Ocean and Coastal Towing
September 1, 2018
The US west coast is home to a diverse collection of freight services, who must be prepared to deliver shallow-draft cargo up Alaskan rivers in the spring, across the Pacific to Hawaii and US territories and through a series of locks along the Columbia and Snake Rivers. These companies are equipped with modern, state-of-the-art towboats and barges as well as time-tested, traditional floating equipment. Communities and trade rely on the companies to deliver the goods, regardless of weather, current or other variable.
Around fifty percent of the nation's wheat is exported from the ports on the lower Columbia River, much of it carried by grain barges operated by Shaver Transportation and Tidewater Barge Lines. Together they move about 150 million bushels of wheat per year down the Columbia-Snake River system. This navigation system is made up of seven locks connecting farms in the western US with international markets. The system supports thousands of jobs in storage, trade and marine transportation of grains and soy beans with a total value of $24 billion.
On July 9, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited at the Port of Vancouver, Washington and toured the port's grain terminal, operated by United Grain Corp. The Secretary also inspected a Tidewater Barge Lines tug, and met with leaders in port and river-related industries. "From 465 miles inland, our farmer-producers in Idaho ship out of this port... it's a great advantage to America, really, to have this kind of infrastructure," he told
Shaver is continuing to invest in its fleet with the addition of two new 300-foot barges with a capacity of 4,200 tons of wheat, or 140,000 bushels. This is in response to the plan to create a rail-to-barge transfer station at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon. The barges were constructed on the Ohio River in Indiana at a very competitive price, said Shaver, despite the expense of towing the barges down the Mississippi River, through the Panama Canal, and up the west coast to Portland, said Rob Rich, vice president of marine services for Shaver.
That brings Shaver Transportation's total number of grain barges to 20, of 60 barges overall. The new barges will join Shaver's four 298-foot long self-unloading Magnum barges – the largest on the river.
Shaver is also having a new multi-purpose 110-foot tug built at Diversified Marine in Portland to a design by Jensen Maritime of Seattle. The new boat will be able to move barges in the Portland area, berth ships, and will also be certified to escort ships across the Columbia Bar.
The Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland, Oregon, has issued two of the first Subchapter M certificates of inspection (COI) using the Coast Guard inspection option to Tidewater for the 102-foot by 38-foot, 4,480-hp Crown Point and to Shaver for the 77-foot, 5,360-hp ship-assist tug Sommer S. They are the first of around 130 towing vessels currently operating on the Columbia-Snake River System to receive the COI.
Freight service to Hawaii is provided by two shipping lines, Matson and Pasha, plus lower-cost barge service from several companies. Aloha Marine Lines (a Lynden company) has a bi-weekly service departing Seattle and arriving in Honolulu 12 to 14 days later. The tugs are owned and operated by Dunlap Towing, whose fleet is based in Everett, Washington including ten long-haul towboats. The newest addition is the Sigrid Dunlap, a 121-foot, 6-inch ocean-going tug specifically designed for the Hawaii route and launched
This is the second 121 footer built for Dunlap by Hansen Boat Company in Marysville, Washington to a design by Hockema Whalen Myers Associates, in consultation with Dunlap VP Gordon Taylor. The tug is powered by twin Caterpillar C175-16 EPA Marine Tier 3, IMO Certified engines that can provide 5,350 hp. The Sigrid boasts the latest technology in both the wheelhouse and on deck, providing its crew the most modern equipment and tools for safety on the job. Its Markey double drum winch has increased tow wire capacity over its sister ship, the Phyllis Dunlap, holding 3,100 feet of 2.25 inch wire.
Sause Brothers runs an independent freight line to Hawaii with a record of 50 years of continuous service. Their headquarters are in Coos Bay, but the loading port is on the Columbia River at the Teevin dock in Rainier, Oregon, opposite Longview, Washington. Two tugs listed on the route are the 127-foot, 5,700-hp Navaho and 110-foot, 4,200-hp Salishan. A new offshore tug is under construction at Diversified Marine in Portland.
Sause has been at the forefront of barge design, and the 438-foot by 105-foot Namakani launched by Gunderson, Portland in 2016 used recent research in fluid dynamics in the stern and Hydralift skegs to stay on course better and slip through the water with less resistance.
At the start of the year, Matson Navigation Company replaced one of its three barges dedicated to serving Hawaii's neighbor island ports with a newer, larger barge built in 2012 by Gunderson Marine. The 360-foot by 100-foot container barge Columbia was renamed Mauna Loa and is now Matson's largest barge with a capacity of 12,600 tons or 500 TEU on 33,000 square feet of deck cargo space.
Young Brothers Ltd., the state's largest inter-island cargo carrier, appointed Joseph Boivin, 51, as its new president. He will replace Glenn Hong, who had been with the company since 1991 and is retiring to take on a new role at Saltchuk, Young Brothers' parent company.
Young Brothers is currently undergoing a fleet modernization that will enhance operational efficiency for the company and improve reliability for Hawaii customers. By the end of 2018, they will have made capital investments of more than $180 million in new vessels and shore-side equipment. These investments include four new large 11,700-ton capacity barges as well as a 5,600-ton multi-deck roll-on/roll-off barge for vehicle transportation that is currently in service. In addition, the first of four 6,000-hp tugs built by Conrad Shipyard in Louisiana will arrive this summer.
Foss also has a presence on the Hawaii route in 2018. For the third year in a row, it has won a contract to conduct the annual supply run in support of military operations on Wake Island, about 2,300 miles west of Honolulu. The cargo includes all manner of dry and refrigerated foods, diesel fuel, trucks, heavy equipment and other rolling stock. The tug Moana Holo, operated by Young Brothers, departed from Honolulu in late April on the 11-day voyage to Wake, towing the chartered barge Eglon.
Seattle's Alaska Connection
Alaska Marine Lines has thirty-six barges of varying sizes and delivers freight across the state, from Southeast to Southcentral to the turbulent waters of Western Alaska. Western Towboat, based on the Seattle Ship Canal, is one of the tug operators that has partnered with Alaska Marine Lines, and this team transports much of the cargo between Puget Sound and Southeast Alaska year round. This is a remote part of the world with notoriously harsh weather and unforgiving narrow channels, and Western's mariners are highly skilled and well-prepared to deliver their loads to the small fishing towns on the Alaska Panhandle.
Western was founded in 1948 and is personally owned and managed by the Shrewsbury family. It continues to build all its own tugs, at its own pace, with its own small staff and Shipyard. The company developed the 120-foot Titan long-haul ASD design with Jensen's naval architects, and have built seven of these vessels, which set the standard in the offshore towboat industry. Dunlap, with ten long-haul tugs, also works with Alaska Marine Lines, concentrating on the service to Western Alaska.
Samson Tug and Barge is an Alaskan owned and operated interstate shipping company, headquartered in Sitka. The 90-foot Samson Mariner (3,000 hp) provides barge service to Central and Western Alaska from Seattle, departing bi-weekly. Regularly scheduled stops include Cordova, Valdez, Seward, Kodiak, King Cove and Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. Samson will also visit other small ports and normally calls on Adak, Larsen Bay and Alitak during peak fishing seasons. Samson sails from Seattle weekly to the communities of Metlakatla, Ketchikan, Prince of Wales, including Craig, KIawock and Thorne Bay, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau and its home town of Sitka.
Many other Washington companies supply tug services to Alaska. Boyer Towing, which owns 14 tugs and 20 barges that do contract towing year round from the company's barge terminal in Seattle, and operate a seasonal service to its docks in Ketchikan and Ward's Cove in Alaska. Island Tug and Barge works with a number of partners in Alaska providing freight service from Seward to Bethel and assisting marine construction projects on the NW coast.
Numerous small tug companies operate solely within Alaskan waters supporting small communities and fishermen. In addition, some of the major US tug companies transport oil to Alaska on ATB barges via the Inland Passage.
Alaska-Bound Trains on Barges
Since 1993, Foss has safely guided the world's largest railcar barge, the Aquatrain with a capacity of 45 rail cars, for the Canadian National Railroad (CNR) between Prince Rupert, BC to Whittier, Alaska. Foss tugs, the 4,300 hp Justine Foss and the Barbara Foss, tow the 400-foot by 100-foot barge on a 12-day cycle, 30 times a year, where it links with the Alaska Railroad for daily service to Anchorage and Fairbanks. The route is the shortest water route to Alaska by 600 miles, compared to southern ports.
Western towboat tows weekly rail car barges from Seattle to Whittier, Alaska for the Alaska Railroad. Everything from construction supplies and drilling pipes to chemicals and other transportable products are off-loaded onto Alaska Railroad Corporation railcars.
Alyeska Oil Tanker Escort Service
In July, Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) of Louisiana replaced Crowley Marine Services as Alyeska's Ship Escort/Response Vessel System contractor in Valdez, Alaska. Services provided by this contract include operation of escort tugs, general purpose tugs, oil recovery storage barges, and associated personnel for Prince William Sound. ECO has delivered the fleet of 13 new vessels including nine ASD tugs designed by Damen of the Netherlands. The five new 140-foot escort tugs are the most powerful in the world and have been specifically designed for this service by Damen. They have twin Caterpillar Tier 4 engines with a total of 12,300 horsepower, together with Rolls Royce azimuthing drives. The hull design includes a skeg forward that will provide resistance to allow the tug to apply a hydrodynamic force to slow a tanker in an emergency
Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Recovery
Foss' involvement with the hurricane relief started in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands on Sept. 24 with two accommodation vessels to provide warm meals and "floating hotels" for hundreds of first responders. They were moved to Puerto Rico Oct. 17 to support relief efforts there. Foss has continued to participate in the Hurricane Maria recovery work in Puerto Rico. In January, Foss orchestrated a massive sealift to Puerto Rico, delivering 563 utility vehicles to the Port of Ponce as part of an on-going effort to restore power to the island that was devastated by back-to-back hurricanes in September.
The tug Corbin Foss and four chartered tugs towed seven barge loads from Norfolk, Virginia, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, to the US territory safely in less than two weeks, arriving in late January. A tight schedule and unusually cold weather were the major challenges. The shipment, from a coalition of 19 US electric companies, included bucket trucks, line trucks, pickups, aerial lifts, CAT skid-steer loaders, digger derricks, and pull trailers.
More than 1,000 line workers and other personnel from participating electric companies flew in to meet the trucks and start work supporting the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to restore power. "Foss has proven once again that we have the capability and resources to accomplish a complex logistics operation under tight timelines," said director of cargo operations Robert Wagoner. "We continue to enhance our ability to respond to natural disasters like Haiti in 2010 and Sandy in 2012 and now Irma and Maria."
Crowley Maritime Corporation's liner services and logistics teams have played an integral role in the recovery. Crowley has provided a transportation and logistics pipeline to the island since the storm made landfall Sept. 20 – unloading more than 200 vessels in 182 days, with cargo consisting of nearly 40,000 commercial loads and 8,000 FEMA loads. In addition to food, water and other basic humanitarian and commercial supplies, Crowley has transported and delivered a combination of more than 40,000 power poles; 7,000 electrical transformers; 10 million miles of wire and cable; and platforms and utility reconstruction equipment and vehicles to help rebuild the electrical infrastructure.
The company also handled multiple bridge sections and a 119,000-pound drill to support the roadway reconstruction efforts in the Utuado region. "I am very grateful for the extraordinary work of our teams in San Juan, Jacksonville and in other parts of the country," said Tom Crowley, chairman and CEO. "Many of our employees have friends and family that were directly affected by the disaster and many are residents of Puerto Rico themselves."
Crowley's Puerto Rico Services team expanded the company's vessel fleet from nine to 16, including the addition of two company-owned and retrofitted, heavy-lift, flat-deck barges. The larger fleet helped to ensure almost daily vessel arrivals and upped carriage capacity by 67 percent. The logistics group also secured additional warehouse space, doubling its square footage in Puerto Rico, to help process and expedite delivery of needed supplies, and dispatched 50 relief trucks to deliver only relief supplies at various distribution centers around the island right after the storm. They also added 5,000 extra containers and hundreds of additional chassis to the Puerto Rico equipment fleet.
Crowley Fuels, the company's Alaska-based petroleum transportation, distribution and sales group, also spent several months supporting the mobilization of Foster Fuels, an emergency response fuel supply contractor for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Crowley carried more than 130 fuel trucks aboard a Crowley liner services vessel, with multiple follow-up deliveries in subsequent sailings to provide additional material and resources. And, due to the overwhelming demand for CDL/HAZMAT-certified fuel truck drivers in the area, six qualified fuel truck drivers from the company's Alaska operations were dispatched to the island where they performed a combined total of 2,200 hours distributing fuel to businesses and residents.