Barge improvements allow Star Marine more access, cleaner marine transportation options

Posted 9/10/20

 

While looking out at Port Townsend Bay, there’s a good chance you’ve laid eyes upon Star Marine’s 200-foot-long barge, Kashega.

But you may have noticed a new addition, …

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Barge improvements allow Star Marine more access, cleaner marine transportation options

Posted

 

While looking out at Port Townsend Bay, there’s a good chance you’ve laid eyes upon Star Marine’s 200-foot-long barge, Kashega.

But you may have noticed a new addition, a massive, 60-foot long, 14-foot wide, big green ramp, which the owners say is set to be a total game-changer. 

Gregg Magnuson, the president of Star Marine — the tug boating outfit that owns the barge — said there’s nothing else on the Puget Sound that matches the broad capabilities of their barge now that they’ve added the ramp.

And while the seemingly simple addition of a ramp seems slightly lackluster on paper, consider first the fact that this isn’t just any old ramp, it’s a connection to an untapped market.

About a mile northwest of Orcas Island sits Waldron Island and on the isle sits thousands of tons of timber in need of harvesting.

The problem is, Waldron doesn’t have the waterfront facilities to accommodate a barge hefty enough to haul the massive loads of logs from the island to market. Enter Magnuson’s new and improved barge.

By constructing the ramp for their barge, Magnuson explained, one of Star Marine’s tugs can push the barge up close to shore and then lower the ramp, which is heavy enough to hold the vessel in place while heavy machinery rolls on and loads her up.

“We specifically built it for getting to Waldron Island because there was no way for people to get the logs off the island, since log rafting isn’t allowed anymore,” Magnuson said. “We’re working for people that have small forestlands; it’s a crop and they need to harvest it.”

Historically, logs in hard-to-reach locations, or islands without a deepwater marina or dock, would need to be rafted and towed to their delivery locations. This old process, in addition to being disallowed today, came with all sorts of drawbacks.

Once unloaded at a mill, Magnuson said, the saltwater-soaked logs would eventually cause corrosion to the mill’s equipment and subsequently force them to cover the costs of more frequent maintenance of their processing systems.

“It’s really hard on the machinery,” He said. “The sawmills are really happy having their logs hauled out of water. One mill told us they’d save a million dollars a year in the repairs every year from salt water.” 

Barging is not just easier on the mills, either: Waterborne transportation methods are traditionally one of the most fuel-efficient means of shipping cargo. According to Samuel Ewer Eastman’s 1981 publication — rivetingly titled “Fuel Efficiency in Freight Transportation” — barges are the way to go if you want to haul a lot of heavy stuff a long distance.

In examining the average miles per gallon per ton of cargo, Eastman noted, the average barge clocks in at
514 miles. The closest competitor, railways, showed 202 miles and the least efficient, highway shipping, showed 59 miles per gallon, per ton.

As opposed to rafting the logs, loading them onto the barge with a ramp also limits the amount of pollutants entering the Salish Sea in the form of bark and other log debris.

“It’s a problem because the bark falls off the logs in the rafting area, and there’s been numerous bays that just have excessive amounts of bark in them,” Magnuson explained. “It lays on the bottom and it doesn’t break down because there’s such a high concentration of it.”

Despite citing this fact, Magnuson said he doesn’t necessarily call himself an environmentalist. Instead, he said, he prefers a balance between nature and industry.

“I like to take care of the world that God gave us; that’s our responsibility, to not waste these resources,” Magnuson said. “But I like industry and I like business. I think people should build things and harvest crops.”

While Star Marine is now making twice-weekly trips up to Waldron Island to load up with logs, it isn’t just timber harvest operations that they are able to now accommodate.

“We can deliver heavy items to places where there’s no dock,” he said. “If you can roll it on and roll it off our barge, we can move it. Weight is no problem, you can drive up the ramp with a 100-ton load on wheels.” 

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