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Home on the E.P. PAUP

A derrick barge in the Gulf of Mexico.
A late spring sunset in the Gulf of Mexico as the E.P. PAUP works on a platform installation, setting the jacket in 285-ft. deep waters. This photo is the winner of the 2021 Manson Photo Contest and will be featured on the cover of the 2022 Manson Tides Calendar. Photo Credit: Dave McPeak, Tower Operator

When it comes to Manson’s derrick barge E.P. PAUP, you may think of it as nothing more than another big rig in Manson’s fleet. Marketing material and web searches identify the E.P. PAUP as a 1,000-ton derrick barge that sleeps 156 crew members, but this barge is capable of so much more. When this “mini floating city” is in full swing, it serves four meals a day, boasts several appliances and amenities – including six washer and dryer sets and a fully functional gym – and it operates at full capacity 24/7. The E.P. PAUP spends its summers 50-100 nautical miles out in the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but this is no pleasure cruise.

The E.P. PAUP employs more than 35 Manson employees and more than 30 contracted employees while working offshore. Contracted workers typically include welders, riggers, galley hands, cooks, medics, and more. Crew change usually happens every other week: some crew members work 28 days on and 14 days off, while others work 14 days on and 14 days off. Once they arrive, crew members settle in their rooms for the duration of their shift.

Three men spooling cable on a derrick barge.
The E.P. PAUP crew spooling cable onto the #3 winch drum― normal maintenance during the off season before crews head back offshore. Left to Right: Orlando Colar, Leaderman; Kyle Sonier, Crane Operator; and Anthony Knox, Deck Foreman.

The E.P. PAUP provides the crew with food, housing, transportation, and everything else needed in order to be comfortable for short and long durations. It is quite common for crew members on a job to wake up in new locations as the E.P. PAUP sets forth onto its next destination.

A typical shift for the E.P. PAUP starts with a Safety Meeting and a Job Safety Analysis (JSA). This allows the incoming crew to turn over progress and status from the previous shift, discuss the plan for the day, share potential hazards that were identified, and review required PPE and COVID-19 precautions. Crews report to their assigned working areas and relieve the workers from the prior shift. There are two shifts: noon to midnight and midnight until noon. “The noon to midnight shift has better visibility and access on the job,” explains Kyle Sonier, crane operator. “The midnight to noon shift has cooler temperatures and a better time schedule to take care of business or speak to your family back home.”

As with all marine operations, weather conditions are an important consideration aboard the E.P. PAUP. The rig works primarily in the summer/fall months of the year, coinciding with hurricane season. In the event of inclement weather, the crew must work together to complete safety preparations on the barge and find safe harbor. “All loose items are secured. We double-check all tied-down equipment on the deck and take the barge to safer waters,” says Hayne Booker, barge administrator.

As of October 2021, the E.P. PAUP has safely completed 21 jobs this season and September 2021 marked 2 years since the last recordable injury in the offshore group. “While that is a nice statistic,” says John Roques, senior vice president and Houma area manager, “the most important day is today, and if we can’t make it through today without anyone getting injured, the history doesn’t matter.”

One can’t ignore the contribution that crew continuity makes toward Manson’s most important value: taking care of people. Over 75% of the employees in the Offshore Division have been with Manson at least five years, which translates to an ability to work together safely. Working together day in and day out on the E.P. PAUP, crew members see each other not simply as coworkers, but as family.

“Working as a family makes the crew stronger. If something were to happen to a member, it would affect the whole group as they are a part of our family,” says Deck Foreman Anthony Knox. “It is nice working with a crew, watching out for each other, and making the work more productive and safe.”

About the E.P. PAUP: The E.P. PAUP experiences very little mechanical downtime because of the offshore mechanical/electrical crew and the way she was put together. The rig is truly unique. She is a US-flagged, Manson hybrid. The turntable and tub are from an American 509 crane. The boom is from a Clyde 60 crane that was modified to fit the 509 heel pins. The anchor winches are Manitowoc 660’s. The barge was built by Gunderson in Portland, OR and the house was built by Global Maritime in Erath, LA.

The barge was brought through the Panama Canal and assembled in Houma, LA. Even the PLC programming that controls all of the systems aboard was created by Manson.

“The E.P. PAUP is our only crane that the cab doesn’t have mechanical, pneumatic or hydraulic controls in it,” notes Daric Latham, West Coast equipment manager. “Every control is done through the PLC. Essentially everything with the E.P. PAUP is controlled through Cat5 Ethernet. Pretty impressive when you think of the loads it handles.”

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