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Finishing touches being added to giant LeTourneau Gorilla rig

[08/02/01] The latest offshore rig to come out of LeTourneau’s construction yard south of Vicksburg is in final preparations before being towed down the river.

Gorilla VII, launched earlier this month into the Mississippi River, is expected to begin its five-day, 640-nautical-mile journey from Vicksburg to Sabine Pass, Texas, by Aug. 15.

Donald Cross, vice president of LeTourneau, said crews have been cleaning, painting and installing additional equipment on the giant rig and the U.S Coast Guard will run an inspection on all safety equipment before it is towed.

The 40-million-pound rig will be moved by four towboats from Capital Fleet, preceded by a picket boat. Guardsmen with the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Baton Rouge will coordinate safe passage on the picket boat to the mouth of the river. A tugboat will take over in the Gulf of Mexico, hauling Gorilla VII the rest of the way to a shipyard in the lower Sabine River.

The rig, 300 feet tall, 306 feet wide and 36 feet deep, will pass under eight bridges between Vicksburg and the Gulf of Mexico, said Ensign Brandy Parker of the U.S. Coast Guard.

One day after the rig begins its journey, Gorilla VII will pass under the Highway 90 Bridge in Port Allen and the Interstate 10 Bridge in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana State Police will stop traffic for a brief time while the giant rig passes under the bridges.

The challenge in moving the giant rig comes as it is moved around other barges and avoiding the meandering bends in the river, she said.

“But, we haven’t had any problems in the past,” Parker said.

After legs are attached to jack the rig off the sea bottom during exploratory drilling, the rig will be complete. It will then join LeTourneau rigs operating around the world.