In Moss Point, Miss., the Omega Shipyard has completed work on two state-of-the-art menhaden steamers, the Windmill Point and Cockrell Creek for the Omega Protein plant in Reedville, Va.

The new vessels will be used to harvest fish in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean menhaden fisheries. The two steel hull boats were originally used as offshore supply vessels in the Gulf of Mexico oil industry.

The 180' x 40' x 7' M/V Gulf Influence was converted and renamed the Cockrell Creek, and the 170' x 38' x 7' M/V Candy Clipper transformed into the Windmill Point. The Gulf Influence was built in 1979 by V.T. Halter Marine in Pascagoula, Miss. The Candy Clipper was built in 1990 by Houma Marine Fabricators, which is now Candies Shipbuilders in Houma, La.

The Cockrell Creek will be powered by two D399 Caterpillar Diesel engines rated together at 2,250 hp, working through 4:1 ratio Reintjes marine reduction gears. The Windmill Point is powered by two Detroit Diesel 16V149 working through Twin Disc 4:1 reduction gears. The vessels will travel at 12 knots consuming 100 gallons of fuel per hour. Each boat has an 8,000 gallons of fuel capacity. Each boat will also have a pair of generators aboard.

There are staterooms and berths to accommodate 20 crew members in both vessels, and the boats are U.S. Coast Guard certified to carry 20. The vessels are equipped with 10-ton central air conditioning units and heating strips for climate controls, and 5,000 gallons of portable water for the galley. Electronic equipment will include an AIS autopilot control, color chart plotter, three VHF radios, two radars and lounges that will have a TV and DVD player.

The vessels have stern slide systems for carrying and off-loading purse boats used to fish the purse net. This required a major redesign and adding 2 feet to each stern, says Monty Deihl, general manager of the Reedville plant.

The new steamers are similar in style to the Rappahannock and Fleeton, two former OSVs that were converted in 2013 into fish steamers at the Mississippi yard.

The vessels motored from Moss Point up the Atlantic Coast in March to the Omega Plant in Reedville. Omega Protein hosted a christening ceremony on April 22 in Reedvillle, before the menhaden fishing season opening day in May.

Larry Chowning is a writer for the Southside Sentinel in Urbanna, Va., a regular contributor to National Fisherman, and the author of numerous books.

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