FEBRUARY 9, 2015 — There is a high demand for landing craft along the Alaskan coast where many communities are only accessible by water, but there are few ports or even rudimentary docks or piers. But with their flat bottom and bow ramp, landing craft can run right up to a beach and deliver pretty much anything.
One company that knows how to make the most of landing craft capabilities is Anchorage headquartered Alaska Marine Transportation & Salvage, which operates the landing craft Polar Bear. After a stretch job that lengthened it by 30 ft, the vessel now measures 52 ft x 34 ft x 8 ft, with a capacity of 280 tons, which is equal to seven 40 ft and one 20 ft containers. Thanks to a repower in 2013 with two MAN D2862 LE421 heavy duty high speed engines it is now not only compliant with the latest EPA Tier 3 emission regulations, but also the fastest boat of its kind along the American west coast.
MAN D2862 LE421
German emigrant Peter Schwartz, founder of "Alaska Marine Transportation & Salvage (AMTS), built the "Polar Bear" in 1989.
Originally from East Germany and with a degree in ocean engineering, Mr. Schwartz flew to Canada in 1965, then rode on a motorcycle to Alaska.
After several jobs in the offshore industry, he started AMTS in 1974, by buying a refurbished landing craft that transported cattle near Kodiak Island. He owned several boats throughout the years ,two of which he designed himself.
After 15 years of experience with several boats that transported cargo and supported oil spill clean ups, he knew what he was looking for in a vessel and built the Polar Bear for $ 2.7 million. Two years later, he brought the then 125 ft landing craft from its building place, the Tacoma Old Military Shipyard warehouse in Washington to Alaska.
With a width of 34 ft the landing craft had a capacity of 220 tons. Because of the high demand for mostly transport construction equipment, AMTS had to refuse jobs and therefore missed out on business.
Mr. Schwartz decided to stretch the vessel. He had worked as a welder during the construction of Trans-Alaska oil-pipeline and chose to cut the vessel in half then weld in the 30 ft extension in between.
After its certification at its increased capacity by the Coast Guard in April 2014, the Polar Bear's first job was to transport heavy duty construction equipment from Dutch Harbor to Iliamna, which can only be reached by water.
With a top speed of 14 knots, the landing craft is the fastest boat of its kind along Americas west coast. This is important as the drastic tides in the Alaska region, forces the vessel's crew to be on a strict time frame to deliver, unload their goods and return before the water level becomes too low and they would be stuck in one location. This would cause additional downtime and lead to a loss of business.
As an example, for the distance of 70 miles (approximately 110 km) from Nikiski to Beluga, they need to unload within four hours and 30 minutes, otherwise they would have to wait for the return trip until the next day.
In order to ensure a smooth operation, reliable engines are essential.
Mr. Schwartz, who is a long term MAN customer, chose to repower its vessel in December 2013 with the first two MAN D2862 LE421 heavy duty engines to be installed anywhere in the world. The V-twelve cylinder engines generate an output of 900 hp each at 1,800 rpm.
The D2862, like all high speed MAN V engines of the latest common rail generation, meets the U.S. EPA Tier 3 emission standard for commercial use. This requires a 20% reduction in nitrous oxides and an additional 40% reduction in particle emission compared to EPA Tier 2.
The twelve cylinder engine for heavy duty applications also sets a new benchmark for fuel consumption, at 212 g/kWh. For vessels with semi-planning hulls such as the Polar Bear, it is important to optimize the operating expenses and cost of ownership in the commercial business.
Engine being installed in Polar Bear
Mr. Schwartz is especially impressed by one new feature the engine offers.
"Now, that I can monitor the actual fuel consumption at any speed and rpm, it allows a very economical operation. Depending on the load status you can determine the engine speed with the highest fuel efficiency and therefore keep the costs low," he says.One of the reasons for the low fuel consumption is the extreme compact design and light weight of the engine.
Troy Liffrig of authorized MAN distributor Performance Diesel Inc, in Webster Texas, which was responsible for the installation of the D2862s, points out an additional benefit.
"In order to fully utilize the vessel's capacity, the engine room has to be as small as possible," he says. "With its compact design and
light weight of only 5,004 lb, the twelve cylinder diesel engine is the perfect fit and still provides an outstanding power."
MAN offers a wide range of high-speed four stroke diesel engines for use in commercial shipping.
For heavy operation – with unlimited operating hours and working up to 100% full load – such as for tugboats and other working ships, MAN Truck & Bus provides a range of outputs from 190 kW to 735 kW (258 HP up to 1,000 HP).
In medium-heavy operation (up to 4,000 hours per year at 50% full load), such as for ferries, passenger ships, and fishing boats, the range of outputs extend from 294 kW to 1,029 kW (400 HP to 1,400 HP).
In light operation (up to 1,000 hours per year at 20% full load), the MAN engine range offers efficient 6-, 8- and 12-cylinder engines from 537 kW to 1,324 kW (730 HP to 1,800 HP) for escort, ambulance, and police boats.