Ken Boothe Sr.

Donjon Marine, a New Jersey-based towing and salvage company with global reach has introduced a 10,800-hp tugboat, newly-built on the Great Lakes, to be matched with a 740-foot self-unloading bulk cargo barge.

Ken Boothe Sr., the newest ATB on the Great Lakes, is ready to begin work.(Photo courtesy of Donjon Shipbuilding)

The new tug, Ken Boothe Sr., was constructed at the recently-reactivated shipyard in Erie, Penn. The shipyard, described as the largest on the Great Lakes, is owned by Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority and leased to a newly-formed 50-50 partnership of Donjon Marine and Seacor Holdings of Florida. The barge, to be named Seajon ATB, is still under construction at the 300,000-square-foot shipyard, and is expected to be in service for the 2012 navigation season.
The 135-foot tug, meanwhile, is expected to be engaged in spot towing assignments this summer and otherwise to await completion of her barge. The two are designed to be mated with a coupler system provided by Hydraconn, a unit of VanEnkevort Tug & Barge.
"We are very proud of what we have put together so far," said John Witte, head of Donjon's shipyard operation and executive vice president of Donjon Marine. "The fact that this tug and barge were already under construction when we purchased assets of the company formerly operating here helped us to show what we can do and to give us a basis for acquiring additional work."
The new tug, and the new barge, apparently, are near sisterships of Joyce L. VanEnkevort, operated today by VM Shipping of Bark River, Mich., and developed by VanEnkevort Tug & Barge. The VanEnkevort barge, named Great Lakes Trader, was built on the Gulf Coast and towed up the East Coast and into the Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway. The tug and barge are a common sight in many Great Lakes ports, often carrying cargoes of iron ore or stone.
Roughly a half-dozen large ATBs on the Lakes have been outfitted with the same or similar Hydraconn coupler system.
The new Ken Boothe Sr. tug and her barge will roughly be the 16th or 17th largest bulk carrier operating on the Lakes. Most new tug-barge combinations introduced on the Great Lakes in recent years have been outfitted with an •articulated' connection system.
The tug Ken Boothe Sr. is powered by a pair of MaK diesels generating 5,439 hp each at 600 rpm and turning through Lufkin marine gears. Twin shafts will turn 14-foot 6-inch five-blade controllable pitch propellers produced by Berg Propulsion of Sweden. The engines are set up to burn diesel fuel instead of heavier bunker fuel, according to builder specifications. The tug is designed to be capable of 112 tons of bollard pull with sustained service speed, pushing her loaded barge, of 12 knots. She has tankage for 97,000 gallons of fuel and 81,000 gallons of ballast water.

Ken Boothe Sr. is a 135-foot push tug with MaK diesels, and a Hydraconn articulating coupler system(Photo courtesy Donjon Shipbuilding)

The tug will operate with a normal crew of 10 people, according to its owner, Donjon Marine.
Donjon, based in Hillside, N.J., is involved in towing, barging, dredging, salvage and related operations on an international scale. The company operates a dozen tugs, roughly two-dozen barges, plus dredges and various workboats. The company's largest tug is the 151-foot, 6,500-hp Atlantic Salvor. Acquisition of the Lake Erie shipyard operation is Donjon's first venture into the shipbuilding industry.
Seacor Holdings, Donjon's partner in its new Great Lakes operation, is an international company with operations in marine services, aviation, environmental services and commodity trading. The company's towing unit, Seabulk Towing, operates roughly two dozen tugs, mostly on the U.S. Gulf and Southeast Coast.
The Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, owner of the shipyard, reported to local media that three other shipyard operators have ended up in bankruptcy in the 15 years since it began leasing the yard. Port authority officials also indicated that they were impressed with the work that Donjon has accomplished at the yard, particularly breathing new life into what it described as the $50 million tug and barge project.
The company's new barge, Seajon ATB, will be competing with a fleet of several dozen or more bulk cargo carriers on the Lakes. The barge's coupler system consists of hydraulically operated pins with toothed heads that project out from the tug's sides to mate with a recessed and notched groove on each side of the barge notch. A long ladder of notches is matched to accept the toothed heads of the tug pins, thus locking the two vessels into synchronous motion. The tug will thus roll in synch with the barge, but still be able to pitch independently. The system is similar to the coupler system developed by Intercontinental Engineering except that its pins are hydraulically operated, while the Intercon system works by extending pins with a worm gear screw system.
In related news, Rand Logistics reported this past spring that it had acquired two veteran self-unloading ATB units operating on the Lakes for a reported price of close to $50 million in cash and paper. Rand Logistics reported it had acquired the 5,800-hp tug Olive L. Moore with its 621-foot barge Lewis J. Kuber, built in 1952, and the 8,000-hp tug Victory and its 767-foot barge James L. Kuber, built in 1953.
Both units were described as being fully booked for the current Lakes trading season. Both the introduction of Ken Boothe Sr. and the recent acquisitions by Rand Logistics indicate the significance that articulated tug-barges have been playing in the recent Great Lakes maritime economy.
By Professional Mariner Staff