Friday, January 6, 2023

Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) & Michigan Trader and ITB Presque Isle

I was aware of articulated tug barges because the Medusa Challenger steam ship was converted to an articulated barge and renamed the St. Marys Challenger in 2014.
One of several photos posted by Connor Siemers via Dennis DeBruler
[I chose a photo of the stern because it shows how the tug fits into a "notch" in the back of the barge.]

The end of the notes on the cement terminal in Manitowoc, WI, has several photos of various ATGs going to and from the terminal. Note that for ATGs I try to choose a stern photo rather than the normal 3/4 view of the bow.

Freighter hulls last a long time on the fresh water of the Great Lakes. Rather than do an expensive upgrade of the reciprocating steam engine in a freighter such as the Medusa Challenger, they would cut off the stern and add a notch so that a modern tug could push it. And originally, one advantage of an ATB over a ship was a reduced crew size because of some rather arbitrary regulations. But those regulations are being updated so crew size differences are no longer as big. Differences in inspection schedules also favored ATBs. I have not been able to determine if those schedules have been rationalized. But the ability shown below of doing your own ice breaking is an advantage based on technology rather than rather historical regulations.

This post motivated me to write about ATBs.
1 of 3 photos posted by Lance Aerial Media
The “Michigan Trader” stuck in the ice in the Port of Lorain today.
[He shows the bow, but not the stern, so we can't see the notch.
Michigan Trader is the name of the barge. I got from another post that the name of the tug is Dirk S. VanEnkevort. It was rebuilt in 2020 and now has 8,000hp. [vtbarge]]
Mary Melvin: Looks like an ice breaker right along the starboard side with a path going out.
Ben O Verbich: Mary Melvin that’s it’s own tug. This isn’t a traditional freighter. It’s a barge that spends the majority of its time married to It’s own dedicated pusher tug.
Geegee Perkins: Ben O Verbich A barge on Lake Erie... Is this as unusual as I think it is? Sure looks like a lot of open water. We live on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Maumee River & it's melting very quickly
Gavin Throop: Geegee Perkins very common, a large portion of shipping done on the Great Lakes is done via tug barge setups like this.
Ben O Verbich: Geegee Perkins this style of ship originated by converting old freighters to barges in order to have a cost effective way to repower the aging ship while not scrapping the still useable hull.
As far as I know this barge was purpose built from day one to be a barge however.
Matt Lance shared
David Kangas: ATBs Articulated Tug Barge have a detachable tug so in theory they can deliver one barge and then return with another ... that and they have smaller crews and are cheaper than building new boats ... the 1000ft Presque Isle is also an ATB
Darryl Harper: David Kangas Thought had seen a post that legislation had changed requiring ATB's such as this one to have the same crew size as similar sized self propelled ships ?
Though thought crews were more in the 20 range and those tugs are a good size but nevertheless would be more crowded and that info re requirement for same size may not be accurate. And why would they physically need fewer crew as what tasks don't need doing on an ATB. I know historically at least they have had fewer.
There was a visit from a new salty last year that was so automated that only needed a crew of 10. Believe the engine room was so automated that it did not need someone in constant attendance. Perhaps that is also true of tugs?
Jerry Prouse: I’m confused, I’m new to following Great Lakes shipping as of a couple years ago… I thought I remember seeing last year a ton of posts showing the boats laid up for winter months… does that not happen all the time? Not every year?
Darryl Harper: Jerry Prouse Soo locks close up Jan 15. Ships will generally operate until then.
Jon Bechtle: Jerry Prouse Depends on ports and cargo. Normal traffic between Superior and the lower lakes is suspended for a period when the Soo locks are closed so it is advantageous to lay up a few of those vessels. Also some vessels are "laid up" for maintenance work during the winter months. However there are vessels that will run all year long, again depends on ports and cargo. US Coast Guard runs a winter ice breaking operation called "Operation Taconite". If you do a Google search on that term there are several articles about the ice breaking on the Great Lakes to support various Coast Guard missions including helping commerce by supporting the continued movement of vessel traffic in the Great Lakes during ice season. I had a tour of duty on USCGC Mobile Bay (WTGB-103) many years back.
Matt Lance shared
Bruce Schild: I saw a time lapse video of them trying for hours and finally leaving for Marblehead instead. [I could not find a dock in Marblehead on a satellite image.]

Laurel Veinfortner Decker commented on Lance's post
Darryl Harper: Good thing about these tug barge units is the tug can do the ice freeing work that a self propelled ship needs outside help with. Limitation of the footers is difficulty in turning in ice.

An up close view of the bow of the tug, which we normally don't see because it is in the notch of the barge. The bulge at the front of its side is where the connection pin is pushed out to engage the barge. More on the connection below.
Jerome Mitchell posted
Lorain, Ohio

A drone video of the tug breaking the ice.

This is 1 of 4 views of the Ostrander/Integrity ATB in the Fraser Shipyard.
[This is a good view of the tug in its notch.]
This video taught me that they have different modes of connection. When travelling, there is only one degree of freedom --- pitch or hinging. When docked, the hinge pins are allowed to go up and down in vertical notches on the side of the barge. This allows the draft of the barge to change while it is loading and unloading.
1:57 video @ 0:37

This incident vividly illustrates how the hinge can go down in the barge when it is docked. This incident motivated me to not just write about ATBs, but to publish.
Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan via Dennis DeBruler

The pins are big. This is just a medium sized pin.

I have seen bow-thruster icons on some photos of barges. I've wondered if they had their own engine or if they were powered by the tug. Some definetally have their own engine. I have not found evidence that the hydraulic lines for the hydraulic pod design nor wires for the electric motor design would be run all the way back to the tug.

The pusher tug technology has been scaled up all the way to a footer, the 1973 Presque Isle. It is the only one of the 13 footers that uses a pusher tug. Note that this barge has an unusually long notch that surrounds most of the tug. That is because it is an ITB (Integrated Tug Barge) and the connection is not allowed to hinge. "The tug/barge Presque Isle was designed as an integrated tug/barge unit, with the tug fitting into a specially-designed notch where it would rigidly lock in, and the pair would sail as one vessel. It was designed with intentions to take advantage of the U.S. Coast Guard’s tug/barge manning requirements, but since the tug was not deemed seaworthy on its own, it had to operate with an full-size crew" [comments on a YouTube video]
Photo by Chris Mazzella via BoatNerd, which has many more photos and the statistics
Presque Isle at Two Harbors

This shows that the tug has a long notch in the hull rather than a hinge pin.

Jeff Mientkeiwicz posted three photos with the comment: "The integrated tug PRESQUE ISLE shown in the first two photos, and the ITB as a whole unit in the third image, Erie, PA."
Charly Shannon Mueller: Even when she's hitched to the barge it's still not smooth sailing. Worse sleep on the lakes every time for me.
Robert Phillips: Mike Eckert it was a one of a kind build. The two sections were new builds, built to work together as a team. The original owners had the hope that once built it could be crewed with a normal tug crew of perhaps 10-12 persons in order to save the company the wages of a full crew as would be required for a freighter of the same size.
When it was realized that the tug portion was not going to be seaworthy and capable of normal tug duties without being attached to the barge, the 2 pieces for all intents and purposes were classed and regulated as a single unit. The Presque Isle now was required to crew the same as a traditional freighter meaning somewhere around 18-25 onboard. The owners dream of saving the cost of approx 1/2 the crew that's on her today never materialized. There were no other 2 piece 1000 footers ever built.
Bryan Howell: One of the mates told me that he was violently thrown out of his bunk once when they were crossing Erie detached from the barge in rough seas. The tug alone doesn't have the greatest stability.
Brian R. Wroblewski: Patric Woodard they will sit & wait for days on weather before attempting to cross the open lake without the barge.
Richard Hill: 7500-HP



Charly Shannon Mueller commented on Jeff's post

Charly Shannon Mueller commented on Jeff's post

Another view of just a tug.
1 of 5 photos posted by Jeff Mientkiewicz
Tug VICTORY arriving in Erie, PA for winter layup. She passes ITB PRESQUE ISLE on her way to her dock.
Mychel Seegull: Just the tug would indicate to me there is work to be done on the tug. Is it in DonJon???? great pictures
Jeff Mientkiewicz: Mychel Seegull Yes, at DonJon's, docked where the J.S. St. John is, and thanks!
[Some comments share my reaction that it has a rather scarry high center of gravity without a barge.]

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