Complete Spring 2012 Newsletter.pdf
Barges - An Overview of the Workhorses of the Marine Industry (Full Artictle)
By: Bob Beegle
Barges are the workhorses of the towing industry. They perform myriads of chores including cargo transport, pipelay, heavy-lift, water-desalinization, power generation and offshore floating production and storage. Barges haul millions of tons of cargoes or otherwise work offshore and through the river systems and harbors of every continent in the world. Although there are no accurate records, I would not be surprised if there are at least 150,000 barges from the coast of Albania to Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe.
Non-propelled barges range from under 10’ to almost 1,000’ in length. While usually built out of steel, Marcon has over the years listed and sold barges constructed of concrete, aluminum and, even, wood. At the top of the range of cargo barges are the 30,000dwt+ ocean tank barges, 40,000dwt+ Great Lakes bulk barges and the 25,000dwt+ submersible and launch barges for ocean transport of equipment, such as drill rigs, drydocks, floating storage & produc-tion units and project cargoes. The world’s largest launch/cargo barge designed for worldwide operation is Heerema’s 139,694dwt, 852’ x 207’ x 34” “H-851”. Although “H-851” may be the largest, she is not necessarily the long-est. That distinction probably belongs to the 1973 built, self-unloading, 51,000dwt, Great Lakes bulker “Presque Isle” which was built in two sections by different shipyards and is 974.5’ x 104.6’ x 45.7’ depth. Combined with her 141’ companion tug in the notch, the LOA is approx. 1,000’. “Presque Isle” was recently joined on the Lakes by the new 33,892ltdw, 740’ x 78’ self-unloading bulk barge “Lakes Contender” and 10,000HP tug “Ken Boothe, Sr.” christened in April 2012. Their overall combined length is about 825’.
Runner-ups in length are Trailer Bridge’s 750’ x 104’ triple deck ro/ro barges “Jax-San Juan Bridge” and “San Juan-Jax Bridge” operating in the Caribbean. Both were originally built in 1984 as 487’ barges for the Seattle-Alaska trade, sold to Trailer Bridge and stretched in 1996 when a 250’ mid-body section was added to each barge. They are followed by Great Lakes Marine Leasing’s 2000 built, 34,000dwt, 740’ x 78’ Great Lakes bulk barge “Great Lakes Trader” with her 135,’ 11,000BHP tug “Joyce van Enkavort”; and Crowley Maritime’s four 730’ x 99.5’ x 20’, triple deck ro/ro barges “TMT Fortaleza”, “TMT Jack-sonville”, “San Juan” and “Miami”, all built as 400’ deck barges and lengthened in the mid-80s.
In the United States there are 24,179 freight barges, including deck and hop-per, with an average age of 19 years and 4,512 tank barges (average age 22 years) documented with the U.S. Coast Guard, up from 22,895 freight (25 years age) and 4,065 tank barges (30 years) five years ago. These do not include thousands of undocumented barges. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers there were 31,412 non-self-propelled barges with a cargo capacity of 59,255,348 short tons in the United States as of 31 December 2010. This excludes dredges, crane and other barges used in construction work. The oldest documented freight barge on record is a 185’ x 48’ barge built in 1902 out of Holland, Michigan, which is not surprising due to the cold, fresh water in the Lakes. The two oldest “tank barges” on record are a 170’ x 29’ barge built 1896 in New York and a 307’ x 52’ x 17’ barge built 1898 in New Orleans. I doubt that they are still in tank service. There are likely older units still in service worldwide where records and build dates have been lost in the mists of time.
Most barges are purpose-built for specific trade, although ships were periodically converted. During the late 1890s and early 1900s many sailing ships were down-rigged and towed with coal, lumber or similar cargoes. After World War I and II surplus military ships proved to be popular conversion candidates with many 328’ x 50’ LSTs converted to haul bulk cargoes, containers and trailers on ocean routes, trading 40-50 years after their keels were laid. With double bottoms and wing-tanks, they were relatively inexpensive sources for hulls, but they also had their limitations. I towed a grain barge in the Hawaiian Islands that was like a water skier crossing our wake, almost passing the tug on one beam and then the other unless it was trimmed with 2-3’ deeper draft aft, which was seldom the case. There is a 328’ x 50’ former LST barge built by Bethle-hem Ship in 1943 converted to a self-discharge cement barge with a Sauerman drag unloading system still in service in Puget Sound today. Hundreds of cargo ships were also built and sold surplus at end of World War II, with many sold foreign, scrapped or convert-ed. Through the 80s and 90s former T-2 tankers or C1, C2, C3, C4, Liberty or Victory ships regularly appeared on the market. One 324’ x 68’ x 25’, ABS ocean barge conversion ended up in the Pacific Northwest after a long, slow tow from the Gulf bringing a load of pipe bound for Alaska and only getting as far as Tacoma, WA. We were happy to see this barge eventually sold. Even though she had a lot of life left, both the Owner and Marcon spent more time explaining why not to buy her than actually marketing her. She would have been a good AT/B conversion with a deep notch, but at that time towing on the wire was the norm. Fuel con-sumption, even at the prices in the 80s, would have bankrupted a tug operator. There are more successful ship-to-AT/B barge con-versions today operating in the Great Lakes than anywhere else. One, which Marcon sold in 2005, was the Canadian, 594’ x 72’ self-unloading “Sarah Spencer”, converted in 1989 from the bulk carri-er “Captain E. V. Smith”. She is fitted with a deep notch aft to mate with her 8,000HP articulated tug and can discharge her 22,105 tons of cargo at about 4,000 tons per hour.
Purpose-built barges are also under construction worldwide with Southeast Asia and China delivering more 5,000dwt+ ocean classed deck barges than anywhere in the world.
Marcon International currently tracks 3,557 barges worldwide with 616 officially for sale and 396 for charter, although others may be developed on a private and confidential basis. Historical data on another 7,678 barges is maintained in our archives. A day does not go by where Marcon does not receive at least one inquiry for a barge of some type. Even in today’s challenging economic condi-tions, good barges still hold their value and, depending on a cli-ent’s specific requirements, may prove to be difficult to locate.
Since we opened our doors in 1981, Marcon International has sold 511 deck, tank, hopper, crane, accommodations, hover, pipelay and other miscellaneous barges worldwide. We expect to close sales shortly on four additional barges ranging from 180’ to 400’ in length.
(See full article at the top of the page.)