Wednesday quickly became Monday and then Wednesday again and the fourteenth; seven days left before we had to go the France. I spent more time in my office and Andy’s office looking at maps and plans in those days than I had in weeks – or so it seemed.
Updates were a continuous chore. Tomorrow Marcy, Andy and I were flying to Port Arthur Marine Works to inspect the two fast patrol boats and go on the shakedown run.
I had found out why Black Bear had wanted them. There were ongoing negotiations with five OPEC producers to supply bulk oil terminal security and escort tankers into and out of the Strait of Hormuz. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Qatar were the five.
The negotiations started at the height of the pirate attacks on tankers and merchant ships kidnapping the cargo and the crews two years ago. Those attacks were still going on occasionally and because of other world events, were not making the headlines any more.
They had dropped off in the last couple months and that had taken the urgency off the negotiations for a while, but the attacks were on the upswing again. The negotiations were still active until the court award. Charles had asked that the talks be put on hold until the JBG transition was complete and there could be a discussion with the new owners.
Charles Black, Milton Bear, Andy and I talked a couple of hours about the arrangement. Then Andy and I talked some more about it before telling Charles to aggressively pursue the contract talks.
With so much manpower on the payroll and available to work, I didn’t think we should turn down any possibilities without thorough investigations. I knew Marcy would feel the same way and didn’t have to ask.
I had to wonder why those countries did not come to an agreement on their own to patrol the waters and protect their livelihood. They had bought hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment over the past decade. They also had marvelously massive military parades with all the pomp and circumstance at the drop of a hat.
After some thought it hit me. The officers were cronies, political elite and princes. Being an officer in the military was an ego trip and notch up the ladder. It looked good in all the portraits hung everywhere. Of course there were the prestigious parties and events they all went to.
The marching soldiers were the low end of the social ladder; they weren’t entitled to be called princes or other prestigious names. But they were not going to work in the oil fields; that was nasty, hot, dangerous work so the military was the place for them.
They spent days cleaning equipment, barracks and practicing whatever. Of course they looked good all decked out and lining the routes when important visitors came.
They didn’t want their own sailors and soldiers to do it for fear of failure so they hired it out to foreigners. The same as they hired out ninety percent of everything done in those countries for construction, house building and road building. Practically every household had foreign servants from China, Indonesia, Japan, and a variety of African countries.
There was no one now other than JBG that would do that kind of work. It was going to be expensive for them.
Thursday morning Marcy, Andy and I boarded N297A for Fort Dean then a couple cars to Port Arthur’s ship building and marine services area.
One boat – if you can call an eighty foot ship a boat – was setting high and dry in the dry dock. They wanted us to be able to do a walk around to look at the hull and drives.
The other was tied up at the dock waiting for the shakedown cruise. But first was the walk around sales pitch.
Eighty foot long with a special hull design to maintain a dry deck and stabilized handling at all speeds. The hull was hardened aluminum with titanium reinforcements. Critical areas were surrounded with honeycomb titanium similar to the pilot tub in an A10 warthog, tough – just unbelievably tough. It was painted in an ocean camouflage scheme.
For power they had twin Detroit Diesel MTU 12V-4000 with 2750 horsepower, each driving Arneson Surface Drive-16 articulating propulsion systems drives allowing thrust control for mind boggling tight turns. The combination gave the boat speeds of fifty knots under most conditions and sucked fuel at that speed like a dry dog at a water bucket.
On the forward deck was two independently controlled M230 30MM chain guns. On the stern were two twin mount 12.7 MM machine guns – better known as 50 cal. Mounted over top the cabin on a rack were four tubes for Hellfire missiles. On each side of the missile rack was an eight tube launch system for Hydra 70 rockets. Over top the Hellfire tubes was mounted a radar and a sensor array. This thing could be loaded for bear – a lot of them.
It could travel 1700 miles on a fuel load at ten knots; over that all bets were off. It required a crew of twelve with berths for six. There was a small shower with waste tanks, a fresh water tank and a microwave.
We boarded the one at the dock for a shakedown run. While we were gone the dry dock crew floated the other one and fueled it up.
The thing was more than impressive, as there were 5-point harnesses to keep us seated in the boat. From idle to full throttle was a white knuckle experience; so were the high speed turns. I could just imagine Jason docking this thing at the travelers dock next to the seafood restaurant to impress his friends.
I was amazed that it had the latest control systems and laser sighting by Raytheon for rockets, Hellfire missiles and advanced sensors mounted in the array – even more, it seemed all of them were operating.
After testing the other one we accepted the delivery and Marcy paid the bill.
Before we left the commercial sales section and engineering, ”Just for shits and giggles work up a price on twenty two more with the same engines, drives and outfitted the same. I also want to know when we could expect the first delivery and how often they would follow after that.”
”I also will tell you that we know of another offshore manufacture that builds a very similar patrol boat that we will be getting prices from and comparing the product,” I said.
The question of what to do with these two boats was the question that would only be answered after more negotiations with the oil producers. One thing for sure – there – was no need to send them back to Fort Dean. There could be no tanker escort training in the lake or the bayou there.
Charles Black had texted me twice since we left Morton; three of the OPEC countries were serious – dead serious – about continuing the negotiations. Somalia pirates had tried to hijack a freighter and an oil tanker off the coast of Oman this morning, for the second time this week.
The only thing that had saved the two ships were the crews had violated international law by carrying small arms allowing them to repel the attack by a small raiding party. If it had been a larger party with RPGs they would have had two ships and crews.
Just one more thing to fit into our expanded company, if there was any value in it for us.
We were back at Morton by late afternoon and back to the planning and double checking.
Friday all of us spent the day at the truck stop getting ready for the grand opening at 1500. With all the work that had been done there were still little things to do to suit Lorrie.
The nearly one hundred men and women that were going to staff the site had started on the payroll on Monday. It was going to take that many to give the 24/7 coverage that we wanted. They had spent the time learning what their jobs were and how everything worked.
By 1500 all the dignitaries we expected were there and more. The three news stations were there; Hanna’s channel 34, the Delaware station from Dover and Melinda with ZNN. I wondered why this was a news worthy event for them. Elmo Cartwright was there for the local papers.
The five county commissioners were lined up with Lorrie and Marcy with the big scissors and at 1500 – to cheers – the ribbon was cut into multiple pieces. The flashing signs out by the highway said ”Open for business”.
The tall pricing sign was flashing ”Regular gas for two dollars, low sulfur diesel for two twenty five and off-road diesel for one seventy five.”
With all the advertizing that had been done, trucks and cars were waiting in lines for the pumps to be turned on. They were as soon as the ribbon was cut.
The parking lot was full of cars as customers filled up with gas and then went inside to see for themselves if the things that had been in the ad pictures were really there.
I stayed back so Lorrie and Marcy could be interviewed; after all, this was their dream project.
After the cameras were gone we walked into the truck stop to see the action and how things were on the inside. The place was packed and there were short lines at the cash registers with almost no waiting. I was glad to see that – nothing pissed me off more than to wait in a slow moving line to spend my money.
Stores that were notorious for having one register open when they should have had four did not get any repeat business from me. I had walked your store and spent time looking, just quickly take my money and let me get on my way.
The fast food restaurant were busy as was the convenience store. Things looked promising as we left to get the boys. We were coming back to have supper in the sit down truck stop restaurant and then do a final walk-through for the evening and surely answer ten thousand questions from the boys!
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.