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U.S. Shipyards Bidding for Construction of Hybrid River Containerships

hybrid container river barge for Mississippi
Hybrid barge will be lightweight and powered to to increase speed on the rivers (APCT)

Published Dec 23, 2021 7:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

American Patriot Holdings is moving forward with a concept for a hybrid river container vessel that would link the new container terminal under development for Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana with Memphis, Tennessee via transportation on the Mississippi River. It is part of an overall effort to expand America’s waterway transportation as an alternative to truck-based transportation of containers. The design is for a highly efficient container vessel that could operate at twice the speed of current river vessels.

The design concept, known as the Exoskeleton Structure, developed by Naviform Consulting and Research, places the vessel’s structure outside the hull to maximize cargo carrying capacity while reducing the vessel’s weight. The container barge’s hull design and power requirements were optimized through model testing conducted by Wartsila and Van Schneider. The design incorporates Naviform’s patented minimum wake bow to minimize the wake at high speeds without contributing to shore erosion.

“These vessels will be the most technologically-advanced vessels in U.S Inland waterways, with numerous redundancies to ensure safe operations in all weather and river conditions including high and low water,” said Joe Gehegan, an Executive Member of APH.

The vessels, which will measure 595 feet in length with a beam of 106 feet, will operate a maximum of draft of nine to ten feet for easy river navigation. Their capacity will be 1,864 TEU or a payload of 10,000 LT.

Among the other innovations for inland river transportation is a propulsion plant designed to maintain speed against the river’s 4 to 5 mph current. They will be powered by Wartsila dual-fuel generators each with 2880 kW powering a total of five Von Schneider thrusters. Three will be positioned aft and two forward with a combined horsepower of 15,450. The power plant is designed to operate on LNG but can be adapted to methanol or other alternative fuels and will be fully automated. Dynamic positioning equipment, surveillance, and navigational systems will control the ships including making it possible for the vessels to operate with straight-line navigation without the customary flanking during southbound river transits.

APH issued a request for proposal (RFP) to seven U.S. shipyards. It calls for the construction of four vessels and options for up to four additional vessels. Bids are due by February 11, 2022, with the awarding of the construction contract planned for April 1. 

The first four vessels will initially operate between the Louisiana Gulf Gateway Terminal in Plaquemines Parish and a new container terminal in Memphis. They are expected to begin service in April 2024. The hybrid design is the first of two designs that American Patriot Container Transport plans to operate on the Mississippi and its tributaries.