Carmi manufacturer not just about cleaning up oil spills | Business
Elastec/American Marine builds and markets aluminum workboats ideal for use in oil spill response.
That should surprise no one, for the Carmi-based company is North America’s largest manufacturer of oil spill recovery equipment.
Vessels built or marketed by E/AM have plenty of other applications, as well. Their workboats are being used to keep harbors clean from Chicago to China; to ferry people from one place to another In Peru; and to cut and remove unwanted vegetation from Texas lake bottoms.
Elastec/American Marine builds rapid response workboats for use in marine firefighting, search and rescue—in fact, for a wide variety of purposes.
“We can custom-make to anything,” said Don Johnson, aluminum boat manager for E/AM. “A lot of what we do is tailored specifically to our clients’ needs. We have a general, broad hull design, but we can accommodate nearly anything people want. We will build to order.”
Elastec/American Marine has been selling vessels for over a decade, but Johnson was brought on board two years ago to lead the company’s entry into the workboat manufacturing field. Those plans had to be put on hold, however, as the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred just a few days after he joined E/AM. Company executives Donnie Wilson and Jeff Cantrell led a team that quickly responded to the need, and the firm ultimately led the effort to burn hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil fouling the Gulf’s surface.
E/AM responded to the subsequent Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE by designing and building the most effective oil spill recovery system ever devised—and that system, using the company’s patented grooved disc technology, won the $1 million first prize in the 2011 international competition.
Johnson was deeply involved in both of those efforts and remains a key player in Elastec/American Marine’s oil spill response team.
But now he’s turned much of his attention to the area in which he has greatest experience: building boats. A native of Lockport (near Chicago), Johnson virtually grew up on the water. “I’ve been around boats all my life,” he said.
He earned a degree in Design from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1974 and decided to stay in the region. He worked at a marina at Crab Orchard Lake (east of Carbondale) and operated another on Lake Kinkaid (west of the city). Johnson developed an expertise with wood (he had also worked as a cabinet maker and for a furniture manufacturer), and he learned the mechanics of running boats and setting up engines.
Johnson designed and built boats for several area firms before answering the call from E/AM in May 2010. Under his leadership the company has manufactured workboats ranging from a 20-footer used in Peru as a “people-mover” to a 28-foot vessel employed by Future Environmental, Inc. (in the Chicago area) as a rapid response vessel. Its most recent products are a 26-foot “basic fast response boat” (which Johnson described as a “bare-bones, no-frills, get out there and get the work done” vessel) and another 28-footer, similar to the one in use in Chicago. Both performed admirably when deployed on an area lake this spring to tow and test a new oil skimmer (the X150) based on the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE winner.
The 28-footer (which is equipped with two 140-HP engines) was also tested in a configuration that included the skimmer, boom and a boom vane—and it handled the chore admirably. “It worked out really well,” said Johnson of the scheme that employs just one vessel to run the skimming operation.
The workboats are ideal for oil spill response and typically feature shallow draft, open decks and high speed. They range in size from 49-foot catamarans with a 15-ton payload to skiffs for transporting shoreline equipment.
Elastec/American Marine is gearing up to build two more rapid response workboats (an 18-footer and a 25-foot vessel) to be used in oil spill situations where it’s vital to “get the boom out there quickly” to contain a spill, said Johnson.
The 26-foot “no frills” workboat was designed to fit inside a 40-foot intermodal container (which could also hold boom, a small E/AM skimmer and power unit) noted Johnson, adding that the container can “act as a garage” to keep the boat and equipment clean and dry, even at the water’s edge, ready for rapid deployment. Another benefit is that the container can be lifted by a helicopter and delivered “wherever you want it,” he added. “This is a really nice concept and I’m excited about it,” Johnson said.
“Our niche remains oil recovery and pollution control craft,” said Johnson. 'We know what we’re doing. We know what it takes to deploy and build booms and skimmers.”