Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ocean and Coastal Towing

By Jim Shaw

The ocean and coastal towing sector on the West Coast is usually seen as the rather routine business of moving barges, plus the occasional dead ship, coastwise and to and from the 49th and 50th states, but the energy industry is changing all of that, as is ATB development. A large number of ATB units have been built on the Gulf Coast over the years, including several giants for Crowley Maritime, but the ATB wave is now breaking strongly on the Pacific Coast, with the Gunderson and Vigor yards at Portland contracted to build ATB barges of 183,000 barrels capacity and higher, the largest ever built on the Pacific. At the same time, the Nichols Brothers yard at Freeland, Washington has won contracts to build a series of new 10,000-hp pushtugs for the largest of these barges, destined for Kirby, with the overall design being furnished by Guarino & Cox of Covington, Louisiana. Each of the Nichols-built tugs will be powered by twin EMD 20-710G7C-T3 diesels, with a continuous rating of 5,000 bhp each, and will be capable of pushing as well as towing in open ocean conditions.

Open ocean towing will also be the principal activity of three tugs Foss Maritime is having built on the Columbia River by the company's own yard at Rainier. Their first employment is expected to be long trans-Pacific tows of petroleum equipment bound from the Far East to Alaska's north coast. Foss is also having a new deck barge completed by Gunderson for Alaska deployment and this unit will also be used to support the petroleum industry, indication that the energy sector will strongly drive tug and barge development for some time to come.

The "Arctic" Class
Foss has been steadily preparing for growth in the Arctic region and its new 132-foot Arctic-class tugs will have ice strengthened hulls and twin Caterpillar C280-8 mains that will meet all environmental standards. In addition, there will be no ballast tanks carried, thus eliminating the chance that invasive species might be transported, and holding tanks for black and gray water will be provided to permit operations in "no discharge zones." Energy efficient LED lighting will also be used where possible and all hydraulic systems will be compatible with biodegradable oil. Fuel, water and provision capacities will allow for nonstop voyages in excess of 3,000 nautical miles.

Seattle's Markey Machinery is supplying direct diesel-drive towing winches for the ABS classed vessels, along with a tow wire monitoring system. Designed with the assistance of Seattle's Glosten Associates to achieve well in excess of 100 metric tons of bollard pull, the new tugs are expected to be first employed to tow building modules from South Korea to several of the more remote ocean oil fields in the Arctic, with the first of the new boats, Michele Marie, projected to be completed by the end of this year and to make her first tow to Alaska next spring. Sister tugs Denise Lynn and Nicole Kathleen will follow.

An Arctic Barge
In the barge sector, Foss is having a 360-foot by 120-foot ocean-going deck barge built by Portland-based Gunderson Marine for delivery later this year. Gary Faber, Foss' president of global services, notes that the new unit will be particularly useful in Alaska where energy activity is picking up. "This barge will further connect us to the shallow draft regions of the Arctic," Faber said. "It allows us to move modules and cargo more safely, almost anywhere in the world, which adds tremendous value to our existing fleet."

The new barge's first Foss job is expected to occur in early 2015, when the Seattle company will perform a second sealift of oil and gas infrastructure to Point Thomson on Alaska's North Slope. According to Faber, the barge will likely be towed from South Korea by the first of the three Arctic-class tugs being constructed by the company's Rainier, Oregon yard. "With increased activity on the North Slope we continue to add to our Alaska capabilities," he noted. "Along with our new Arctic-class tugs, this barge will add yet another valuable asset."

Gunderson Builds ATB Barges
Besides the Foss barge, Gunderson has won contracts covering the construction of two new 578-foot articulated oceangoing oil and chemical tank barges for Houston-based Kirby Offshore Marine, with completion of the first unit scheduled before the end of next year and the second to follow in mid-2016. The ATB barges will have a capacity of 185,000-bbls each, making them the biggest ATB barge units to be built on the coast to date.

According to Joe Pyne, Kirby chairman and chief executive officer, the new ATB sets will cost approximately $75 million each to build, with the push tugs to be furnished by Washington State's Nichols Brothers Boat Builders. Pyne noted that the twin sets have been ordered because of "consistently strong coastal tank barge demand, utilization and increasing pricing." Kirby is also having 66 new inland tank barges and one inland towboat built along the Mississippi River and on the Gulf Coast plus two 155,000-barrel capacity ATB barges and two 6,000 HP pushtugs at Wisconsin's Bay Shipbuilding Company.

Previous to the Kirby and Foss contracts, the Gunderson yard had turned out the 380-foot by 96-foot deck barge Polar Trader for Seattle-based Northland Services and the 362-foot by 105-foot deck barge Columbia for Coos Bay, Oregon's Sause Bros. In addition, two 216-foot by 52-foot wood chip barges were finished for Washington's Dunlap Towing and two 200-foot by 54-foot deck barges completed for Seattle's General Construction.

Vigor Fab Builds ATB Barges
Down-river from the Gunderson yard the Vigor Fab facility on Swan Island has won a contract to build two 83,000 bbl. capacity tank barges for Seattle's Harley Marine Services, with both 422-foot by 76-foot units also to be configured for ATB operation. Designed by the Elliott Bay Design Group, the twin units will be among the largest vessels operated by Harley when delivered in the spring of 2015 and the summer of 2015. They will follow an ATB barge of nearly the same capacity being built by Zidell at Portland, and to be pushed by a 4,070-hp tug being completed by Conrad Industries on the Gulf Coast.

Vigor itself has launched construction of the first of three push tugs it is building for Vancouver, Washington-based Tidewater Barge Lines, the first newbuildings Tidewater has ordered in nearly three decades. Designed by CT Marine of Edgecomb, Maine, the state-of-the-art vessels have been designed specifically for service on the Columbia/Snake river system, which Tidewater serves as far inland as Lewiston, Idaho. Each of the 102-foot by 38-foot tugs will be powered by twin EPA Tier III compliant Caterpillar 3516 diesels of a combined 4500-hp. Earlier this year the Vigor yard delivered the 4,050-cubic-yard capacity split-hull dump bargeFreedom to Tacoma, Washington-headquartered American Construction Company (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, February 2014) and, prior to that, the 250-foot by 70-foot deck barge Iliuliuk Bay to Harley Marine.

Hyak's Towing Tugs
Across the Columbia River, at Vancouver, Washington, the JT Marine Shipyard has completed two ocean-going tugboats, the 120-foot by 35-foot twins Hawaii and Washington, for Hyak Maritime, with both vessels now operating under charter to Crowley Marine Services. These boats make use of a pair of medium-speed General Electric 8L250 EPA Tier II diesels driving Schottel FP1515 azimuthing stern drives, the combination giving them a free running speed of 14.5 knots and a bollard pull of about 82 tons. Their design is based on the successful Titan class tugs which Seattle-based naval architects Jensen Maritime developed in conjunction with Seattle towing operator Western Towboat a number of years ago.

The success of this class in strenuous ocean towing is evidenced by the fact that Western Towboat is currently constructing its seventh Titan class at Seattle while JT Marine is building its third Titan for Hyak. This boat, to be christened Montana, will differ from the previous two by making use of a Markey series TESD-34 100HP double drum electric winch at the stern. This equipment is rated for 2,500 feet of 2 1/4-inch wire rope on each drum and features a line-pull of up to 183,000 lbs. and a drum brake capacity of 293,000 lbs. The two previous tugs make use of JonRie 500 double drum towing winches outfitted with 2,400 feet of 1/4-inch wire on the primary drum, and 1,800 feet of 2-inch wire on the secondary drum.

An ATB Shows its Worth
In normal applications articulated tug/barge units traditionally remain coupled together in a commercial cargo move but Foss Maritime demonstrated this past year that advantage can also be taken of their ability to be safely uncoupled. Queried by a petroleum company if it could safely deliver a large prototype drilling rig from China to a shallow draft harbor in the Arabian Gulf, Foss drew on its previous experience with the particular harbor in question, which it had done a congestion study on two years ago, and then asked Seattle's Glosten Associates to prepare a harbor entry and berthing simulation using Foss' ATB barge Mariner. Normally coupled to the pushtug Strong (thus "Strong Mariner") the bow-door equipped barge met two key elements of the project, namely that it could accommodate all of the parts of an 11,022 cubic meter oil rig and deliver such parts in under five meters (16.5 feet) of water while berthed at a pier designed for a much smaller vessel.

After considerable berthing studies and load measurements, the ATB loaded the rig, Abu Dhabi National Drilling Company's ND66, at Zhanjiang, China in August of last year, an operation taking 13 days, then set sail for Abu Dhabi. Once off the discharge port the barge was separated from its pushtug and taken in hand by three smaller tugs furnished by the locally-based National Marine Dredging Company and maneuvered to its berth. Once secured, the rig was offloaded from the barge in five days. Because of the success of this operation, Foss was awarded a second contract to move another rig to the same location. This time the load-out was accomplished at Shanghai, China in under four days while discharge near the original location took less than two days. With two successful moves under its belt, Foss is continuing to work with ExxonMobil and the Japan Oil Development Company on ways it can continue to assist in this project.

Towing in the Gulf
Closer to home, Crowley Maritime has been very busy with towing operations in the Gulf of Mexico where it has completed a number of high profile moves for the petroleum industry, all accomplished using its recently completed Ocean-class tugs and high deck-strength 455 series barges. Last year, the Crowley tugs successfully delivered the Olympus platform and Lucius spar to a location in the US Gulf, the move undertaken in three stages, both nearshore and offshore (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, December 2013).

Earlier this year, Crowley equipment was again called upon to move and deliver the Jack/St. Malo facility from Ingleside, Texas to a position between the Jack and St. Malo offshore oil and natural gas fields where the unit was connected to its moorings and made storm-safe in more than 7,000 feet of water. To undertake this task Crowley employed its 455-series barge Julie Bas well as the tugs Ocean Wind, Ocean Wave and Ocean Sun. During the first stage of the move, the rig's topsides were skidded onto Julie B and later lifted and installed onto the hull of the Jack/St. Malo, which was then moved into deep water by the tugsOcean Wind and Ocean Wave, with Ocean Sun providing escort.

The Crowley-contracted tug Harvey War Horse II then helped move the platform to its final location, with the 455-series barge455 7 and third-party barge Marmac 400 following under tow of Crowley tugs Warrior and Pilot, both loaded with piles to serve as anchors for the platform. In addition, the barge Marty J, towed byPilot, made three subsequent trips to the installation site to deliver additional equipment. This included chains, connectors and line reels that were used in the mooring of the facility. "This was another successful pairing of Crowley's new Ocean-class tugboats and high-deck strength barges," said Crowley's John Ara, vice president, Solutions, concerning the complicated move. "We look forward to utilizing these specialized teams and assets in projects in the future."