What is Edison Chouest Offshore doing so right that everyone else is doing so wrong?

On three other threads yesterday I read that Edison Chouest Offshore beat out Crowley in Alaska & Tidewater in California on long term solid tug-assist jobs, maybe has a new contract coming up in Maine & that Island Offshore which is 50% owned by Chouest will be diving on the Titanic?!?! What is the former OSV company Edison Chouest Offshore doing so right that everyone else is doing so wrong? Does ECO own a printing press for counterfeit money & can run a company without profit? Or is it because all other companies are just mismanaged & spend too much money?

I ask these questions because Crowley couldn’t build new equipment & underbid Chouest, TDW couldn’t build new equipment & underbid Chouest. Harvey Gulf, Tidewater, Hornbeck & GulfMark all filed bankruptcy & screwed their investors. Other old Chouest rivals like Trico, Seabulk, ENSCO & Seacor just disappeared. Otto Candies & Jackson Marine managed to make it through the crunch but ECO seems to be thriving through it. I’ve never talked with a current or former ECO employee who liked working for that company but it seems ECO has everything going for it: Several C-Ports & docks in Louisiana, a few big shipyards in Louisiana plus others in Mississippi & the old Tampa Shipyard in Florida, a 60+ Brazilian Fleet, half of the Norwegian company Island Offshore, their own subsea company CI, their own DP company MT & now tug contracts all over the country. ECO even has their own school to train their employees for free. Even if ECO pays their crews pennies it still couldn’t explain their expansion & success. Any legitimate ideas on how ECO is doing it & why others aren’t?


here’s the answer


it’s the dark force that makes Chouest the Empire it is


I didn’t realize ECO was paying pennies. I know there are companies out there that are paying less.

Are there any viable companies that are paying more? 4 or 5 years ago Harvey put that carrot out there to lure “the cream of the crop” money chasers … but where did that get them in the long term?


I don’t know what ECO is paying now a days but I worked for Tidewater for 10 years in the late 90’s to mid 2000’s & ECO always paid more than TDW. During that time my TDW coworkers & myself thought ECO was the highest paying in the GoM but that can’t still be the case if they spent so much on expansion everywhere. I don’t know?

ECO is an example of a very well managed privately and family owned company that can do their own thing without having to listen or report to short term thinking share holders. They are not required to and do not release financial information. Edison Chouest, who founded 54 years ago the Edison Chouest Boat Rental in Galliano, was a commercial shrimp trawler.

Because of their success story they are able to generate quite easily enough cash flow to keep on growing and expanding in different directions. Money as a successfull enterprise is probably the least of their problems. This website is a good read about the history of the company.

Thanks for the link Dutchie. It read kind of like a puff piece from a marketer but it did give a good explanation. I guess being privately owned with not too many chiefs, keeping their cards close to their chest & jumping on good opportunities when they seen them are the answers. But it still makes me wonder about Crowley & Alaska. Crowley is family owned as well with a lot of cash & shipyards, maybe Crowley just didn’t want it as bad or wanted more profit?

I’m still going to ask around to my old ECO buddies & see if they were ever strangled by magic during conference calls to see if c.captain is correct or not.

Heard they were hurting for people with a gov’ t security clearance. 350 a day for an assistant engineer with a clearance, no thanks.

Some friends of mine there say wages are still low, still no travel allowance and no 401k match…but I guess that’s why ECO is thriving right now? Wages on the low side and average benefits?

On a more serious note on this subject is this observation of ECO…

Gary Chouest is a tremendous force of gravity on the GoM and entire US maritime industry which he uses to his great advantage in all his business pursuits. He does underbid at breakeven (or perhaps even at a loss) where he feels he must to get the job to keep out the competition but in most cases he provides the equipment built to spec by his own companies. Without a need to make a profit on the construction side of the equation, he can profitably offer this equipment to the client at a rate lower than a company who has to go to a yard to have it built with their own need to a profit. Further Gary does pay nominally lower than the others and certainly offers lower level of benefits that say Crowley would (who has a union workforce). His employee structure is perfectly formed for him to come in with a low bid and this is why he is so draconian with his employee relations. He must control them completely if he is to keep this structure in place.

We all know that he has bullshitted most of the clients out there like Shell into believing ECO is flawless in its performance and that they do everything maritime better than anyone else. I also believe he gets the contracts specified so that they favor ECO to be a winner and I am surprised he doesn’t have even more contracts with MSC than he does such as the operation of the TAGS or TAGOS ships. I would also think he would have started a company to operate deepsea vessels and get in on the MSP cash when it was allowing in more ships. Maybe he regrets missing that train. He certainly loves to suck on the Uncle Sam tit. Let’s all be grateful he hasn’t gone there…

Could it be that they just build and operate better, more modern and well equipped boats than their US competitors and are willing to offer new boats to fill long term contracts have something to do with it?

I cannot remember ever having stepped on board a ECO boat, but the boats on their fleet list looks more impressive than others, like TDW, Seacore etc. that I’m more familiar with.

The money is real, but it did seem like we were printing it.

For about a year and a half I was on one of the ECO ships that worked for Shell. We were all over this map, working on some plays that have turned out to be record breaking.

Appomattox will be their largest floating platform, and that was one of ours. At least 17 of these dots were our surveys during my time. We worked very hard for Shell: we were safe and productive. The data we got was really beautiful, and that’s what Shell cared most about. That was down to the technology and to the teamwork. Particularly the technology. Ocean bottom node recording instead of the conventional streamer surveys. The technology isn’t ECO’s, but they put together the deployment platform and the expertise to make it happen. Its not that Shell thought we were perfect, its that they thought our wiggly lines were lovely.


How was your experiences with the Chouest personnel & management? Where they professionals, assholes or professional assholes? I’m inclined to agree with Dutchie & ombugge because I know a person or company usually gets to the top by hard work, determination & luck & not by being a cheat, incompetent & an asshole as c.captain paints ECO. But I know one engineer who worked only one hitch with them & quit & a few other former employees who have negative opinions of their management style. Obviously from your last post about your 1.5 years with them you don’t think they cheated their way to where they are at & they’re a good operation but would you go back to work for them permanently?

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Me and most of the people with me were contractors, we didn’t work directly for ECO. It was hard for the ECO guys, I think. I got to be friends with a number of them. I did see them treated badly by their onshore managers… I don’t want to tell other people’s personal stories, but I really couldn’t believe what they put up with. Europeans would not have put up with it. In addition to the corporate level problems that they faced, they were very minimally staffed. We needed a lot of people to run that operation, and there wasn’t room for even one more soul on that ship. That being said: they were a phenomenal group of pros. Fun-loving, good moral for the most part, supportive. I think its an example of how some people thrive under adverse conditions. People complained, but actually very little. This is the first and only time I’ve worked with an American crew. I like working with other nationalities, but honestly, it was such a relief at that time to be with people who… how to say this this politely? People who are generally cheerful, I guess.

Would I work for them? No. I don’t guess I would. Not unless I could work for the same guy that was chief when I was there. I might do it just for kicks, if he was my boss.


Chouest offers the most integrated services at the best rates with the best equipment. That has always been their business model, and most companies cannot compete from an organizational view point. I worked there 17 years. It was good and I thought the company was good and ownership considerate. I’ve been gone for over 7 years now, and I’m not sure of what the landscape looks like nowadays. I do know that I’m glad I left. Not because of animosity or anything of that nature, but because if I would have stayed, I would be at half the compensation rate I’m at now. I left on good terms and can get a job there tommorrow. Mind you, I left 7 years ago at 750/day as Master on the Island Enforcer. Not 3 weeks after my departure, that rate eclipsed well over 1000/day. Those excellent rates were short lived, followed by drastic cuts just a few years later. I can only say my experience was good, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at now without the type of experience and relationships that I gained while I was at ECO.


Wages aren’t “low” they are “lower” than what they were.

I’d be willing to bet that wages are higher than a lot of the same positions at the other OSV operators.

They don’t underbid everyone. If they did they’d have all the jobs. They are steadfast in holding firm on day rates. They lose bids all the time. They will try to work in a value some other way through other services. Or convince the charterer they are paying for a better product whether it’s through efficiency, quality, capability, safety, consistency, support or whatever.

well regardless of how Gary Chouest has gotten the likes of Shell, Alyeska Pipeline or the USN to treat him as such a favorite, the fact remains that he still rules ECO and all the satellite companies with a topdown iron rule where he brooks no complaining from the masses within and will lop off the head of any peon who dares to challenge the established order…to survive you cannot speak in any way critical of Chouest and if you do, you best be prepared to be a former employee very quickly

And I am sure that as much as you profess your dislike for the company and the man, that there are many other bosses and companies worldwide that are no different.

Why do some here seem to have this knee-jerk reaction to the “C” word? It reminds me of those poor souls afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome … say the “T” word in their presence, and they start frothing at the mouth. Almost like some kind of mental disorder.


Chouest is simply too big and dominant in the oil patch.

This is the company that requires job applicants to come in person to its Louisiana office to beg for a job, and then sends them to excessive and intrusive physicals with X-rays and MRIs interpreted by their pet in-house podiatrist. I do not believe employers are allowed to do this outside the Gulf, especially not in Alaska or New Hampshire.

It is not healthy for marine industry, or especially for mariners, for Chouest to spread its tentacles any further. Chouest will do nothing but drag the rest of us down to bayou level.

Crowley is another company that is too big, but at least it had long established roots in Alaska and local employees. Crowley has been in Alaska a lot longer than it has been in Florida. Alaska needs jobs, it cannot afford to have them shipped out of state.

Moran is also too big and has gobbled up too many other small companies and spread its wings a bit too far, but it has long been established in New Hampshire and hires local mariners.

I am opposed to any big company from out of state crowding out the smaller local companies, and flat out excluding local mariners from local employment. That just isn’t right.


I dont find that unusual. Most companies that I’ve worked for are pretty strict in terms of pre-employment medical exams, more in depth that ECO even, particularly the drilling companies. Working in some countries, you must go through that same scrutiny annually. I would prefer an MRI versus an X-Ray. Chouest was way more dominant in the late 90’s and early 2 thousands - they were the only choice in the GOM without round tripping boats for the same capacity or ability. Nowadays there are options, and you can see that majors have decided to diversify, or not use ECO at all in some cases. Some disptachers even prefer other operators, but cannot beat the capacity of the newest ECO has to offer, and in the end, it becomes a commercial decision.
Now, I do remember who was the risk taker in the beginning of GOM deepwater, and that was ECO. Tidewater did not want anything to do with supplying the Auger in 1991 for fear that any type of incident with the facility would basically end the their company. ECO took on the challenge and the rest is history in term of Shell’s expansion in GOM deepwater. Tidewater had a company meeting (some time ago) and when management was asked why they were not building new vessels like ECO, the answer was, “we are, but they’re orange at the moment”. There were several companies afraid to follow suit with ECO and were expecting a catastrophic failure which never occured. So, if anyone faults success out of what was seen as a risky proposition at the time, they should have taken the opportunity when it was presented to them. As Pimp Baby Jay would say, “scare money dont make no money!” It took over a decade for others to invest.

You’ve never worked for a drilling company then if you think that’s out of the ordinary… Had to go through that when I hired on with Global Drilling. Had to go through all kinds of medical exams working tankers for AMO too. Didn’t go through any of that when I hired on with ECO though. When did they start doing this?

Considering the health condition of many of the officers, wouldn’t be a bad idea to run long time employees through those tests now.


Several people that were involved in the bidding process have told me Chouest did not under bid Crowley for the Valdez contract. What they did do was offer much more value for the money. New oil spill response barges; new or better boats ect.

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