The Maine Port Authority and McAllister Towing and Transportation Company have released preliminary vessel and service designs for a coastal shipping service to operate between Portland, Maine, and New York. The service was designated the New England Marine Highway Project in Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Program in 2010 by then-Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

The proposed service outlined in the study will operate on a fixed weekly schedule between Portland and Brooklyn, N.Y. It will carry containers, including a number of refrigerated containers, between the ports. The proposed vessel is an articulated tug-barge designed to carry containerized freight. Although ATBs are typically used in the U.S. to transport dry and liquid bulk commodities, the concept is readily adaptable to other applications like containers. The units are less expensive to build and operate than conventional vessels of the same capacity.

The Maine Port Authority has partnered with New York-based McAllister Towing, Soli DG, South Portland, Maine, and Ocean Tug and Barge Engineering, Milford, Mass., on the service and vessel designs. The service design identifies the types of cargo most likely to utilize the service, the itineraries required by the service’s customers and the economics of the voyage. The vessel design was created to meet operating conditions in the North Atlantic. The port and its partners have been meeting regularly with customers to understand their requirements, one of which is a service that offers rates that are competitive with freight trucking rates.

“An ATB is reliable and cost-effective, and we believe that this service is the perfect application of this innovative design,” said Charles Cumming, project manager for McAllister’s portion of the project. McAllister Towing provided the economic analysis for the service design, and subcontracted the vessel design to Ocean Tug and Barge under McAllister’s contract with the Maine Port Authority.

“In order to continue and expand upon the vision for the Marine Highway Program, solutions must be designed around and meet the logistics requirements of shippers. Marad’s partnership with the Maine Port Authority has resulted in the development of a vessel and service design that are attuned to the needs of the private sector and driven by customer requirements,” Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen said. The Marine Highway Program was created by Congress in 2007 to incorporate waterborne transportation into the surface transportation system of the U.S. in order to reduce congestion, emissions, and maintenance requirements on America’s highways.

“Having completed these preliminary designs, we will continue to work with our partners to bring this project to fruition. We look forward to the day when this vessel regularly plies the waters between Maine and New York,” said John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority.