Harley Marine flies the green flag

By: | at 08:54 AM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

Harley Marine Services (HMS), headquartered in Seattle Washington, is reducing its carbon footprint while providing tugboat services at major U.S. ports.

Greg Zeligman, general manager for Starlight Marine Services (SMS), oversees HMS operations in the San Francisco Bay. Based in Alameda, California, he says the company continues to reduce fuel consumption and its carbon footprint and still makes money.

Zeligman provided AJOT with a tour of the Starlight Marine Services operation. SMS currently employs shore side employees and crews of up to 5 people for each of the 4 tugboats. SMS provides ship assist, tanker escort and towing services including assists for large container ships entering and departing the Port of Oakland. The company also operates one double hull bunker barge.

The Ahbra is 103 feet long and has a beam (width) of 40 feet. It can operate in 17 feet of water and displaces 624 tons.

Zeligman says the Ahbra and the company’s other vessels will soon use shore power while at dock to further reduce their carbon footprint. Currently, the technology is not available in Alameda, where the company operates. However, shore power is available at the Port of Oakland for the large containerships. Shore power is a requirement at California ports for ships and is aimed at reducing pollution. The requirement is for ocean carriers to shut off their ship engines and plug into the local utility grid for power. This reduces diesel fuel pollution at ports and surrounding communities.

AJOT’s Stas Margaronis aboard the tugboat, Ahbra Franco, at the Port of Oakland.
AJOT’s Stas Margaronis aboard the tugboat, Ahbra Franco, at the Port of Oakland.

HMS does not just reduce its carbon footprint with cleaner tug engines. The company is also reducing its carbon footprint by switching to hybrid company cars that partly run on batteries, Zeligman says. He says HMS’s corporate headquarters in Seattle utilizes solar panels and focuses on energy saving technology in the building. Onboard the Ahbra, Captain David Cadiz the Ahbra’s skipper explains the vessel’s new features starting with the bridge controls. These include electric-powered joysticks, pioneered in computer games, rather than the old mechanical steering wheel.

Captain Cadiz says: “It took some time to getting used to the new joysticks on the Ahbra.” The joysticks control the throttle and steering. On the Ahbra, the new joysticks make it easier to distinguish between increasing or decreasing power and the steering function, he says. This reduces the risk of accidentally increasing the throttle when the intention is to change course. In case the main controls fail, there are two back up systems.

However, “the Z drive propellers turn in the same direction … like an old fashioned tiller so you have to turn controls on the bridge … opposite to the direction you want to go. It takes a little getting used to.”

The Ahbra has a bollard pull capacity of 90-tons which is almost twice the capacity of many other tugs operating in San Francisco Bay, he says adding: The smaller tug is like a sports car in the way it starts and stops. The Ahbra is not as fast but it can do the pulling job of two smaller tugs.”

Another important feature on the Ahbra is the winch system. This helps with the pulling and pushing part of the tug’s work. The winches are electric, not hydraulic, making them more efficient, less fuel consuming, with less moving parts and no liquids to leak.

The electric winch system also helps compensate for pulling and pushing of vessels so that lines are less likely to snap: “The two self-tensioning winches on the fore and aft of the vessel are so powerful that the tug could almost pull itself out of the water.”

Another improvement is making sure fuel is not overflowed during transfer or fueling operations. Fuel tanks are linked together so that any accidental overflow from one tank will go into a special overflow tank and not release into the harbor.

Zeligman says that there is a constant need for training and education: “In order to stay abreast of technological changes, training for all employees is constant. Training takes place onboard the vessels in each port as well as at headquarters in Seattle where employees also hear from executives about their expectations for quality operations and constant improvements. One part of the training is working with the Pacific Maritime Institute simulator which is oriented toward tugboat operations and helps employees improve their skills.”

A 2005 graduate at California Maritime Academy (CMA) in Vallejo, California, Zeligman worked with tugboats while studying. Cruises on the CMA training ship ‘Golden Bear’ were his first opportunity to apply navigational methods. The electrically powered Global Positioning System (GPS) was turned off and students were required to plot the ships’ course at sea using the sun, stars and an old-fashioned sextant. The experiences he learned at sea were resourceful:” If something breaks down out there, there is no mechanic shop in the middle of the ocean.”

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American Journal of Transportation