BY RAMONA DU HOUX
December 10, 2012
The Maine Port Authority has been awarded a $150,000 federal grant to pay for design work for a new type of container vessel that could bring domestic coastwise cargo service to the International Marine Terminal (IMT) in Portland.
“The key to bringing a New York service to Portland is a new tug-barge design that will suit the needs of Maine shippers,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “It would cost between 1/3 and 1/2 what a more traditional container ship would cost and use fewer crew, thus reducing capital and operational costs that could then be passed on to shippers.”
This spring the company that was providing regular container cargo service to Portland announced they would cease operations. Two days later Pingree hosted a tour of the IMT for U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. She told Matsuda that a new tug-barge design was the best option for starting a service that would move cargo between the Port of New York/New Jersey and Portland and urged him to approve federal funding for the design.
Pingree said the design, called an articulated tug-barge (ATB), has already been shown to be effective for moving oil and gas. Those vessels are built at U.S. shipyards like Washburn and Doughty in East Boothbay, and Pingree said she’s hopeful a container version could also be built in Maine.
Pingree said the idea would be to restore regular container service between Portland and the Port of New York/New Jersey. Under the Jones Act, any vessel servicing a route between U.S. ports has to be American built and crewed by American seamen. The Maine Port Authority plans to partner with a private company to design and build a new vessel to service this route.
“This is a design concept that we think can bring container service to many more ports along the U.S. coasts and using this federal funding in concert with a private sector partner brings us a lot closer to turning the concept into a reality,” said John Henshaw, Executive Director of the Maine Port Authority.
“The attention Congresswoman Pingree has brought to this project and her meeting with Administrator Matsuda has really helped us move it forward,” Henshaw said.