New tug/barge sails the Great Lakes
At some future date, a ship will arrive in the Twin Ports. It may arrive carrying limestone and will leave loaded with iron ore or coal.
What will make the event noteworthy is that it will be the first visit by the recently christened tug/barge Ken Boothe Sr./Lakes Contender. The articulated tug/barge is scheduled to begin operating for the American Steamship Co. this weekend, according to American Steamship’s parent company, GATX Corp.
The ATB’s main cargos will be iron ore and coal with some limestone.
“We are very pleased to add this new ATB, designed to transport dry-bulk commodities, to our fleet,” American Steamship President David W. Foster said. “This U.S.-flagged
10,700 horsepower tug and 740 foot self-unloading barge with a cargo capacity of 34,000 tons … will allow ASC to more efficiently serve our customers.”
American Steamship is leasing the vessel from a partnership formed by Donjon Marine and Seacor Holdings Inc. Donjon Marine’s subsidiary Donjon Shipbuilding Repair built the tug and barge in Erie, Pa.
“It’s the first one we’ve built,” said John Witte, director of Donjon Shipbuilding Repair.
It also is the first bulk cargo vessel built in Erie since the 1,000-foot integrated tug/barge Presque Isle nearly 40 years ago.
“It is nice to see that money is being spent on new ships because that speaks to the long-term future of the lakes,” Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director Adolph Ojard said. “I think it is critical to recapitalize the fleet.”
Getting into shipbuilding and repairs seemed like a natural progression for Donjon Marine, whose principal business activities since 1964 have included marine salvage, dredging and transportation, Witte said. Donjon began building the Ken Boothe Sr./Lakes Contender without a
“It was a risk,” Witte said. “But we thought the future of the lakes includes ATBs.”
Tug/barge vessels typically are operated by fewer crewmembers than a traditional self-propelled vessel, Witte said.
“In our opinion an ATB is a more economical use of shipping,” he said. “We have had a very positive response from the marine industry, we’re hopeful this will result in additional ATBs being put out there.”
This is the third laker added to the U.S.-flag fleet this century, said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers’ Association. The Great Lakes Trader joined the fleet in 2000; the cement barge Innovation in 2006. Both are also tug/barges.
“The last self-propelled vessel for the lakes was built, on the American side at least, in 1981,” Nekvasil said. That was the Columbia Star, since renamed the American Century.
Despite a slow pace of new ship construction for the U.S. Great Lakes fleet, the fleet is good shape, Nekvasil said.
“Since our vessels never leave the lakes — they don’t go into salt water — they can last really as long as you want them to, as long as you take good care of them,” he said, noting that more than $75 million of repairs, maintenance, and upgrades were done on U.S. flag lakers over the winter.
Still, he said, “everybody on the lakes is happy to see a new vessel come into service, and we wish her smooth sailing.”
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