Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shaver Welcomes the M/V Sommer S

Ports along the lower Columbia and Willamette Rivers in Oregon and Washington will soon get more help as venerable Shaver Transportation celebrates the christening of a brand new, 5,360-HP combination ship assist tug. To be commissioned the Sommer S in a ceremony on the banks of the Willamette River later this month, the tug, built by Portland's Diversified Marine, is a memorial to Sommer Shaver, one of the company’s principals who passed away ten years ago at the age of 43. The M/V Sommer S is a confident stride into the future of ship assist in the area.
“We designed this boat to be Columbia River specific,” says Steve Shaver, President of Shaver Transportation. Dubbed the Columbia class, the new boat is the first in a new series of tug designs by the firm, and will be the most powerful tug in Shaver’s fleet.
Portland, Oregon’s Shaver Transportation has a long history of service moving freight on the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers, as well as a history of assisting ships into the ports of Portland and Astoria.
In 1880 George Washington Shaver and partners founded People’s Freighting Company. The company’s first vessel was the steamboat Manzanilla, which they sailed on the Willamette and Columbia rivers between Portland and Clatskanie, Oregon. In 1893 Shaver Transportation was incorporated by George W. Shaver and sons James W. Shaver and George M. Shaver. Their next two steam-powered sternwheelers were the George W. Shaver and the Sarah Dixon, named for the founder and his wife. Shaver soon shifted away from transporting people and cargo in favor of barge towing, and the fleet grew to seven tugs by 1914.
By 1950, Shaver Transportation had two-dozen steel-hulled diesel engine tugs. Log towing was a large portion of the business during these years, and Shaver established itself in ship assist work in Portland’s booming harbor and in ocean towing up and down the coast from Alaska to the Panama Canal.
The Shaver family remains at the helm today. Harry L. Shaver is the Chairman of the Board, his son, Steve Shaver, is President, and his daughter, Samantha Shaver, is a member of the Board. The company currently has about 98 employees.
Today, Shaver Transportation focuses on three lines of business: ship assist, grain barging and harbor/specialty towing.
Sommer Sondra Shaver
The new boat is named after Harry Shaver’s daughter and Steve and Samantha’s sister, Sommer Sondra Shaver, who dedicated much of her life to Shaver Transportation. “Sommer was a strong, fearless and brilliant woman,” says her sister, Samantha. “She would be so proud to have a tug named after her. She had so much pride in the family business and the shipping industry.”
Samantha says the company was Sommer’s life. “She did the work of ten. She treated our customers like family, and she traveled the world to visit them.”
Ten years after the loss of Sommer, the company still benefits greatly from the relationships she forged and the trust she established with the shipping community around the world.
“She crossed barriers that most women would not,” Samantha recalls. “She loved everyone at work, especially the boatmen. She looked out for them, making sure they always knew how much she appreciated their hard work. She believed at Shaver the employees were like family.”
The Sommer S
The Sommer S is an 80-foot by 36-foot, twin Z-drive, diesel-powered ship-docking tug, designed specifically for the particular job of ship-handling, escort, and related harbor support activity services on the lower Columbia and Willamette Rivers. The boat is equipped with a hawser winch and line-handling crane forward and heavy bow fendering for ship assist and escort work. A series of barge handling winches are fitted aft for securing to and pushing bulk barges.
Capilano Maritime Design, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, designed the new boat. The firm specializes in the design of commercial workboats including tugs, barges, crew boats, dredges, offshore supply vessels, marine construction vessels and ferries. Capilano also offers general consulting services to the marine industry.
Capilano’s Senior Naval Architect, Mark Mulligan, also had a hand in the design of the company’s first Z-drive boat, the 107-foot, 4,000-HP M/V Portland, built by Nichols Bros. Boatbuilders, in Freeland, Washington, in 1981. “At the time of her design I was working for Maritime Industries, and we did all the engineering. The tug was actually designed by my predecessor at Maritime, Jim Towers, so I helped him in the final design and sailed with him from Nichols Brothers builders to Portland on the delivery voyage as engineers,” he says. “As I recall, it was the first Z-drive in the area,” says Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders, which delivered the Portland in 1981.
Shaver Transportation president Steve Shaver concurs. “It was definitely the first one on the West Coast. There was only one other Z-drive around at the time, and that one was on the East Coast. There isn’t anything older than the Portland with Z-drives out here – we were ahead of our time.”
The company also recently repowered the Portland, which was built with World War II-vintage engines. The company’s Chairman of the Board, Harry Shaver, says the Portland’s Fairbank Morse engines were replaced with more powerful MTUs, which will also help with fuel consumption in the big boat. “It was the first tractor tug on the West Coast, and it’s built like a tank,” he says. In addition to being more efficient and more powerful, the new engines are quite a bit smaller. “There’s a lot more space in the engine room now,” he notes. “It was pretty roomy before, but you could play volleyball in there now.”
While the Sommer S is smaller (although deeper) than the Portland, at only 80 feet long by 36 feet wide and with a 14-foot draft, the boat’s twin MTU/Detroit Diesel 16V4000 M61 main engines, each rated 2,680 bhp at 1,800 rpm, driving Schottel SRP1215 360-degree azimuthing thrusters with 94.5-inch diameter fixed pitch propellers, will provide a bollard pull of more than 65 tons, making her by far the most powerful tug in the company’s fleet.
“We initially discussed a tower tug with a big tower and push knees as a kind of combination upriver and ship docking tug,” Mulligan explains, “but the customers decided a pure ship docking tug was what was needed,” although the company did specify a push pad on the bow, under the main fender. “The result is a simple, hard-working 65-ton bollard pull ship docker that can also push barges around.”
We decided a ship-assist boat that can push barges would be better,” says Steve Shaver. “You can look into the future and see the potential need for this boat. The pilots told us what was important to them, and as a result, this boat hits the sweet spot for its size and horsepower.”
The bridge of the Sommer S is very well laid out for ship assist work. “This boat has some of the best visibility of a ship-docking tug that I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I’m excited about this boat because in the concept stage we got a lot of input from pilots and employees.
Crew-Friendly Spaces
The design of the boat was a collaborative effort, and the company made sure to get the operators, or boatmen, involved throughout the design and construction process. The result is a vessel that is as well suited to the operator as it is to the task at hand. “I spent 17 years working on the boats,” Steve says, “and I tried to keep in mind what I would like if I was living on the boat.” For example, there’s a vestibule off the galley that separates the galley and mess from the doors to the berths. “I hate to have a door right up against the galley,” he says. “Noise in the galley might wake the crew, and the vestibule acts as a buffer for that noise. You might walk through the boat and ask yourself why that weird hallway is there- that’s why.”
Steve did a lot of research before the design process even started. “I looked at a lot of boats here on the West Coast, as well as on the Mississippi, and this boat is laid-out better than any I’ve ever seen,” he says. The Sommer S can accommodate 6 crew in two double berths and two single berths, although she will normally sail with two or four. “It’s amazing how much we’ve been able to fit in to a boat of this size,” he says.
Rob Rich, Shaver’s Vice President of Marine Services, started working on Columbia River tugboats in 1979, and has been with Shaver Transportation for 26 years. Rich echoes what Steve Shaver said about the crew spaces. “It’s not a giant boat, but it’s doing a big boat’s job. We tried to make it as spacious as possible, and the crew has had significant input in terms of the wheelhouse and deck machinery and interior layout and function.”
The company tries to promote from within its ranks, so the possibility of training operators is a very real one for the new boat. “We have room for extra crew, in case we’re training someone,” Rich says.
The new boat will be performing ship assist work in the ports along the lower Columbia River, so the company really wanted to design the boat around the tasks it would be performing on a day-to-day basis. This might include assisting an auto or lumber ship one day, while making up to a grain barge for a short trip down river the next.
According to Steve Shaver, the ratio of ship assist to barge towing is roughly fifty-fifty. “We were looking at horsepower and maneuverability,” he says, “and we did things the way we felt would work best for Columbia River – she’s definitely not an off-the-shelf model.”
For ship docking the boat is fitted with a heavy duty DEPCF-48 hawser winch from Markey Machinery, with a 50-hp electric motor. The winch is a single-drum electric hawser winch with fairlead featuring automatic tension-selectable render/recover mode, high braking capacities, and fast line speeds for escort and ship-assist vessels. The winch drum will be fitted with 400 feet of 9-inch circumference Spectra/Plasma line in 8 layers and will have a brake capacity of 400,000 lbs. minimum, at the second layer. The rated pull is 22,150 lbs. on the second layer at a speed of 67 feet per minute. The company prefers electric hawser winches because, according to Steve Shaver, “they’re a lot smoother, and the crews like them much better.”
Rob Rich points out that an additional duty of the Sommer S will be Columbia River Bar escort work, and for this she had to be built to American Bureau of Shipping Standard. “Frequently, the Coast Guard will call us out to escort a ship due to propulsion, steering or navigational issues. These vessels require an escort, and occasionally a tethered escort, “ Rich says. “This is where a good render/recover winch really becomes important.”
Another feature of the Sommer S is the boat’s deck crane, used for line handling, which she has in common with the other ship assist boats in Shaver’s fleet. “The Vancouver has a crane, and we bought a crane for the Portland as well,” Rich says. “We’ve been told by vendors and other operators that they’ve only seen that on our boats.” Steve Shaver notes that the new crane will be useful in putting a line aboard a ship or running lines to a dolphin.
Rich points out that, although the Sommer S is only 80 feet long and primarily designed for ship assist, she is also set up to easily handle harbor barge activity. “With rubber down to the waterline and four 60-ton barge winches on it, it’s fully capable of making up to a barge and working it around the harbor or down the river.”
He says the lack of a large push surface for more dedicated barge work was driven by the boatmen. “We looked hard at installing knees on the stern or integrated on the bow, but the crew said they’d rather just have the pad.” Rich points to decisions such as this one that make the boat such a unique blend of Capilano’s cutting edge design and state of the art equipment coupled with the input of Shaver’s crews. “In a small family owned company like Shaver, where the owner is a step away from the pilothouse, the crew’s input rates quite highly,” he says.
Looking Ahead
Ship assist and escort have been a key part of Shaver’s business for almost 100 years, and Shaver’s fleet of six tractor tugs each offer more than 3,000 HP and more than 40 tons of bollard pull to handle ships of any size and configuration.
In addition to the Sommer S, Shaver has three tugs that are either ABS certified or meet ABS standards, including one recently acquired tractor tug from the East Coast. The new 93-foot tug, to be named Washington, is in the process of being outfitted for Columbia River work at Diversified Marine, where she shared the yard briefly with the Sommer S.
“In the space of 14 months we’ve gone from one Columbia River Bar escort tractor to four, the Sommer S, Vancouver, Washington and Portland” says Rob Rich.
The company’s fleet of tugs is RCP and ISO 9001/2008 certified, and the engines in four of the Shaver boats were replaced with 2007-2009 Tier II engines, which offer 11 percent more power but burn almost 35 percent less fuel and use 90 percent less lube oil. The new engines are quieter and have less vibration, leading to less crew fatigue and more comfort.
While half of Shaver’s business is shipdocking, the other half involves moving massive grain barges up and down the Columbia-Snake river system, and the company’s barge fleet has a combined capacity of almost 55,000 tons. Most of the barges are specially designed to transport grain and bulk commodities such as wheat, barley, soybeans, corn, canola and rapeseed, and the fleet includes four 298-foot long self-unloading barges. At 4,000 tons each, these “Magnums” have the greatest capacity in the region. The company employs highly automated cargo systems and weight-saving features that allow a barge to be completely discharged within 5 hours.
Shaver currently has two new barges under construction at Portland’s Zidell Marine Corporation that are 23 feet shorter than the Magnums, yet capable of hauling nearly as much cargo. The first of the new barges will be ready by August, and the second is scheduled for delivery in October of this year.
“We’re trying to become more efficient in the way we use our equipment,” says Steve Shaver, “because we have more demand for our bigger barges.”
The two new barges, to measure 275 feet by 42 feet, will each be capable of transporting 3,600 tons of grain. “Not our biggest barges,” he says, “but pretty big.”
Harry Shaver says the company is planning to have two of the big Magnum barges built as well. “It costs as much to push a small barge as a big barge,” he notes. To handle the barges, Shaver’s fleet of specialized push-knee tugs includes the 3,600 horsepower tractor tug M/V Deschutes, and her sister tug M/V Willamette, as well as the recently repowered M/V Cascades and M/V Clearwater, making the company’s push-knee tugs some of the cleanest, most reliable and fuel-efficient tugs in the industry.
With the addition of the Sommer S, Shaver Transportation has a versatile, reliable fleet of tugs and barges to meet the future head-on.