Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Off to the Breakers

US Shipping Partners, a troubled US operator of tanker barges, is sending some of its older Integrated Tug Barges to the scrappers. Built in the early 1980s, these odd ships consisted of a tanker barge (built at Bethlehem Steel), coupled with a catamaran vessel (built by Halter), that locked into the stern of the barge over a protruding tongue.
Called tugs, the catamarans were really helpless vessels on their own. They could not tow, nor did they sail happily on their own. They were really "rule breakers" which allowed the owners to class their vessel as a tug/barge, when in reality it was a tanker with a detachable stern. In fact each barge and catamaran unit had the same name!
US rules eventually changed to ensure that the tugs were really tugs, and so new Integrated Tug Barges (ITB) were outlawed and the Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) is the now the norm.
Several of these ITB rigs had refits in Halifax when the Canadian dollar was very low compared to the US, and when the sterns were detached, they required tug assistance to navigate and lock with the cargo section!
The photo shows Philadelphia with Point Valiant pushing from the stern in 2002.
Sister ITB Mobile, which also had a refit in Halifax is still in service under US flag, and Jacksonville and Groton have gone to Nigerian owners. Baltimore and New York have been sent to scrap when buyers could not be found.

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