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Thread: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

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    highseasmechanic's Avatar
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    Default Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    Having sailed on both types of vessels over the past few years, I am starting to think that perhaps the ATB's are reaching the point of diminishing returns in regards to size. While I see the the attraction from the companies point of view in regards to cost of ownership and crewing, I believe there is also a downfall in performance. I think the ATB arrangement is a viable set up for smaller parcels of cargo up to 200,000 bbl. However, it seems that lately these larger 300,000 bbl+ ATB's are not living up to the speed and fuel consumption expectations. It could be a design problem, yet when looking at the power requirements between a 50,000 DWT, 330,000 bbl product tanker and the equivalent ATB, it is quite a noticeable difference. Furthermore, you are asking to do more work with less people, pushing the envelope on OPA 90 hours. I know many of you have worked on these type of vessels, so I would like to open this topic up for discussion more for curiosities sake.
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    NewEngr is offline gCaptain Crew
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    Having sailed on real ships ranging from small product carriers to VLCCs and in between, along with a medium-sized ATB (150,000 bbl), my experiences might be a bit different as most seem to stick to one end of the spectrum or the other. That said, I enjoyed the ATB only to the extent that the crew was great to work with. The work, not so much. The shorter rotations are needed to prevent burnout. I chose not to return there as my pay was nearly the same compared to a new chemical tanker, and a real ship as well. Believe me, companies that run ATBs know every loophole that justifies their existence, but also expects the crew to treat the vessel as a bona fide ship. Their answer for questions about how to accomplish this with half the crew (10 I believe) was that "it's half the size of a ship. There. Problem solved". The oil majors seemed to be a bit hesitant to charter ATBs but this company tried to put their best foot forward and convince them they were one and the same. Do ATBs serve a purpose? Sure. Are they equal to a real ship? No. I have sailed through the middle of a hurricane on a ship, been through the Bering Sea on a ship, and also the North Atlantic in February. We rocked and rolled, came home with a few stories, but in no way did I feel worried or concerned for my safety or for the vessel. I can not say the same for an ATB. They exist only because the USCG allows them (who's pockets were/are lined nobody will ever know). Europe hosts thousands of small coastal ships, feeding cargo from one port to another, or sometimes from one dock to another in the same port. Yet they choose to use ships and not ATBs or even old-school wired units.

    When a 350,000 bbl product tanker needs a 9,000 kW engine to make 14.5 knots, using 32 MT of 380/day, and a 150,000 bbl ATB product tank barge needs 14,000 kW (two engines) to make 11 knots, using 44 MT of 380/day, it's clear to see the cost advantage of a tankship based on fuel savings and maintenance reductions alone. Assuming the owner of an ATB has lower P&I premiums due to the unmanned barge status, and also half, or slightly less greater than half, of the crew over a tankship (also lowering P&I premiums) I still feel the cost/benefit ratio works in favor of a tankship, and likely in not as great of a timespan as you would think. Then again, when is the last time you worked for a tanker company that had forward-thinking beyond the end of the business day? No companies seem to look years into the future, but only immediately, and what provides an immediate return for the shareholders.
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    The way I understand it the regulatory cost of an unlimited vessel vs a limited vessel is also vastly different. If MARAD truly cared about a us merchant marine they would try to decrease those regulatory costs so it was economically viable to run coastal ships instead of ATBs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Capt. Phoenix
    The way I understand it the regulatory cost of an unlimited vessel vs a limited vessel is also vastly different. If MARAD truly cared about a us merchant marine they would try to decrease those regulatory costs so it was economically viable to run coastal ships instead of ATBs.
    What he said. 1600 tons is a pretty small ship. I think that is what will eventually limit ATB size more than anything else. I read somewhere that the Legacy is over 1000 tons just the tug.
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    NewEngr, very well said and I could not agree more. I think the regulatory bodies will eventually clamp down on these large ATB's. I still do see a use for the smaller ATB's in regards to small cargo parcel carriage in a coast wise fashion. The tug of the Legacy is 1560 tons.
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    NewEngr, very well said and I could not agree more. I think the regulatory bodies will eventually clamp down on these large ATB's. I still do see a use for the smaller ATB's in regards to small cargo parcel carriage in a coast wise fashion. The tug of the Legacy is 1560 tons.
    It is all about eliminating the need for unlimited tonnage officers and to have the USCG assess the manning based on the tug tonnage rather than the combined unit. Just as with the offshore industry in the end nobody wants the unlimited guys. Oh well, I am tired to fighting that battle...things will never change unless the USCG makes them change and they are squarely in the pocket of the vessel owners.
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    Quote Originally Posted by c.captain View Post
    It is all about eliminating the need for unlimited tonnage officers and to have the USCG assess the manning based on the tug tonnage rather than the combined unit. Just as with the offshore industry in the end nobody wants the unlimited guys. Oh well, I am tired to fighting that battle...things will never change unless the USCG makes them change and they are squarely in the pocket of the vessel owners.
    Very good insight and brings up a very valid point that I overlooked. You are correct, until the USCG makes them change, ATB's will prosper.
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    Just curious as a line haul guy, what's the ride like on ATB's?
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    Just curious as a line haul guy, what's the ride like on ATB's?
    Line haul? rshrew you should know that "line haul" is a river term...you sir are a "hawser" or "on the wire" man! And don't you forget it!

    Now about the ride on an ATB...great in flat water but misery when a big sea builds up and the tug can't stay in the notch. Lots of lost time waiting on weather on them. Why do you think that nowhere else in the world except for the US do you ever find one?
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    injunear is online now Top Contributer
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    [QUOTE=c.captain;65345]It is all about eliminating the need for unlimited tonnage officers and to have the USCG assess the manning based on the tug tonnage rather than the combined unit./QUOTE]
    There is also the company specific ATB TOAR. I shudder to think that I had to get on the towline with a guy on the controls with ZERO towing experience.

    I agree with highseasmechanic. I think up to 200K bbl is ideal. I'm curious to see the track record of the Legacy as compared to the Coast Range in a few years.
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    injunear is online now Top Contributer
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    Quote Originally Posted by c.captain View Post
    Now about the ride on an ATB...great in flat water but misery when a big sea builds up and the tug can't stay in the notch. Lots of lost time waiting on weather on them. Why do you think that nowhere else in the world except for the US do you ever find one?
    I'll call bullshit on that...I spent 7 years on ATBs west coast, PNW, east coast and 2 hurricanes in the Gulf. Never knocked out of the notch. Very seldom delayed by weather.
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    Default Re: Large ATB's Vs. Product Tankers- comparissons and opinions.

    Quote Originally Posted by rshrew View Post
    Just curious as a line haul guy, what's the ride like on ATB's?
    From what I've experienced, that ride is nice in calm water and it handles rolling well. The pitching moment is rather short and sharp compared to a longer and more gentle feeling on a traditional ship. Oh how can I forget the pin moans, squeeks, and howls when they are new, having to yell to have a conversation. I also failed to mention that the ATB's require much more in terms of shore support. There is simply not enough room usually for the spare parts, tools, and equipment needed to complete a repair on a major component. On a ship, there is space, manpower and the proper equipment to complete such fixes should they be needed.
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