Even though the North American coastline contains railway lines that connect numerous coastal cities, coastal maritime transportation remains the preferred method for many in the bulk freight transportation market. Oceanic tug-barges play one small but necessary part in the journey of a product from manufacturer all the way to the hands of the consumer.
One of the reasons that oceanic transportation might be favored over railway is cost. Loading railway cars with heavy, bulky loads and pushing them to the maximum means massive wear and tear on railway rolling stock and the infrastructure. But, while incurring the same cost of only a single train, a barge can carry the same bulk freight volume/payload. (The barge in question here would likely measure 65 feet by 105 feet.)
But big, bulky barges cannot operate well on their own from dock to dock. They require assistance. That’s where tug-barges come in.
Back in the Day
Long before the high-tech ships, barges, and boats of today, transportation of cargo was done by steam powered boats or wind powered vessels. It was simply a cost-saving venture to use a tugboat to navigate and push a river vessel. This was particularly applicable if a greater payload could be loaded aboard the transport vessel due to the tug doing the navigating. (In many cases, this meant that the vessel could be loaded with more cargo because less room was needed for coal and potable water to create steam.)
Business Is Booming
As the business of oceanic transport caught on, barges became deeper, longer, and wider. This, in addition to providing more space for cargo, also made them capable of carrying their freight over long distances because they could sail bigger waters. This of course, created a need for larger tug-barges that had a larger engine output, could maneuver larger barges, and could sail faster.
Technology Makes Its Mark
Azipod technology is a term that refers to ships that are steerable and include electronically driven propellers. It is now possible, thanks to modern technology, to generate the propulsive electric power needed for a companion vessel while also using a remote engine.
The barge includes the Azipod unit for steering and propulsion and is attached the tug-barge companion vessel, which also includes a level of self-propulsive capability. Between the technology carrying barge and the companion vessel are power cables.
Computer-controlled automated navigation has changed the waterway transportation industry forever. It is even possible now to steer and control independently a combination of several barges and tugs through the tightest of river waterways. This demonstration of technology will hopefully lead to the same capabilities being present in an adaptation conducive to ocean service.
More Than Just Freight Transport?
So impressive is this technology that it may soon be adopted by the cruise line industry! On occasion, cruise ships become stranded due to total engine failure. Until now, even with several tugs to move the stricken vessel, towing cables were destroyed. But, with this newest technology, stricken cruise ships may be able to find a rescue thanks to massive amounts of electric power through a power station-containing tugboat.
STC Logistics can assist you with your overseas shipping needs and so much more. We are experienced and reliable in the area of global transportation via ocean and air, and all things logistics.