Sunday 14 July 2013

Tanker Barge DOUBLE SKIN 214 & Towboat ROANOKE

  As per Murphy's Law, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". Despite all the modern and sophisticated equipment accessible to ship captains these days, accidents happen and though in many cases the impact may appear minimal, in others, the outcome is catastrophic. There's been many lesson learned and specification changes alone resulting from the grounding of the super tanker EXXON VALDEZ in Alaska back in 1989. Such as the phase out of single hulled crude oil carrying tankers which went into effect in 2010 and petroleum product carrying barges in the US by 2015.
Though it may seem like an odd name, DOUBLE SKIN 214 is quite a unique tanker barge because it has a double hull or 'double skin'. A double skin is a type of hull where the bottom and sides of the barge have two complete layers of watertight hull surface which basically means if the outer hull is breached, the inner one keeps the oil product cargo in place. Being guided by her towboat ROANOKE, my friend Jim of Salisbury, Maryland snapped the fully loaded DOUBLE SKIN 214 along the Wicomico River last April. The 297.5'x54'x13' DOUBLE SKIN 214 was built in 2012 and is owned by The Vane Brothers Company of Baltimore, MD and according to their website, of their fleet of 45 barges, 40 are currently double skins. Also snapped in Salisbury by Jim are DOUBLE SKIN 216 off-loading and the 97' towboat ROANOKE which was built in 1966 in Houma, Louisiana for Interstate Oil Transport of Philadelphia, PA, and 1998 was acquired by The Vane Brothers.
  It's comforting to see that The Vane Brothers aren't 'so vain' when it comes to the prevention of a potential economic and environmental disaster in the Chesapeake and Wicomico River regions thanks to their decision to introduce double skin barges prior to the mandatory date even though their requirement to do so, came to be as a direct result of something that badly went wrong 26 years earlier.
  A similar catastrophic event occurred last Saturday in the small Quebec community of Lac-Megantic where a runaway train which consisted of 72 rail cars filled with crude oil from North Dakota bound for a refinery in New Brunswick, derailed and exploded destroying almost every building downtown and killed 33 people to date, with 17 souls still unaccounted for. The explosion was so great, anyone nearby would have been vapourized from the heat of the fire. Of the crude oil that wasn't burning, it flooded the streets and eventually poured in the nearby lake. It doesn't matter where the crude came from, it could have easily have been from Alberta's oil patch or tar sands projects, but what's shocking is that regardless of where it's leaving the ground, the refineries to convert the oil into usable products are thousands of kilometres or miles away. As the oil boon is definitely on here, no new oil refineries have been built in Canada since 1984, and 1976 in the US. Therefore, if no pipeline is available, transporting crude oil in outdated pressurized black rail cars across half the continent seems to be the only other option, an option that puts every community at risk, if by chance something that can go wrong, REALLY goes wrong like the shock and aw so many have experienced this week in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The attached Nat'lGeo link about the disaster and more is worth the read too.
Hope you're all enjoying your summer or winter for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, or NOT! PS: Thanks again Jim for the photos.


  1. Is the Vane Brothers company transporting Bakken crude oil from the Port of Albany?

  2. It does matter where the crude oil comes from. It turns out that the North Dakota crude is more volatile than any other crude produced before it. Part of the reason is because it is produced from fracked wells.