Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New Multi-Purpose Landing Craft for Bowhead

By Gavin Higgens

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, located in Freeland, Washington, recently completed the Uŋalaq, a 150-foot landing craft for Bowhead Transport Company, located in Seattle, Washington. The Uŋalaq will operate primarily in Alaska's arctic, and anywhere else needed, providing supplies and building materials to remote communities.

Nichols has built both steel and aluminum boats that operate in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska for more than 45 years, and the company made use of its extensive experience in building vessels that operate in the unique conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Nichols previously built the M/V Nunaniq, a 144-foot shallow-draft landing craft that has been operating successfully for twenty years in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Lessons learned from the Nunaniq were critical in the design brief for the Uŋalaq. Paul Zankich, the naval architect with Columbia Sentinel Engineers (CSE) who is responsible for the design of the vessel, commented, "The Uŋalaq is a true workboat. It is mission designed for all weather, providing ruggedness and versatility in the Alaskan waters. This vessel is capable of traveling the oceans and delivering cargo on the beach or up shallow rivers, and was designed with considerable and comfortable quarters that can support construction and drilling exploration."

The Uŋalaq is the latest vessel to join the Bowhead fleet, and provides Bowhead with a unique set of capabilities as the vessel is designed with a low draft and is able to beach and provide access to the remotest areas of the Arctic. Many of the communities in Alaska, will benefit over the coming years with this new versatile and improved addition to Bowhead's fleet.

According to Jim Dwight, General Manager, Bowhead, "The team that worked on the Uŋalaq project, including the Nichols shipyard, and naval architect Paul Zankich and his team at Columbia Sentinel Engineering, provided exceptional expertise allowing for completion of this vessel within 12 months. Bowhead appreciates the efforts made by all team members for a successful launch. This vessel is critical in providing support to remote communities throughout Alaska. This vessel will compliment others in Bowhead's fleet in to provide much needed supplies, helping these communities prepare for the long winter months ahead."

The Uŋalaq was designed for ease of use, allowing for 20-foot containers to be driven onto the vessel via the 75 ton-capacity bow ramp, which has a 25-foot opening for beach on- and offloading. The cargo deck is 120 feet by 40 feet with multiple securing points along the deck and bulwark. The wear deck is covered in a 6-inch layer of timber to give traction for caterpillar vehicles and protection from heavy point loads.

Additional features include space for both 20-foot and 40-foot container loading onto the vessel via a crane. The Uŋalaq is able to beach for easy on and off loading of cargo, allowing the Uŋalaq to service remote areas that lack cranes or additional equipment. A stern anchor is available so the vessel can pull off the beach.

The Uŋalaq's engine room is designed for multiple redundancy and low maintenance. The triple screw propulsion system with heavily tunneled propellers and rudders allows for navigation in shallow rivers, beaching and drying out in tidal areas. The main engine and one of the generators are keel cooled with the other generator air cooled so operation can continue when the vessel is "dried out". The water maker takes water from the ballast tank so the vessel can continue to make fresh water when the vessel is in brackish or silt-loaded water.

Other features of the Uŋalaq include an expansive wheelhouse with greater visibility for docking on either port or starboard side. The aluminum deckhouse reduces weight up high and reduces maintenance for rust. The house is fully outfitted with a large crew mess and accommodation for sixteen including single cabins for the Captain and Chief Engineer. Each cabin has direct access to a bathroom with shower, sink and toilet.

Nichols provided management expertise, advanced shipbuilding skills and quality control techniques that when combined resulted in a high quality vessel completed on schedule. According to Mark Thompson, Nichols Project Manager, "By utilizing advance project management skills and expertise, the Uŋalaq project was successfully completed in 12 months, keeping to a tight production schedule. By utilizing modular construction we were able to improve access and provide a safer working environment than with conventional construction methods. We thank all of the companies involved in the project for giving us the opportunity to work with them, including Bowhead Transport, Columbia Sentinel Engineers, Elliott Bay Design Group for production engineering and the United States Coast Guard and ABS. This was a successful team effort."

Additional new construction projects currently underway at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders include a 115-foot car ferry and two 136-foot ATB tugs.