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New Tug/Barge Sails the Lakes for American Steamship Company

The first bulk cargo vessel built in Erie, Pennsylvania in 40 years was recently christened and has sailed from the Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair facility to begin her service on the Great Lakes.

Christened the Ken Boothe Sr. in honor of the former general manager of Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair, the tug works in conjunction with a self-unloading barge named the Lakes Contender.  The AT/B, or "Articulated Tug/Barge" unit is designed to combine the economics of tugboat and barge operation with the speed and weather-reliability of a ship. A hallmark of this concept that makes it different from the ITB or "Integrated Tug/Barge" is the fact that both the tug and the barge are truly independent vessels able to operate successfully even if not joined together.

This tug/barge unit is operated by the American Steamship Company, a subsidiary of Chicago, Illinois-based GATX Corporation. The unit is capable of hauling 34,000 tons of cargo – mainly iron ore and coal, and some limestone – between Great Lakes ports.

“We are very pleased to add this new ATB, designed to transport dry-bulk commodities, to our fleet,” American Steamship President David W. Foster said. “This U.S.-flagged 10,700 horsepower tug and 740 foot barge…will allow ASC to more efficiently serve our customers.”


Photo credit: Michelle Hill, US Army Corps of Engineers

The articulated tug was built in 2011 at the reactivated shipyard in Erie, Pennsylvania. The yard is one of the largest on the Great Lakes. Owned by the Erie Western Port Authority, the yard is leased to SeaJon, LLC, a partnership between DonJon Marine and Seacor Holdings. The tug was selected as one of the 10 most “Significant Boats in 2011” at the 2011 International WorkBoat Show. Lakes Contender was completed in 2012.

The project, a first for Donjon Shipbuilding, was a risk since construction began without a customer. “But we thought the future of the lakes included ATBs,” said John Witte, director of the company. Taking just over two years to complete both vessels, the project added over 200 jobs to the Erie community. From an environmental standpoint, the new diesel engines tout reduced fuel consumption – by nearly 50 percent – along with lower emissions.

About Donjon Marine Co., Inc.

Based in New York and New Jersey, Donjon provides a broad spectrum of marine services, including dredging, marine salvage, heavy lift transport, tug/barge transportation, and shipbuilding and repair, among others. The company and its affiliates maintain offices throughout the Northeast, with operations spanning the globe.