New Illinois Marine Towing drydock Atlas on the Illinois Waterway at Lemont, Ill. (Photo by John Contos, IMT Lemont Shipyard)
Company News

Illinois Marine Towing Blesses New Drydock

Illinois Marine Towing (IMT) recently celebrated the blessing of the new state-of-the-art drydock Atlas and the formal launch of the new mv. Midwest Challenger.

Crews from IMT, along with their partners in the endeavor, attended the May 2 ceremony in Lemont, Ill., 35 miles outside of Chicago. Jason Fowler, safety specialist, served as master of ceremony. Mike Blaske, general manager, provided welcome comments. Chaplain Anne Reed gave the invocation and the blessing for both the Midwest Challenger and Atlas, and Del Wilkins, president, gave opening remarks. Capt. Carl Aldrich presented the flags for the Midwest Challenger, and John Contos, shipyard manager, presented the flags for the drydock before Blake and Wilkins gave closing remarks.

To kick things off, Fowler went over the safety guidelines for the shipyard, making note of the protective barriers put in place for a safe working environment and for attendees of the blessings to take into account as they toured the facility. Blaske then gave the introductory remarks, thanking those in attendance, and provided an overview of the Atlas and Midwest Challenger.

The new drydock on the Illinois Waterway will serve as an important resource between the Great Lakes Region and the Inland Waterways. Accommodating towboats up to 165 feet, it will also be utilized for barge repair work, with a berth capable of fitting and lifting tank, hopper and deck barges up to 200 feet in length, or 230 feet, depending on the barge framing.

“The new drydock has not only increased our capacity, but it also allows us to complete our jobs with more efficiency,” Blaske said. “We have calculated our crew can be 40 percent more efficient with their jobs utilizing this new setup.”

The drydock location has been in service since 1958, with IMT rebuilding the existing dock to accommodate the Atlas and increase its capacity. “We can pick up just about anything now, from a 200- by 56-foot tank barge to any vessel that is less than 165 feet long—roughly 2,300 long tons of capability,” he said.

Constructed at LAD Louisiana Services and built to Pearlson Shiplift blueprint specification, the drydock is 200 feet by 56 feet and outfitted with a direct transfer system. A defining attribute in the design of the drydock is the shiplift, enabling work to be done flush with the main dock. Not only does this allow for easier access to vessels in and out of repair—with a built-in rail transfer system—but it also provides a safer working environment for crews accessing the area from the main facility. IMT visited the LAD yard three times during the build for inspection.

The mv. Midwest Challenger was built by Nichols Boat Company (Photo by Ross Lotspeich, Canal Barge Company)
The mv. Midwest Challenger was built by Nichols Boat Company (Photo by Ross Lotspeich, Canal Barge Company)

Mv. Midwest Challenger

At the same time, IMT welcomed the new mv. Midwest Challenger to its operation—a 1,368 hp. towboat to be used in the Channahon Fleet. “This new vessel will allow us to move more barges and be nimbler and more efficient with our operations,” Blaske said.

Constructed by Nichols Boat Company in Greenville, Miss., the vessel is 65 feet by 24 feet by 8 feet, with an eye level of 27 feet and a 7,600-gallon fuel capacity. HS Marine Propulsion provided the two four-blade, 62- by 55-inch stainless steel propellers. Propulsion is generated by two Mitsubishi S6R engines, with two Twin Disc reduction gears. The engine is cooled by Fernstrum Gridcoolers. Custom Hydraulics outfitted the steering system with the engine alarms provided by M&I Electric. On the deck are two 40-ton winches from Wintech, roller chocks from Wintech and kevels and buttons from Nabrico. Canal Barge Company’s mv. Merrick Jones and mv. Lizzie Lane Peus towed the vessel from Nichols to IMT.

Del Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing. (Photo courtesy of Black Label Photography)
Del Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing. (Photo courtesy of Black Label Photography)

In his opening remarks, Wilkins touted the confidence of IMT’s ownership that made this investment possible, along with the economic impact the inland waterway system has, not only on the Chicagoland area, but on commerce in general across the United States.“I want to thank Merritt and David Lane, their families and the board of directors of both Canal Barge Company and Illinois Marine Towing,” he said. “This is a celebratory event that carries profound significance, inaugurating the successful completion of the construction phase and the beginning of its active service.”

Wilkins then went on to speak of the impact the drydock and new vessel will have—as part of the intermodal transportation network in the U.S.

“Last year, the Chicagoland area alone moved 30-40 million tons of freight on the Illinois Waterway, ” Wilkins said. “This is a part of a broader impact the brown-water industry has on U.S. commerce. The U.S. moves more commerce than any other country in the world. Investments like this allow for that competitive advantage, and the inland sector accounts for up to 15 percent of intercity freight. With this $10 million drydock investment and addition of the Midwest Challenger, IMT is a contributing factor to that success.”

Wilkins added that maintaining a strong workforce is an integral part of that success and that being able to operate and maintain the equipment necessary to keep freight moving is imperative to growth. “I want to especially thank our crews, shipyard workers and shoreside teammates who make this engine tick every day,” he said. “Without you, we are nothing.”

Following the program remarks, the crew showcased the operational capability of the drydock by lowering the Midwest Challenger with the shiplift. This enabled IMT to demonstrate the speed at which the new system can operate—an example of the operational efficiency improvements the company expect to gain from the new equipment. Once lowered, Aldrich and Contos presented flags for both the Midwest Challenger and Atlas. Reed then provided the final blessings, and those in attendance toured the decks of the Midwest Challenger.

In closing remarks, Blaske and Wilkins thanked all who attended and, as a token to a day of celebration and remembrance, provided everyone with two IMT engraved whiskey glasses and capped the day off with a company gathering at Wrigley Field as the Cubs took on the Brewers.

Illinois Marine Towing is a wholly owned subsidiary of Canal Barge Company, providing towing, fleeting and shipyard services along the Illinois Waterway.

Caption for top photo: New Illinois Marine Towing drydock Atlas on the Illinois Waterway at Lemont, Ill.  (Photo by John Contos, IMT Lemont Shipyard)

For more photos from the ceremony, please click on the slideshow below:

Canal_113 Canal_Blaske Canal_chaplain Canal_022 Canal_067 Canal_091 Canal_090 Canal_129 Canal_130 Canal_020
L to R: Mike Blaske, general manager, IMT; Jamie Hemming, marine superintendent, IMT; Del Wilkins, president, IMT; Troy Remy, vice president of human resources, Canal Barge; John Contos, manager, IMT Lemont Shipyard; Jason Fowler, safety system specialist, IMT; Juan Guevara, shipyard services manager, IMT Lemont Shipyard; and the IMT Lemont Shipyard team. (Photo courtesy of Black Label Photography)