ATB New Construction and Retrofits Highlight Order Books for Southern Shipyards

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

By Larry Pearson

Late last year was a high water mark of sorts in the Articulated Tug-Barge (ATB) business. In December, Crowley Maritime of Seattle, Wash. took delivery of their fourth ATB, featuring a 9,280 HP tug and a 155,000 barrel barge. Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. built the barge. and the tug by sister company Marinette Marine, Manitowoc, Mich. At about the same time on the east coast K-Sea Transportation was taking delivery of their fourth ATB unit from Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La. All four of these new units featured new 80,000-100,000 barrel barges and existing tugs fitted with the JAK coupler system.

In 2004, ATB construction has slowed a bit, but several companies continue contracting for retrofitted and new ATB units.

One of the more positive signs that ATB construction will remain strong is the recent announcement by Ocean Tug & Barge Engineering (OT&BE) of Milford, Mass., of the establishment of an office in Mobile, Ala. OT&BE has been involved in 50 percent of the design and retrofit engineering of ATB units.

"Having a Gulf office will help better support shipyards that build our designs. It was time to expand," said Robert Hill, president of OT& BE.

(The company has also announced the "Costwise" series of ATBs that promise faster speeds, better maneuverability and improvements in constructibility, crew habitability and ergonomics). Hill also said the new design would broaden the worldwide market for ATBs. The first vessels of this new series to be constructed are for an overseas company. Two of the major shipyards in the South have major ATB contracts. VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Miss. is building a pair of ATBs for Vessel Management Services, a subsidiary of Crowley Maritime Corporation, Seattle, Wash. The two vessels will cost approximately $85 million at delivery. The contract also includes options for two additional units.

The ATBs will be built with an articulated pin connection between the barge and the tug that allows movement in fore and aft pitch. Each unit consists of a 9,280 HP tug and an 180,000 barrel barge. VT Halter Marine's predecessor company built two of these units for Crowley in 2002-2003. The tug units are 127 by 42 ft. by 23.5 ft. and are classed ABS +A1, +AMS, SOLAS Full Ocean Towing Service, USCG Un-inspected Subchapter C and will measure under 300 Gross U.S. Tons. These ATB units will be built to fully comply with OPA-90 and will have sophisticated cargo, ballast and cargo inerting systems. Over in Louisiana, Bollinger Shipyards has been keeping busy with ATB projects for Bouchard Coastwise Management Company, Hicksville, NY. Earlier this year Bollinger Gulf Repair completed the retrofit of a Bouchard tug and barge originally built in 1981 to an ATB configuration using the Intercon coupling system. Bollinger double-hulled the single hull barge B 175 and it was renamed B 275. The vessel was a 125,000-barrel, 446-foot black oil barge. The bow of the 127-foot tug Capt. Fred Bouchard was modified to accept the ram assemblies of the Intercon system and the aft end of the barge had the Intercon ladder assembly installed. In addition to installation of the Intercon system components on both units, the barge had new heating coils added to the existing hot oil system and a new ballast system was installed.

The tug had a keel-cooled Detroit Diesel 8-71 generator set rated at 99 kW installed as a backup for powering the Intercon hydraulic system. "Barge B 275 is the 24th double hull barge built or retrofitted to OPA-90 standards by Bollinger facilities," said Ben Bordelon, executive vice president for repair. "I don't think any other U.S. shipyard has the experience in OPA-90 hull design, construction and conversions," Bordelon added. "Bollinger has positioned itself well with several shipyards capable of building OPA-90 compliant tugs and barges," said Donald "Boysie" Bollinger, chairman and chief executive officer.

In the new construction area, two Bollinger facilities are teaming up to build an ATB unit for Bouchard. The tug, named the Morton S. Bouchard IV, is 130 feet long with a 38-foot beam. Propulsion power for the tug is via a pair of EMD-16-645 engines rated at 3070 hp each. Reduction/reversing gears are by Reintjes driving 140-inch Bollinger-made propellers. Bollinger Gretna is building the barge Bouchard B 242. which will carry 135,00 barrels of clean product. The barge is 487 ft. long with an 80-foot beam and 36.6-ft. depth.

The barge is supplied with a Permea Maritime Inert Gas system with a capacity of 4,500 cubic meters per hour, "This system generates inert gasses that are pumped into the cargo tanks as an additional safety measure in the prevention of detonation," said Kenny Booth Sr., general manager of Bollinger Gretna. "In addition, Barge B 242 has an ABS Ocean Loadline permitting it to operate anywhere in the world, manned or unmanned, giving Bouchard tremendous flexibility in the use of this barge," Booth added. This ATB is similar to the Jane A. Bouchard and Barge B 225, delivered last June. With the OPA-90 2005 deadline looming as well as other deadlines later in the decade, ATB new construction as well as retrofit of existing tugs and barges with coupling systems and improved product handling and safety systems will continue to remain on shipyard order books.

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