An intriguing press release landed in my inbox this week. The headline read: “Marcon International brokers sale of the world’s largest Hoverbarge.” Perhaps, like me, you have not encountered a hoverbarge. But doesn’t it sound like something that you want to see?
The hoverbarge was developed in the UK in the 1970s. The concept is based on the hovercraft. Engines drive fans that lift the barge about five feet off the ground or water. It can be moved into all sorts of places — shallow water, across mudflats, across ice, etc., then land anywhere by just settling down off the air cushion.
The hoverbarge made its mark during the construction of the Alaska pipeline. The 800-mile pipeline route is nearly bisected by the Yukon River. To deliver the 48″ sections of pipe to the northern portion of the project, a hoverbarge ferry was built across the Yukon. Two cable-driven ferries carried three trucks at a time loaded with pipe, and supplies for the Prudhoe Bay side of the pipeline. Unlike a regular barge, the hoverbarge can cross ice so the ferry operated 24/7 year round.
The Monty, billed as the “largest hoverbarge,” was also scheduled to work in the Arctic wilderness. Vancouver, British Columbia-based Redfern Resources had ordered the barge to move material from its Taku River mine in Canada to the port in Juneau, Alaska. Redfern has since gone bankrupt and the mine is abandoned, resulting in pollution of the Taku in Alaska which is an important salmon nursery. The barge was designed by UK-based Hovertrans and was nearly complete when Redfern abandoned it to builder Sundial Marine Construction & Repair in Troutdale, Ore. The Monty is 210’x82’7”x5’6” and can carry a payload of 450 tons. Marcon did not disclose purchaser or the price, except to say it was a private sale.
Here is video from Hovertrans that shows just how a hoverbarge works and, by the way, it is available for charter.