Blessey continues buildup of towboat and barge fleet: Capt. Lance Dragon

Blessey Marine Services, Harahan, La., is working toward building a fleet of 50 towboats and 100 tank barges by the end of 2007.

One of four new towboats added to the fleet this year is the 1,700-hp Capt. Lance Dragon, delivered from the Verret Shipyard, Plaquemine, La., in early spring. It is the 47th towboat in the Blessey fleet, which ranges in power from 700 to 4,900 hp.

Capt. Lance Dragon, 75 feet in length and powered by a pair of Cummins KTA 38M2 diesels with Reintjes 6:1 reduction gears, is one of many new towboats built for Blessey in recent years by the Verret shipyard.

In addition to its new towboats, Blessey also takes possession of a steady stream of new double-hull tank barges, most built by Jeffboat in Jeffersonville, Ind. Typical barges are 300 feet long with heated cargo systems and the latest in vapor recovery and tank-gauging systems. Blessey expects to be operating 100 tank barges by the end of 2007.

The company, founded by New Orleans businessman Walter Blessey in 1978, focuses on transportation of heated black oil products on the Mississippi and other inland waterways. Blessey barges also regularly move clean oil products, petrochemicals and alcohols. As of April, Capt. Lance Dragon was handling a pair of chemical barges.

This particular towboat is named after Lance Dragon, a 12-year towboat operator with the company, who is presently captain of the towboat Beau Blessey, having joined the company as a pilot.

Capt. Lance is equipped with the Sim-Motion wheelhouse alert system, designed to detect inactivity by the captain or watchstander. The company reports it has installed wheelhouse alert equipment on about 75 percent of its fleet. [Robert Montero photos]

At its christening ceremony the vessel’s builders were eager to show off the eye-catching polished aluminum pilothouse consol that was designed and built by one of the shipyard’s skilled metal workers. The tug’s deckhouses also have stainless steel doors that were requested for ease of maintenance.

Capt. Lance is equipped with the Sim-Motion wheelhouse alert system, designed to detect inactivity by the captain or watchstander.

“It’s a proven fact that this system is actually working,” said Mark Dufriend, Blessey’s engineering manager. “We know that because when the alarm goes off, everyone in the boat is immediately aware of it.”

The Sim-Motion system, when activated, senses inactivity or lack of motion in the wheelhouse. If no motion is detected for a pre-determined amount of time — say, 30 seconds or one or two minutes — the device will beep or buzz and require the watchstander to reset it to avoid activating an alarm. If no motion is detected in a longer period of time, the devise will set off the boat’s general alarm system, alerting everyone on board.

“We’ve installed these on about 75 percent of our fleet lately, and from what I hear, it’s working well,” said Dufriend.

The Blessey engineer also noted that Capt. Lance is the first newly built vessel to be equipped with Simplex shaft seals for its propeller shafts, replacing the older-style bronze tubes with adjustable stuffing boxes. The Simplex system does not need to be packed and does not leak, he said. Blessey also uses Thorndon stern tubes for its propeller shafts.

By Professional Mariner Staff