusters that are controlled in association with the Global Positioning System and that allow the ship to maintain its station in rough seas. Unfortunately, a fiber optic cable on the CAROLYN's Magnum was damaged by undersea wreckage, and so the Navy's Deep Drone rather than the CAROLYN's Magnun - recovered the flight data recorder.
The left and right engines and the auxiliary power unit (APU) were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean by the Smit Pioneer and Carolyn Chouest under the direction of the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage during two separate recovery efforts. In December 1999, the Smit Pioneer recovered portions of the right engine's fan, low pressure compressor (LPC), high pressure compressor (HPC), and low pressure turbine (LPT). In March 2000, the Carolyn Chouest recovered the left engine and additional pieces of the right engine that included part of the HPC, the diffuser, and the high pressure turbine (HPT).
MV Dolores Chouest & MV Kellie Chouest
Submarine Development Squadron Five [COMSUBDEVRON FIVE] operates the Navy's only Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, Mystic (DSRV 1) which is used in a wide variety of scientific research and recovery operations. Avalon (DSRV 2), as well as two Deep Submergence Vehicles, Turtle (DSV 3) and Sea Cliff (DSV 4), have been inactivated. The DSRV and DSV motor vessel support ships, Laney Chouest and Dolores Chouest are also attached to the Squadron.
The U.S. Navy's two Deep Submergence Elevator Support Ships (DSESS), Kellie Chouest and Dolores Chouest, have two primary functions: to assist in deep water search and rescue missions and to act as Navy submarine test support escorts. Kellie Chouest and Dolores Chouest are owned by Edison Chouest Offshore and leased to the Military Sealift Command. These two support ships are part of the Military Sealift Command Special Missions Program.
Kellie Chouest was built for the U.S. Navy in 1996 at ECO's affiliated shipyard in south Louisiana, North American Shipbuilding in Larose. A new contract for operation of MV Kellie Chouest was awarded in June 2000.
The design of the KELLIE CHOUEST is identical to its sister vessel CAROLYN CHOUEST, except for two cantilevered wing sections attached to the transom. The cantilevered wing sections on the KELLIE CHOUEST extend its length from less 85 meters to approximately 89 meters.
Kellie Chouest is a purpose-built commercial U.S.-flagged ship capable of launching and recovering deep submergence rescue vehicles. She also provides surface support for special warfare exercise missions, submarine sea trials/deep dives, mine recovery operations (inert mines only) and unmanned vehicle operations and mother ship support for submarine rescue chamber operations. The contract was valued at $19.9 million for four years if all options are exercised.
One of the highlights of the June 1998 Monitor Expedition was the successful recovery of the Monitor's nine foot diameter propeller and eleven foot of wrought iron propeller shaft. The propeller and shaft were removed from the wreck as a part of NOAA's long range management plan for stabilizing the wreck and preserving key components of the vessel by recovery. The propeller and shaft of the Monitor were recovered from the wreck of the USS Monitor by Navy divers on 05 June 1998 and placed aboard the Kellie Chouest, the vessel provided by the Navy for the 1998 Monitor Expedition.
In February 2000 MV Kellie Chouest assisted in the recovery operations of Alaska Airline Flight 261 voice and flight data recorders. Using the remote controlled vehicle Scorpio and a side-scanning sonar, which can be lowered to the ocean floor to scan for objects such as debris, Kellie Chouest was able to retrieve the voice and flight data recorders in about 700 feet of water.
Kellie Chouest's specialized services include: underwater acoustic analysis, breathable compressed air for diver operations, dynamic positioning, ability to lay ocean cables and shallow water mines, open ocean material retrieval, equipped with an elevator for the launch and recovery of DSRV's for NATO submarine rescue and unmanned deep submergence vehicle operations, and two cranes to assist with torpedo retrieval. Capabilities include a 4-Point mooring system (850 ft.); 150,000 lb. capacity elevator; 25,000 lb. fwd. crane (50 ft. radius); 10,000 lb. aft crane (70 ft. raduis); Automatic station keeping; Recessed sockets throughout main deck; and a Breathable quality air compressor.
Working from their base at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, Avalon (DSRV 1) logs several deep-water dives each week off the Southern California coast from the research support ship Dolores Chouest. Dolores Chouest capabilities include Marsat (voice), HD telex, cellular phone, military GPS, Loran C, long and ultra short baseline acoustic tracking (Honeywell 906), Simrad fathometer, UQC, 8KHZ, voice and CW (ATM 504), Pelagos Winphrong integrated navigation system.
MV Dolores Chouest is named after Mrs. Dolores Chouest, wife of ECO founder, Mr. Edison Chouest, Sr.
MV Cory Chouest
The R/V Cory Chouest is owned and operated under a lease agreement between Sea Mobility Inc. Dyncorp and the U.S. Navy. This former oilfield support tug was chartered and extensively converted to conduct trials with SURTASS and Low Frequency Active (LFA) towed sonar array. The ship is now employed as an operational role, with the only existing LFA, pending completion of T-AGOS 23.
The CORY CHOUEST, is a 265' long North Sea oil support ship, modified to include a 26' by 12' moonpool amidships. The Navy remounted all engines and generators for noise isolation, installed and outfitted the back deck module with laboratories and living facilities for up to 60 scientists.
In October 1995, CORY CHOUEST transitioned to a Fleet asset with the introduction of the first Military Detachment (MILDET), replacing an outgoing T-AGOS platform.
In support of LFA operations CORY CHOUEST was equipped with vertical line array, a multi-frequency horizontal line array receiver, both real-time and off-line analysis and processing suites, extensive navigation and communications capabilities and a continuously evolving variety of main and support system capabilities. All these measures were instituted to allow quick turnaround of analysis results through real-time detection, quality-control and data screening capabilities. The result of these measures was immediate feedback to the scientists regarding the practicality of their theories and protocols.
During Phase III of the Low Frequency Sound Scientific Research Program, the R/V Cory Chouest operated off the west coast of the big island of Hawaii. A passive SURTASS ship also participated to listen for whale songs. Shore-based observers tracked whales using methods that provide highly sensitive measures for avoidance responses. Hydrophones were also deployed from a small vessel to measure received levels (RL) and to verify the transmission loss (TL) models and improve determination of the sound field to which the whales were exposed. This vessel also followed individual humpback whales and described their detailed surface behaviors before, during, and after transmissions. Observers on the playback vessel (R/V Cory Chouest) carefully monitored marine mammals in order to stop broadcasting in case of worrisome behavioral reactions or if any marine mammals were sighted at close enough range that the sound level to which they were exposed might exceed the maximum planned exposure level. Responses did not extend much beyond duration of playback. Most whales that did respond resumed normal activities within less than one hour. Responses were similar to those exhibited by whales to approaching vessels. No significant differences between distributions of whales around R/V Cory Chouest during playbacks versus control (no sound) periods. The distribution and abundance of humpbacks during March 1998 Phase III research was similar to that observed in the same areas in 1993 and 1995.
On October 1, 1998, the Military Sealift Command commenced a new long-term contract to charter the Cory Chouest-an oceanographic surveillance vessel used as a platform for the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) and Low Frequency Active (LFA) acoustic detection system. The Cory Chouest was chartered through the year 2003 because of delays in the delivery of the Navy's new T-AGOS 23 vessel, The Impeccable. The Cory Chouest performs the mission that The Impeccable was expected to perform upon its completion.
RV Cory Chouest will be retired at some point after the USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23) became operational in FY 2001. T-AGOS-23 is a Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) ship that is much larger than the existing T-AGOS-19 class SURTASS SWATH ships and is thus capable of carrying the additional weight of the LFA system. The FY1998 Defense Authorization Bill included a provision that authorized the Secretary of the Navy to enter into a contract in accordance with section 2401 of title 10, United States Code, for the charter of the vessel RV CORY CHOUEST through fiscal year 2003 in support of the SURTASS program.
The C-COMMANDO is the designated support ship for the Advanced Seal Delivery System and is homeported in Pearl City on Oahu. The ECO seismic vessel C-COMMANDO was recently converted to an ASDS (Advanced SEAL Delivery System) support vessel at North American Fabricators in Houma, LA. The C-COMMANDO will be working for the Special Forces Branch of the U.S. Navy and will be home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The C-COMMANDO will tow the ASDS to sea for daily training of the crews that will operate this new system for the U.S. Navy. The C-COMMANDO will also serve as an asset to the Navy for use in other jobs as they arise in the future.
The M/V C-Commando deployed the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Super Scorpio for search and recovery operations following the 09 February 2001 tragic collision at sea involving the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru and USS Greeneville (SSN 772). Bad weather and heavy seas forced C-Commando to return to Pearl Harbor after searching the area where Ehime Maru went down in 1,800 feet of water. The Motor Vessel C-Commando and Scorpio II later located the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru approximately nine hours after it began its search of the ocean floor in February 2001. The video imagery from the ROV positively identified the vessel as the Ehime Maru 2,000 feet below the surface.
Margaret B. Chouest
The M/V Margaret B. Chouest was sometimes called the "Diego Garcia Shuttle Ship" because of the primary mission of resupplying the Military Sealift Command Prepositioning Ships and the U.S. Naval Support Facility at Diego Garcia, BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory) in the Indian Ocean. Upon going on contract in January of 1996, the itinerary was from Guam, to Singapore, then on to Diego Garcia and back again. In January 1997, the route was changed and the voyage origin became Yokohama, Japan. Cargo varied from small items such as cigarettes, candy, and daily hygiene necessities to trucks, buses, and cranes. Other cargo included ammunition, torpedoes and shipboard missiles. Over the life of the contract (20 voyages), the ship carried more than 47,400 measured tons of cargo.
As of December 2000 ECO's affiliated shipyards in south Louisiana, North American Shipbuilding, was preparing to convert the MARGARET B. CHOUEST, to the largest offshore supply vessel in the US market. The vessel was constructed in 1995 as a container cargo vessel, and had recently returned from its service requirements with the U.S. Navy. The the largest vessel in the Chouest fleet at 320 feet, the vessel has approximately 5,000 tons of deadweight capacity.
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