The past five decades have seen vast technological advancements in the efficiency of automobiles, aircraft and other powered vehicles. But while the giants of commerce and industry have forged ahead with smarter cars and double-decker airliners, the unpowered cargo barge has remained adrift on the seas of time virtually unchanged for more than 100 years.
Oregon-based marine transport corporation Sause Bros. Inc. has found a way to bring cargo barges into the 21st-century.
Sause Bros. Ocean Towing has unveiled the Kamakani, a 438-foot deck cargo barge, at the Southern Oregon Marine shipyard in Coos Bay.
President Dale Sause explained that the Kamakani is the result of 10 years of evolution in the company’s Bay Class barges, seven of which were constructed prior to the Kamakani and are currently used as oil barges.
Prior to the Bay Class barges and the Kamakani, the average length of Sause Bros. deck cargo barges was 350 feet with a width of about 76 feet. The cost of material and labor to produce a barge was around $5 million.
The Kamakani, which will be used to transport building supplies, forest products and other materials to Hawaii, is 88 feet longer and 29 feet wider.
And it cost $20 million to manufacture.
“We consider it really leading-edge technology,” Sause said.
The Kamakani boasts an array of advancements that has Sause’s top executive feeling optimistic about the barge’s first voyage.
In the design phase, engineers at Friendship Engineering in Germany put an emphasis on computational fluid dynamics — studying the flow of water around 1,300 different hull shapes before settling on the final design.
The streamlined hull, which contains lateral slats like the wing of an airplane, reduces the barge’s drag in the water. The barge features a new hydro-lift foil for steering, which is more effective than old-style rudders. The thick, rubbery paint on the barge effectively weather-seals the Kamakani, doubling the 15-year life expectancy of its ancestors.
The expansive new deck means that Sause can replace two barges on the route to Hawaii, the Bandon and the Quinalt, which are usually towed in tandem. And still the Kamakani is capable of sailing at 12 knots — 4 knots faster than the top speed on previous barges.
When all of this adds up, the Kamakani will save Sause 60 percent of previous fuel costs or about 900 gallons of diesel every year.
“The goal is to be as fuel efficient as possible,” acknowledged Sause.
As Sause stood on the deck of the Kamakani Friday, he announced to visitors that the name means “Heavenly Wind” in native Hawaiian. The ship marks the beginning of Sause Bros. Wind Class barges, with a sister vessel — the Namakani — in the planning phase, but already Sause Bros. has its eye on the future.
“We believe there’s going to be tremendous growth on the marine highway,” Sause said.
“We believe we can do even better with the next generation (of barges). We’ve already started working on new technologies.”