The Gulf Fleet No. 31 was an Offshore Supply Vessel of 294 GRT built at Quality Equipment Co. (Yard No. 147), Houma, Louisiana, USA for the Gulf Fleet Marine Company, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA. Launched in 1978, she had a length of 54.9 meters, beam of 11.6 meters, draft of 4.18 meters, with twin diesels and shafts for a speed of 12 knots.
Some sources state that the Gulf Fleet No. 31 was owned by the Zapata Gulf Marine Company instead of Gulf Fleet Marine. This doubtful due to the fact that the vessel’s name, Gulf Fleet, and that Quality Shipyard where the vessel was built is owned by Tidewater Inc., New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Tidewater Inc. was, and still is, the owner of Quality Shipyard.
Gulf Fleet Marine acquired, through either purchase or construction, 77 vessels between 1971 and 1984 which were named Gulf Fleet No. “__” which were, for the most part, numbered sequentially from No. 1 through No. 74.
Interestingly enough, the design of the modern day Offshore Supply Vessel can be contributed to Mr. Alden J. ‘Doc’ Laborde, then president of Ocean Drilling and Exploration Corportation (ODECO) in the late 1940’s, who saw the need for purpose built support vessels for offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Laborde and 9 investors founded Tidewater Marine Service Corporation in July 1954. This vessel design, with the pilothouse and accommodations forward, and a flat work area aft, has proven to be the best design for the work of supplying offshore work sites.
The Zapata Corporation, founded by ex-US President George Bush Sr. in 1953, owned Zapata Gulf Marineuntil it was purchased by Tidewater Inc. in 1993.
The Loss of the Gulf Fleet No. 31:
Miramar Index has the loss of the ship dated as being in September of 1985. However, this has been debated ever since the ship was relocated in 1995. It is believed that the ship hit the reef of north-east tip of Shaabruhr Umm Qammar, the crew abandoning the ship, where it remained sitting atop the reef for a few weeks before dropping over the edge and descending to where she lies now. No loss of life is reported during the grounding or subsequent sinking.
This is definitely one for the technical divers out there. The deepest TEC-REC dive in the Red Sea, the descent is made down the wall of the reef until the wreck comes into view. The wreck lies upright a large rocky outcropping and perpendicular to the northeast tip of the Sha’abruhr Umm Qammar Reef at a maximum depth of 108 meters. The stern is located at 105 meters where the rudders and propellers can be seen. The top of the wreck is at a 95 meters where penetration is possible in order to explore the pilothouse. Aft of the superstructure are two cargo containers which may have been the crew’s sleeping quarters. From the forward superstructure heading aft to the open work deck at 86 meters to check out the cranes. Aquatic life is abundant here, with soft corals, fusiliers, and a variety of other fish. The ascent is to follow the reef wall back up, staying close to the reef for deco stops. If there is a southerly current, a diver can opt to drift along the wall for a glimpse of the Colona IV at the deepest deco stop around 64-66 meters. This dive, as all technical dives do, require proper dive planning and surface support.
Profile picture courtesy of Captain Ron Campana who captained the Gulf Fleet 31 from 1979-1981. The photograph was taken in 1979 in the Gulf of Mexico.