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MTU Power Improves Performance of Tugboats

By The Maritime Executive 2014-10-16 19:08:00

MTU, a Rolls-Royce Power Systems company, and the world’s-leading manufacturer of diesel engines and propulsion systems for ships and heavy land, rail and defense vehicles, was chosen to repower five Shaver Transportation tugboats with MTU Series 4000 marine propulsion engines. Beginning with the repower of the 1997-built Dechutes with a first generation Series 4000, the caliber of Shaver Transportation’s fleet has remained cutting-edge by working closely with MTU and its regional distributor, Pacific Power Products.

Shaver Transportation is one of the oldest, most established water freight operations in the Pacific Northwest, and has led river-borne transportation on the Colombia-Snake River System since 1880. Unlike most tugs, Shaver Transportation’s fleet excels in both hauling and ship assist for bulk commodity barging from the farming communities in eastern Washington and Idaho for international export.

As their once top-of-the-line vessels began to spend more time in maintenance and less time on the river, Shaver Transportation looked to Pacific Power Products and MTU for engine repower options.

“We needed engines that were not only capable of being efficient and high performing in a short haul scenario, but we also needed dependability, reliability and fuel efficiency for long haul work,” said Steve Shaver, president of Shaver Transportation.

MTU’s Series 4000 marine propulsion engines meet the duel demands of their tugs while improving reliability and efficiency.

Proven Durability

Today, the Shaver Transportation fleet is principally powered by MTU engines and boasts the largest, most modern and most powerful ship assist tugs on the scenic but treacherous Columbia River, and some of the cleanest, most reliable and fuel-efficient fleets in the industry. Each of its upriver line tugs can push up to four barges. At their maximum load of 15,000 tons of cargo, their hauls measure about 650 feet long and 84 feet wide, which is comparable to the length of two football fields. 

A tug’s sail, or the height of its air draft, is nearly 30 feet high – the height of a three-story building. Enormous in scale, each of these mammoth hauls can face wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour created by atmospheric pressure differentials that cause a wind tunnel effect in the Columbia River Gorge. Thanks to the advanced engineering of MTU engines, the Shaver fleet faces these violent winds while carefully maneuvering the heavy flow and steep gradient that occurs in the Columbia River Basin.

“The MTU engines are reliable. We don’t have the concern of running them hard with heavy tows and heavy winds that we did with the engines they replaced,” said Rob Rich, vice president of marine services for Shaver Transportation.

A Family Affair

For five generations, the Shaver family has prided itself on having the most modern and powerful fleet of ship assist tugs on the Columbia River. Still family owned and managed, each potential repower is evaluated to determine potential return on investment. The ultimate cost of the vessel in operation, the state of the existing equipment, the cost of the repower, and the ultimate improvements in uptime and fuel and oil savings are examined closely to ensure Shaver Transportation’s profit is maximized on each repower.

Taking the leap to transition to MTU with the initial repower of the Deschutes was a risk for Shaver. Estimating a five percent fuel savings, the company weighed the upfront cost of the repower with the potential long-term savings. After introducing the first pair of MTU Series 4000 engines to their fleet, Shaver has experienced 32 percent fuel savings in addition to an enormous 90 percent decrease in lube oil consumption, with comparable horsepower over the engine that was removed. 

With the original engines, the Deschutes used upwards of 300 gallons of lubrication oil on a seven day trip, and with the new MTU engines, the tow only uses 12 to 15 gallons maximum. Nothing in the tow but the engines changed. The propulsor, (Z drive), and propellers stayed the same, and the tug was tasked with the same work, on the same route.

The project’s success created a domino effect in the Shaver fleet. The repowers of the Dechutes and sister ship Willamette lead to the repower of a number of older vessels including the Portland, the Clearwater, and the Cascades. This cadence will be continued with the Umatilla and the Vancouver in addition to opting for MTU power in their new vessel builds, starting with the recently constructed Summer S.

Trusted Allies

MTU’s Series 4000 marine engines offer Shaver Transportation less downtime due to less frequent repair intervals. The original engines required intensive maintenance to components such as the cylinder heads, turbo chargers and injector replacements to keep the vessels in operable condition. Wanting to extend maintenance intervals, Shaver and Pacific Power worked side-by-side to customize a maintenance schedule that would help decrease vessel downtime without compromised performance. As a result, the Deshutes and Willamete have reached 30,000 operating hours before engine overhaul, surpassing the predicted 24,000 hours by a large margin. Subsequent repowers are also well on their way to similar performance.

“Pacific has done a great job supporting Shaver. As we like to say, sales sells the first engine and service sells the rest,” said Jeff Sherman, MTU marine sales manager. “Shaver is a family business and we like to treat them as family at MTU, and support them in any way they need it. Pacific is complementary in working with customers in that respect.”

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.