October 9, 2017
BY H. NELSON SPENCER
The mv. Brenda L. Murray II, a new towboat owned by Murray American Transportation, the river shipping arm of Murray Energy, will celebrate its first year of operation in October. Since being put into service last year, the vessel has been running on the upper Ohio River, moving coal from Murray Energy mines in West Virginia to utility customers in the area.
Murray Energy is a large employer in the Wheeling, W.Va., vicinity, operating two coal mines: the Ohio County mine in Benwood, W.Va., and the Marshall County mine just south in Moundsville, W.Va. Overall, the company, headquartered just west of Wheeling in St. Clairsville, Ohio, is the nation’s largest privately held coal producer and the nation’s largest underground coal mining company. Its river operations were purchased in late 2013 as part of a larger acquisition of five coal mines in West Virginia from CONSOL Energy Inc.
Unlike the christening of the mv. Michael T. Somales in 2015 that doubled as a surprise wedding for the boat’s namesake, Murray welcomed the new vessel into its fleet at a small christening ceremony July 4 on the Wheeling riverfront, attended by family and friends. The celebration coincided with a concert by the Wheeling symphony and a fireworks display sponsored by Murray Energy.
The new boat is named Brenda L. Murray II in honor of the family matriarch and wife of company founder, president and CEO Robert E. Murray. A sister vessel, to be named Robert E. Murray II in Robert Murray’s honor, is slated for delivery in October 2018. Marine Builders Inc., Utica, Ind., built the Brenda and has the Robert under way.
The Brenda L. Murray II measures 100 by 32 by 10 feet and has an operating draft of 8.5 feet. It has 2,680 hp. provided by twin CAT 3512 diesel engines from Whayne Power Systems. The vessel’s Twin Disc MGX5600, 7:1 reduction gears and Twin Disc EC300 control system are from Great Lakes Power Products and its 84- by 78-inch wheels, which turn on 8-inch shafts, are from Sound Propeller. Steering is accomplished by a Scott Industries hydraulic system with Kobelt controls.
Built into the hull are fuel tanks with the capacity to hold a total of 23,000 gallons and potable water tanks that can hold a total of 17,000 gallons. There are five staterooms in the deckhouse; a fully furnished galley; and comfortable lounge. Ship’s service is provided by two 99 kw. John Deere generators.
Large, slanted windows and a split console in the wheelhouse are designed to give the pilot unobstructed visibility, which encompasses the forward fleet and work decks. The pilothouse is equipped with the latest navigation and communication equipment, including Furuno radar and Rose Point charting. On deck are a Schoellhorn-Albrecht capstan and two 40-ton Patterson winches. There are also two 30-ton Patterson upright winches that are placed mid-ship to help with steering and tow integrity.
The decision to build new vessels was driven by several factors, said Somales, president of Murray American Transportation. One was Subchapter M, but “changing markets and the escalating, high cost of rebuilding older boats” were factors, too, he said. “We had reached a point where new construction made better sense for capital spending.”