Last year Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), a St. Cloud, Minn.-based company that specializes in transporting heavy haul and unusual cargo, had to get 40 massive wind generators from Washington state to California as quickly as possible.
Two hundred trucks and 400 trailers of the company's fleet of 2,500 trucks and 6,500 trailers are dedicated to transporting wind turbine components. However, an alternative option to trucking the towers had to be arrived at given the time frame required.
ATS International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ATS, had imported 100 wind turbines from a Korean manufacturer for an undisclosed client that was building a wind farm in Washington state. The shipment landed in Vancouver, Wash., on the Columbia River. From there, the towers and turbines were to be delivered by ATS trucks to the site. At that point, the location details changed. Forty of the towers were redirected to a wind farm project located near Sacramento, Calif.
The state of California could not muster the resources for escort services in time to meet the aggressive delivery schedule. "ATS was asked to find another solution," said Joe Goering, vice president of ATS International.
The company worked up a plan to transport the towers by ocean barge in four shipments of 10 towers each and submitted the tender to three towing companies for bid. Foss Maritime won the contract and conducted the four tows from Vancouver down the Columbia River to Astoria, Ore., south along the coast to San Francisco and up the Sacramento River to Sacramento.
"All went perfectly on the tow," said Goering. "All the work was in the preparation. We had weather delays, but nothing we did not overcome with patience."
Each tower consists of three sections totaling 250 feet in length and, with the nacelle and hub, weighs in at 253 tons. The components were still in the shipping frames that ATS engineers had designed for the trip from Korea. The preparation that Goering mentioned consisted of welding a host of D-rings and corner brackets to secure all 10 of the units onto the barge.
All 40 towers were delivered by barge in six weeks, a savings of seven weeks had the trips been made by truck. In addition, the need for escorts was reduced by one-third. The total cost according to Goering was approximately the same as truck transport would have been.
However, marine transport of specialized equipment is not always the best option, according to Goering. In some cases the units would have to be re-handled and trucked at both ends anyway. In this case the turbines were already landed, in their frames, on a dock. A minimum of re-handling reduced the possibility of damage. They were simply loaded onto the barge.
"It normally doesn't work out like that," said Goering. "The reason this one was ideal for a barge tow was that the frames were still on the towers, because they were at the port and ready for immediate loading onto the barges. This eliminated the added cost of the frames and the pre-carriage to the barge. But we continue to look at barge and marine transport options when the logistic options are available."
This time, tugs and barges are the cargo
The semi-submersible heavy lift ship Blue Marlin created a stir when the vessel sailed into New York Harbor and hung around during the month of May and the early part of June. The plot thickened when a cluster of five old Reinauer Transportation tugs and seven of its aged single-skin barges appeared on the scene.
Since the 737-foot Blue Marlin began service in 2000, the ship has turned the eyes of ship-watchers and the general public alike with the incredible, and often odd-looking, cargo the vessel has transported. The most notable for Americans was the retrieval of USS Cole after the destroyer was severely damaged in Yemen by suicide bombers.
Blue Marlin and Black Marlin were built in 2000 by the Norwegian company Offshore Heavy Transport, primarily to carry oil rigs of gigantic proportions to destinations around the globe. Dockwise Shipping of the Netherlands purchased both vessels in 2001.
New York-based Reinauer, anticipating the 2015 implementation of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requirement that petroleum product carriers be double-hulled, had sold the tugs and barges to Nigerian interests. Reinauer also has an aggressive ATB building program that is fast replacing its older tugs with new ones that fit into the notches of dedicated double-skinned barges. Dockwise was hired to transport the flotilla of old vessels to Africa.
"We were contracted to move all the equipment from the lay berths to the ship," said Steve Kress, vice president of McAllister Towing. "Then we found out that they (Blue Marlin team) wanted to load the ship with all the tugs and barges at the same time, which would have required too many tugs all at once. Miller's Launch was hired because the loading of the tugs required smaller boats. We stayed with the loading of the barges and wound up moving them in tandem several times until the Blue Marlin team finally got their loading sequence and positions correct."
Miller's Launch brought six boats to the event, five tugs and a line handling boat. "I think that the blocking of the vessels on the Blue Marlin was pretty complicated," said owner Glen Miller. "It took them (Blue Marlin team) three tries, but it did get done."
Once McAllister towed the tugs and barges to the loading site, small, shallow-draft tugs were required to do the close work of loading the tugs and barges onto Blue Marlin's deck. When submerged, the deck had only 7 feet of water over it. Two of the tugs supplied by Miller's have a draft of only 4.5 feet.
"After McAllister towed the barges into position, we had the shallow draft tugs go right over the deck and hold them in position," said Miller. "We were in the middle playing in no-man's land. The big McAllister tugs would push the barge across and we would sort of catch them and hold them in while they were sliding them across to the other side. Then we supplied the line-handling on the tugs and decks of the barges."
The tugs loaded onto Blue Marlin were Dean Reinauer, John Reinauer, Curtis Reinauer, Janice Ann Reinauer and Maverick. "I was sorry to see the Dean go," said Miller. "It is one of my favorite tugs."
SUNY Towing Forum coming up in October
State University of New York Maritime College will conduct its 12th annual Towing Forum on Oct. 19.
Among the topics is the upcoming implementation of the Coast Guard Subchapter M regulations regarding towing vessel inspections.
Capt. Eric Johansson, a Maritime College professor and founder of the Towing Forum, will discuss his "Standardization of Towing Nomenclature" project (Professional Mariner #146). Johansson has been sifting through the chaotic lexicon of tugboat terminology and definitions over the past two years with a view of making the industry's terminology more consistent.
The Towing Forum draws widely from industry leaders. For an invitation, contact Johansson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.