McAllister and Maine Ports to design containerized ATB

Written by Nick Blenkey

Buckley-McAllister-2MAY 21, 2013—The Maine Port Authority has selected McAllister Towing & Transportation as its partner for the design of a containerized Articulated Tug Barge for the New England Marine Highway Project, according to an announcement by McAllister Towing President Buckley McAllister (left) at MARINE LOG’s Tugs & Barges 2013 Conference & Expo.

Mr. McAllister made the announcement as part of his keynote speech at the annual event in Stamford, CT. He said the Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) service would operate between Portland, ME, and Brooklyn, NY.

Prior to the award, McAllister participated in a competitive RFQ and RFP process which began December 4, 2012. This competition followed the award of $150,000 in design funding to the Maine Port Authority on September 25, 2012 as part of a cooperative agreement between the Maine Port Authority and the Maritime Administration under the auspices of the Marine Highway Program.

The Maine Port Authority and McAllister will be spending the next few months working with their team to design the containerized ATB based on a number of criteria such as shipper and itinerary requirements, cost, speed, capacity etc. The determining factor throughout this process, however, will be market demand and the requirements of the trade.

Tugs Barges

The Maine Port Authority is firmly in line with this approach. John Henshaw, Executive Director of the Port Authority recently stated that, “We always work with our shippers first. With port infrastructure design, equipment investment, terminal layout—and in this case vessel design—we always begin with the customer. We have been working with Maine shippers on this project for three years and we have more work to do. It takes time to integrate with a shipper’s supply chain and to create value utilizing any mode of transportation. The containerized ATB adds another opportunity for more competitive supply chain optimization.”

In attendance at the MARINE LOG Tugs & Barges 2013 Conference and Expo were (from left to right) Patrick R. Arnold, Director of Operations and Business Development, Maine Port Authority, Buckley McAllister, President, McAllister Towing & Transportation, John H. Henshaw, Executive Director, Maine Port Authority, and Charles Cumming, In-house Counsel, McAllister Towing & Transportation.

The design of the Containerized ATB is expected in the near future as the two parties work with the various stakeholders, shippers, and operational partners to assess the needs of the service and elements of the design. Both McAllister and the Maine Port Authority remain confident that taking time on the front end of this project will pay dividends in ensuring the service remains viable once started.

The initial design phase is expected to complete over the summer months and will culminate with the submission of a design to MARAD on September 25, 2013.

According to the RFQ issued by the the Maine Port Authority (MPA), the ATB will serve between the Portland, ME, International Marine Terminal (IMT) and the Port of New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ), with a Southern New England port in between. The requirement for a new vessel design, specifically a containerized ATB, is due, in part, to two factors:

1. The absence of a cost-effective Jones Act container vessel to operate on the service, and
2. The inability of a tug-and-tow container-on-barge service to capture customers, due to inconsistency of service and slow transit times.

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