IMX Session Celebrates Repowering Of Four Campbell Transportation Vessels

One of the highlights of the annual Inland Marine Expo (IMX) is hearing from leaders within the maritime industry on innovative and intentional ways they are positioning their businesses for long-term success. At this year’s virtual IMX, attendees heard how Houston, Pa.-based Campbell Transportation Company is repowering four vessels in its fleet.

The session, titled “Modernization of a Towboat Fleet to Better Serve the Inland Market,” featured Mike Pilgrim, director of vessel maintenance for Campbell Transportation, and Tim Callahan, president of Callahan Marine Consulting.

Pilgrim said two factors really paved the way for the project. First, Campbell had a number of vessels due for major overhaul. And second, grant funding was available from the Port of Pittsburgh to aid in vessel repower projects. The grant program dates to a 2013 award of $12 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the Port of Pittsburgh. In the seven years since, the port has partnered with companies in the maritime industry on more than 40 repower projects.

“We looked at our options, and Campbell Transportation had used the Port of Pittsburgh’s grant program in the past,” Pilgrim said. “We ran some models to see if it would fit these boats and what we were wanting to do with them. It did, so we looked at repower rather than rebuilding the EMDs.”

The four vessels in question, the mvs. Connie K, M.J. Monahan, James R. Morehead and Tommy H, were all originally powered by expansive and imposing Tier 1, 12-cylinder EMD 12-645 diesel engines.

Pilgrim said, when the boats were first built in the mid-1990s, they were designed to operate on the Kanawha River in West Virginia, pushing nine barges.

“When we acquired them three to four years ago, we started running the Ohio and dropping down as low as Cairo with them,” Pilgrim said. “In pool water, we’d push 15, but as the water levels got up and navigation had a strain on it, we’d have to drop the tow size down to compensate for it.”

So when the four vessels all came up for major overhaul, and with access to the Port of Pittsburgh grant funding, Campbell saw a perfect opportunity to upgrade vessels that were already built to last.

Campbell hired Enterprise Marine’s Electra Shipyard to handle the conversion from the EMDs to new Tier 3 Caterpillar 3512 engines. The Shearer Group did the engineroom and stern redesigns, and Callahan Marine Consulting provided the project management. The vessels also received Twin Disc MGX5600 gears from Sewart Supply, new Sound propellers in kort nozzles from Rice Nozzles and new steering systems from Rio Marine.

The smaller footprint of the Caterpillar main engines opened up the enginerooms aboard the vessels significantly.

The project also involved swapping some fuel tanks for freshwater tanks, thanks to the more fuel-efficient Tier 3 engines and their current operational profile.

As part of the IMX session, Tim Callahan, president of Callahan Marine Consulting, guided attendees through a virtual tour of the vessels’ engineroom, highlighting the extensive modifications that took place.

“We gained a lot of space in the engineroom by putting in the smaller engines with the same or greater horsepower and a little better fuel efficiency,” Callahan said.

Callahan praised the Campbell team for its vision in modernizing and standardizing the four boats.

“They really put their minds to it to make it happen,” Callahan said. “And they came out to be a really nice product, in my opinion.”

Callahan also praised the team at Electra Shipyard, along with all the other suppliers that helped convert and outfit the four Campbell vessels.

“It was teamwork,” Callahan said. “It was total collaboration, everybody together. One thing we achieved on these vessels was zero incidents.”

Callahan and Pilgrim both mentioned challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and tropical weather moving in from the Gulf of Mexico. Despite those challenges, the project marched forward.

“It was a really good team effort, and the boats came out nice and sound, so they should work many years heavy maintenance-free,” Callahan said.

The mvs. Connie K and M.J. Monahan are already back in service, with the James R. Morehead and Tommy H to follow.