Alaska Marine Lines Upgrading Its Rail Barges

Alaska Marine Lines says four of its rail barges will receive new piping and ballast systems designed by Glosten with installation by Meridian Marine Industries.

“The rail barges are hitting 20 years of service and were in need of some upgrades,” explains John Maketa, T-115 Port Engineer in Seattle. “These barges are the backbone of our rail operations and Central Alaska service. The updates will prepare them for another 20 years of service.”

Two barges, the Anchorage Provider and Whittier Provider, already have the new piping systems installed. The Fairbanks Provider is scheduled for updates in August and the Nana Provider sometime next year. Using a patented rack system, the rail barges transport containers and rail cars from Seattle to Whittier, Alaska where the rail cars are rolled onto the train tracks.

The ballast systems are a network of valves, pipes and pumps below deck on all Alaska Marine Lines rail barges. The tanks are filled with fresh water to trim the barge before sailing. With six 1,200-ton ballast tanks on each barge, a total weight of 2,400 tons of water is moved between tanks to trim the barge for efficient towing.

Each rail barge is receive a new ballast system, including all valves and actuators, as well as system modifications to add ballast water treatment systems in the future. New wave wall doors will be installed to protect the generators, which will be removed for complete inspection and replacement of worn parts. Rebuilt valves in the spill containment system with modifications will allow inspection and repair in the future. Fuel tanks will be cleaned and refurbished, and all ballast tanks will be recoated. Robots will remove excessive hull paint that has built up over 20 years of paint jobs. 

A robot removes old paint from the hull of the Anchorage Provider at Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock in Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Alaska Marine Lines)

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