Tanker Trends: ATB Construction Forges Ahead …. Just Not at Torrid 2002 Pace

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Construction of Articulated Tug Barge units (ATB) continues to occupy a prominent place in the order books of several shipyards. However the pace of current building and back ordered units is not as high as the 2000-2002 period. "It looks like we are in for a little 'breather' for a while," said Allen Craft, senior vice president of Intercontinental Engineering-Manufacturing Corporation, Kansas City, Mo. The company manufactures Intercon, one of the most popular couplers between the tug and the barge, which makes the ATB concept workable.

"Vessel Management Services, a division of Crowley Maritime was a major driving force in this market when they had two different yards each built two ATBs with 9,280 hp tugs and 155,000 barrel barges using our couplers," Craft said. These vessels have all been delivered and while Manitowoc Corporation (Marinette Marine/Bay Shipbuilding) has options for two more units these options have yet to be exercised.

The builders of these four vessels VT Halter Marine and Marinette Marine/Bay Shipbuilding do not currently have any ATB construction in their yards.

Intercon is trying to broaden the appeal of their couplers by building "C" and "D" units for smaller HP vessels. "Some of these couplers could very well be outfitted on river tug/barges, while our current line is used mostly for ocean service," Craft said. The "C" series of couplers is for 3,000 hp tugs while the "D" series is for tugs less than 3,000 hp.

Craft also noted the market for replacement of barges and tugs using standard mooring lines with Intercon couplers. "We recently sold three couplers to Amoco/Keystone for a trio of their units that before used conventional lashing to hold the two units together," Craft said.

The Intercon coupler makes a mechanical connection between the barge and the tug without hull contact between either unit. The coupler unit in the tug is comprised of two independently mounted ram assemblies that are gear driven.

The rams stroke transversely and engage the vertical ladder structures incorporated into both walls of the stern notch of the tank barge. The resulting tug-barge connection is rigid, mechanically locked and fail-safe.

The connection allows the tug to pitch about a transverse connection between the tug and the barge. All other motions are restrained so that tug motions match barge motions in roll and heave. Not only does this make a good connection between the tug and the barge, it results in a smoother transition between the two units resulting in increased speed for the coupled pair of vessels.

"This coupler can produce speed advantages of 35 percent compared to towed units under average conditions," Craft noted. The elimination of hull contact between the two units, coupling and uncoupling of the barge and tug units without crew on deck and fuel savings are a few other advantages, according to Craft. "The Intercon system and the system offered by Bludworth each have about 30 units installed and are the most popular," Craft said.

The OPA-90 regulations mandating double-hulling of barges carrying petroleum products is the driving force behind the rise in popularity of ATBs. Also owners are constructing some double hulled vessels being pushed by tugs with conventional barge tug connections. A third factor is the double hulling of some single hull barges.

Bollinger: Building New and Retrofit ATBs

For example, Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La. is at the halfway point of a project for K-Sea Transportation, Staten Island, NY. having just completed an 80,000 barrel barge and conversion of the tug Java Sea. Bollinger is building two 110,000-barrel OPA-90 compliant barges and two 80,000-barrel models. Four existing K-Sea tugs are being modified with the Acomarin pinning and fendering system to mate with the new tank barges to form ATBs. Acomarin Engineering Oy, Ltd. of Finland built the coupler system.

The Acomarin coupler system works similar to the Intercon system in that a pair of transversally operating rams on the tug engage a ladder system on the notch on the barge. The Acomarin system differs from the Intercon system in several important engineering details, but the resultant barge-tug coupling is much the same.

Tank barge #3, also an 80,000-barrel model is currently under construction at Bollinger Marine Fabricators, Amelia, La. The tug to mate with this new barge will be brought to Bollinger Gulf Repair, New Orleans for addition of the Acomarine pinning system about 45 days from the completion of the barge, minimizing downtime for the tug.

Bollinger has also recently completed the conversion of the tug El Oso Grande II into the Anabelle V. Roehrig for Roehrig Maritime, Glen Cove, NY. "The tug belonged to Tidewater and had been laid up for several years," said Chris Roehrig of Roehrig Maritime.

The tug was taken to Bollinger Algiers where the vessel was thoroughly reconditioned to bring it within regulatory requirements. The most notable addition to the vessel was the construction of an upper pilothouse that sits atop a new tower that is 55 ft. above the waterline. The pilothouse is totally new with state of the art electronics. "With the service this vessel is entering, height above what we are pushing is important," Roehrig said.

The vessel is under contract to Penn Maritime and is pushing a new OPA-90 compliant tank barge recently built by Alabama Shipyard, Mobile, Ala. Roehrig has been operating tugs since 1990 on long-term charter and the Anabelle V. Roehrig is the company's seventh vessel.

Bollinger is also building a pair of ATB units for Bouchard Coastwise Management Corp. of Hicksville, N.Y. The contract calls for Bollinger to build two 6,000 hp tugs and two OPA 90- compliant barges … one 110,000 barrels and one 135,000 barrels. The Intercon coupler system will be used to couple each unit.

Bouchard is also having Bollinger double hull an existing 125,000-barrel black oil barge and it will be notched to accept the 127-ft. tug Capt. Fred Bouchard. An Intercon coupler system will mate the two units into an ATB. Both the tug and the barge were built in 1981.

Alabama Shipyard Builds Three for Reinauer

Reinauer Transportation Company, Long Island, N.Y., will take delivery of its third ATB "in June or July" according to Chris Reinauer of the company. Alabama Shipyard, Mobile, Ala, delivered the Nicole Leigh Reinauer and the 135,000-barrel barge RC 135 in 1999. Next came the Christian Reinauer in late 2001 with a slightly larger 143,000-barrel barge. This summer the Meredith C. Reinauer and its 145,000-barrel barge will join the fleet. Power for the all three tugs comes from a pair of Caterpillar 3612 diesels generating a total of 7,200 hp. All couplers are by Intercon. "We deliver clean, grade A refined petroleum products in the Northeast part of the country," Reinauer said. "We have had very good operating experience with the Intercon couplers," Reinauer added. Reinauer said his company is currently in discussions regarding the remaining single hull barges in the company fleet. "Double-hulling or retiring the barges are our obvious options," Reinauer said.

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