Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Row RO-RO your TOTE!

I had a dental appointment over in Seattle last Friday (May 15th) which requires riding the Washington State Ferry system across the Salish Sea, which, when I chat with my sister, I refer to as "the River," a throw-back to 25 years of living in Vancouver Washington, when reference was made to "this side of the river" or "that side of the river."

Whenever I catch the 11:55 a.m. ride to Edmond's, I always see the RO-RO Midnight Sun. That's because she is operated by Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE). Both she and her identical twin sister RO-RO North Star, provide a proven, reliable conveyor belt between Tacoma, Washington and Anchorage, Alaska, operating on a very disciplined schedule.

While two rail barge services run to Whittier, Alaska; one from Seattle, the other from Prince Rupert, TOTE caters to truck trailers and motor vehicles - from cars, campers, school buses, and motor homes - in an enclosed environment, free of salt water spray.

And quickly! Three day service between the two ports - which may become gnarly in the Winter. The Gulf of Alaska is very unforgiving. As a young man, I experienced a "blow" on the Gulf which increased our crossing of the Gulf from three days to seven! Motor vehicles can do the Alaska Highway route, such as that provided by Lynden.

As we learned in the Höegh Osaka incident, one unit of vehicle capacity is known as the CEU (Car Equivalent Unit.) Another method for estimating capacity is LL (Lane Length,) reasonable considering the wide range of motor vehicle lengths, from Mini Coopers to over-sized construction material loads.

The "official" specifications published by the shipbuilder, states the TOTE Orca Class as 600 FEU plus 200 automobiles.

•  TEU = Twenty foot Equivalent Unit
•  FEU = Forty foot Equivalent Unit
•  1 FEU equals about 25 metric tons (27 st)or 72 cubic meters (2,542 cu ft).

Since "day one,"  Alaska Steamship had been providing passenger service, break-bulk and deck cargo space to Alaska. Oversize loading went by barge, or the long way around on the Alcan Highway.

But Alaska Steamship got out of the passenger business in 1954. Unable to adapt to the new containerization technologies, Alaska Steamship company shuttered in 1971, creating a vast gap in needed freight services.

The gap was filled in September 1975, when TOTE initiated roll-on / roll off  ( RO-RO) service to Alaska.   The 790 foot Great Land departed Seattle for Anchorage, with 380 40-foot trailers and 126 motor vehicles.

She was soon joined by her sister, the Westward Venture.

Great Land service continued until 2003, when  TOTE built two new vessels in the Orca Class —  the Midnight Sun and North Star. Great Land was mothballed, and eventually went under the cutter's torch. The Westward Venture continued on this route until 2005.



Today, TOTE operates from the Port of Tacoma, and is one of many marine assets controlled by Saltchuk Resources. Thankfully, Saltchuk is "locally" owned, not an extension of some shadowy international conglomerate. Indeed "Saltchuk" from Chinook, means "saltwater."

More Good News! 

Not only is Saltchuk a local family owned entity, but American citizens in San Diego, California built the Midnight Sun and North Star! Construction on the first Orca-class ship, the m/v Midnight Sun, began in June 2001 and its christening was August 3, 2002, and delivered in April 2003. The m/v North Star, was christened on June 14, 2003, and delivered in August 2003.

But Wait! There's More Good News!

TOTE is converting its two Orca-class vessels to operate on Liquified Natural Gas (LNG.)

The process of conversion of North Star and Midnight Sun will begin in the fall of 2015.

Initially, the two ships will be fueled from an LNG bunker barge, while a shore-based bunkering facility is planned for construction in the Port of Tacoma.

So much more good news!  Five weeks ago, on April 18, TOTE launched the worlds first LNG container ship, christened Isla Bella, in a spectacular nighttime launch, complete with fireworks! 

Here is an interesting time lapse video detailing  the construction of the LNG tanks.

In December, the United Arab Shipping Company (USAC) launched the MV Sajir, 15,000 TEU container ship, advertised as "LNG ready."

"LNG ready" which means the vessel has been built with double wall gas piping, a dual-fuel main engine and the space needed for later retrofitting of tanks and regasification equipment so the ship can burn LNG in addition to heavy fuel oil or marine gas oil.

It will require down time to switch from bunker fuel to LNG when the time comes, while TOTE's Isla Bella is actually running on LNG.

Mrs. Sophie Sacco-wife of Michael Sacco, president of the Seafarers International Union of North America, AFL-CIO-christened the Isla Bella with the traditional champagne bottle break over the ship's hull.

Undoubtedly you've seen hilarious visuals of champagne bottles bouncing off the bow of  a vessel or nose of aircraft. Finally, a high tech solution to this embarrassing event. Look carefully at this photo. A bracket with teeth has been welded to the Isla Bella, insuring a decisive bottle smash!

Isla Bella ("Beautiful Island") will be joined by her sister, now under construction at NASSCO, Perla Del Caribe ("Pearl of the Caribbean") in 2016. The 3,100 TEU vessels will operate on the Jacksonville Florida - San Juan Puerto Rico service.

If you spend too much time watching TV, you may have seen this commercial featuring the new TOTE container ship. It is part of the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) "Think About it" campaign.  The claim is that by switching to LNG to power the vessel, atmospheric emissions will be reduced by 70%.

While that is admirable, informed audiences are rightfully skeptical of propaganda feeding us selected feel good facts about what ever industry cabal they represent.

Another example is presented by former beauty queen, former soap opera star, and former Fox reporter, Brooke Alexander, spokesperson for American Petroleum Institute (API), wherein she "Connects the Dots" promoting fracking.

And for sure, anyone who has been associated with Roger Ailes is immediately suspect!

1 Comments - Click here:

oamundsen@aol.com said...

Yet another great post of news not seen on national media! Thank you. The use of LNF power for ships has really taken off, but railroads are way behind. Now there is in Norway, a battery powered ferry which simply recharges at one end of its trip in just minutes and then sails off without a puff of smoke or any discharge...I think its electricity comes from hydro power grid. Again, thanks for your wonderful research and reports.

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