Baltimore-based Vane Brothers Company has ventured into a new product transportation niche with the delivery of its first asphalt barge.

“We are thrilled to increase our involvement in the area of asphalt transportation,” Vane’s president, Charles “Duff” Hughes, said. “We look forward to delving even deeper into this niche market.”

The DS-509A, built at Conrad Industries, Amelia, La., is a double-skinned, 361'x 62'x24'6", 53,222 bbl. tank barge. It has a pumping rate of 8,000 bph and a loading rate of 10,000 bph.

Vane operates a fleet of 50 tugs and 70 barges along the East Coast, providing product and crude transport and bunkering services. In addition to the new asphalt barge, Vane is building a series of 50,000-bbl. barges at Jeffboat, Jeffersonville, Ind., as well as four 35,000-bbl. barges at Conrad’s Orange, Texas, shipyard.

Shipping asphalt, like other heavy oil products, by barge is generally more economical and cleaner than trucking. However, it can be trickier to handle. Asphalt must be heated to and maintained at 300°F in order to stay in liquid form to pump. It is mostly used on roadway and roofs.

“The greatest challenge of transporting liquid asphalt by barge is being able to maintain the product in a liquid state,” said Vane’s special projects manager, Steve Magdeburger. “This requires massive cargo heating capability.”

With its dual 8.6-million BTU thermal fluid heaters and nearly nine miles of 2 1/2"-dia. heating coils, the DS 509A is well equipped to meet this challenge, Magdeburger said.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.