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Powerhouse tug design proposed for Indian waterways

Thu 05 Oct 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Powerhouse tug design proposed for Indian waterways
Powerhouse tug and barge design

A powerhouse tug and barge design offers capital cost and safety advantages over traditional ATBs for Asian congested and shallow waterway bulk transportation

Independent naval architect Mizan Majumder has developed an innovative design for an articulated tug and barge (ATB) combination for inland and shallow water bulk transportation. This concept was designed for an India-Bangladesh crossing project that may progress over the next few years. Mr Majumder’s powerhouse tug and barge system is arranged to give its master a good line of sight, which is an advantage when navigating in shallow river systems and congested waterways.

Both tug and barge have propulsion units, with the barge installed with an electric propulsion system. The powerhouse tug would be connected at the bow of the barge and would be fitted with a suitable combination of generators and power packs and have an azimuthing thruster, said Mr Majumder.

Those two features represent “basic differences with traditional system,” he told Tug Technology & Business. “The barge will have electrical propulsion gears controlled from the tug and the propulsion power will primarily come from the tug, which acts as a power-pack.” “There would be reduced fuel costs due to higher propulsive efficiency,” Mr Majumder said.

Secondly, the tug will be connected at the bow of the vessel rather than at the aft of the vessel, which is the usual position in a traditional ATB unit. Other technical advantages include reduced tug-barge transitional losses and a smaller and simpler articulation system.

“There would be reduced fuel costs due to higher propulsive efficiency”

Mr Majumder claimed that the concept has greater flexibility and other advantages over conventional ATBs. One is the reduced operational downtime for system repair and maintenance, since the propulsion package is simpler. This also lengthens lifecycles of the propulsion packages. In addition, there is no complicated pin connection to operate between the powerhouse tug and barge.

This design also provides redundancy as operations can continue “even if either of the tug’s or barge’s propulsion system fails” Mr Majumder explained. In addition, the generator sets would be containerised, so they could be easily replaced.

There are commercial advantages as the capital expenditure for a powerhouse tug and barge combination would be less than a traditional ATB, because construction costs are lower. The naval architect also said that fewer crew would be required, which lowers operating costs by as much as 40% compared with comparable ATBs or ships.

With its combination of safety, redundancy, operating and capital cost advantages over traditional ATBs, this powerhouse tug and barge design will be suitable for many Asian inland waterway transportation projects, Mr Majumder said. It can also be applied to existing vessel and new construction projects. It has been proposed for a potential India-Bangladesh shallow water cargo crossing project that, as Mr Majumder said, should be progressed in the years to come

Key PTB advantages:

Operational Flexibility:

  • Reduced operational downtime.
  • No complicated pin system.
  • Less maintenance.
  • Containerised generator sets.
  • Propulsion redundancy.
  • Better line-of-sight for navigation.

Commercial Advantages:

  • Low initial investment.
  • Reduced crew requirements.
  • Can combine multiple tugs and barges.
  • Higher propulsive efficiency.
  • Flexible fuel options for generators.
  • Elimination of tug assistance costs.
  • Reduced lifecycle costs.

Technical Advantages:

  • Maximisation of propulsive gear size.
  • Reduced tug-barge transitional losses.
  • Improved design of barge stern.
  • Smaller and simpler articulation system.
  • Applied to both existing vessels and new constructions.
  • Ease of environmental compliance.
  • Barge can carry fuel for increased endurance.
  • Both barge and tug have independent propulsion systems.
  • Azimuth system on the tug can also work as thruster.


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