Swiftships’ Anaconda stars at open house

MORGAN CITY, La. — Judging by the number of rides given to select guests on the Anaconda, a prototype vessel for special operation forces, the biggest draw of interest at Wednesday’s open house for Swiftships Shipbuilders, was tied to a pier in the Atchafalaya River.

At about 6 p.m. Eric Geibel, director of special programs, got behind the wheel of the 30-foot riverine assault craft and turned the ignition to a pair of 480-horsepower Yanmar motors that powers the Rolls Royce jets.

Ali Kazilbash, program manager, untied the craft and it backed out of the slip with five people on board on the first of several demonstration rides of the evening.

Although nearly 1,000 horsepowers were utilized getting the boat up to about 45 knots, the boat could scarcely be heard above the conversation of a score of onlookers as it raced by the pier, demonstrating the craft’s stealth capabilities even at full speed.

Al Dodson, director of engineering for Swiftships, said the craft can move small deployments in as little as 18 inches of water without being observed or compromising the element of surprise using in-house technology that muffles the sound. The military has tested the vessel in Morgan City, he said.

Swiftships’ website said Project Anaconda’s goal is to design a vessel to support the efforts of the U.S Navy’s operations on inland waters by providing the combined advantages of power, speed, surprise, greater mobility and ease of deployment. Swiftships, along with various vendor partnerships, has developed the prototype vessel with capabilities of river patrol, interdiction and tactical troop movements.

Geibel pointed to five weapons stations (two forward, two mid-ships, one aft) on the boat which would give the vessel some firepower, if necessary. It has a foam-filled structure allowing the Anaconda to remain afloat even if it is holed.

A program for the development of autonomous surface vehicles is being carried out by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette known as Project Cajun Bot, the company website says. Since 2012, Swiftships, in collaboration with the university, has been working together to apply Cajun Bot technology and design a completely autonomous vessel, the website says.

The basic concept is to create a “GPS bot” able to navigate pre-programmed GPS way points without any human interaction. This advanced application will be the final “phase” for Project Anaconda, the web site says.

Scores of guests were entertained by management of Swiftships at the company’s ship fabrication facilities on Levee Road in Morgan City during its open house event. The message was if you need a custom quality small- to medium-sized vessel constructed of aluminum or steel, Swiftships is there along with an in-house financing option.

Under construction in the yard were a 175-foot long vessel and a 200-foot long fast supply vessel. Ted Matherne, company quality assurance director, said the 200-foot vessel is going to be the largest aluminum crew boat Swiftships has built in its 44-year history.

Dodson said Y&S Marine signed a contract this month with Swiftships to build the 200-foot fast supply vessel scheduled to be ready for operation in early- to mid-2014.

The vessel will be capable of carrying 51,000 gallons of cargo fuel and 43,000 gallons of water along with 350 tons of cargo on the back deck with an eight-man crew and 70 other people.

Contracts are pending on as many as six other similar 200-foot vessels, Dodson said.

Rodi Marine Services has signed a contract with Swiftships to build two 175-foot fast supply vessels. The two vessels are scheduled to be ready for operation in early- to mid-2014.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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Morgan City Daily Review
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