LNG for towboats: Lots of questions 

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be used to fuel towboats on the U.S. inland waterways in the future. That is what Ed Shearer, principal naval architect at Texas-based The Shearer Group, told those in attendance at the inaugural Inland Marine Expo in St. Louis in April. However, the logistics of moving from where the inland industry is now to where it needs to be in order for LNG as a fuel to become a reality on the U.S. river system will be a complicated procedure. “It’s a dynamic fueling system, and it’s going to happen. But, for now, it’s a moving target,” said Shearer. “Most are saying they don’t want to be the first to try this.” Shearer said there are lots of questions that need to be answered before LNG-fueled towboats hit the inland waterways such as where will the fueling infrastructure come from, what will the final U.S. Coast Guard regulations entail and if fuel barges are used, how big will they be. A major stumbling block right now is how much more tankage LNG needs than diesel fuel. Shearer said LNG needs about four times the volume that diesel fuel needs. For now, the Coast Guard is saying that no LNG tanks can be fitted below an accommodations space, meaning the tanks have to be on the upper deck. “We’re talking to the Coast Guard about not being able to put tanks below accommodations,” he said.Also at the expo,Ken Eriksen of Informa Economics said that barge shipments of coal along the U.S. inland waterways has taken a serious dip over the last two years, falling by several hundred million tons. “The coal barge fleet isn’t doing much work,” he said. “Coal is not a friend of the administration.” Eriksen added that it is getting more difficult to get accurate tonnage statistics from the Corps of Engineers. “Data is very important,” he said. “It’s getting harder to obtain data from the Corps.” — Ken Hocke 


Marad exists to serve industry, official says 

The Maritime Administration was created to help the U.S. maritime industry compete on a global basis with other nations. “We’re supposed to do a job for our constituent’s industry,” Joel Szabat, Marad’s executive director, said at a recent Offshore Marine Service Association meeting in New Orleans. Acknowledging that his agency reports to political leadership, he stressed the point that “unless we’re serving industry, we have no reason to exist.” Szabat said the U.S. maritime industry, despite facing many challenges, is doing well overall. However, he is disappointed that cargo moving along the marine highway system hasn’t yet become “the new wave of the future.”


More STCW-related NVICs released 

The U.S. Coast Guard recently issued another round of Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circulars that provide guidance on qualification for and revalidation of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) endorsements:

• Master or Chief Mate of vessels of 3,000 GT or more (NVIC 10-14); 

• Master or Chief Mate of vessels more than 500 GT and less than 3,000 GT (NVIC 11-14); 

• Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch of vessels of 500 GT or more (NVIC 12-14); 

• Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch of vessels less than 500 GT limited to near-coastal waters (NVIC 13-14); 

• Able Seafarer-deck (NVIC 14-14); 

• Chief Engineer Officer and Second Engineer Officer on ships powered by main propulsion machinery of 3,000 kW/4,000 hp or more (NVIC 15-14); 

• Chief Engineer Officer and Second Engineer Officer on ships powered by main propulsion machinery of 750 kW/1,000 hp or more and less than 3,000 kW/4,000 hp (NVIC 16-14);

• Officer in Charge of an engineering watch in a manned engine room or Designated Duty Officer in a periodically unmanned engine room on vessels powered by main propulsion machinery of 750 kW/1,000 hp or more (NVIC 17-14); 

• Able Seafarer-engine (NVIC 18-14); and

• Qualified assessors (NVIC 19-14).