Who says age slows you down? In Northern Ireland, the barge Norman has gained a reputation as one of the fastest dredgers operating on Lough Neagh—even though it’s more than 80 years old and powered by a 43-year-old Cat® engine.
“We dredge up to 2,000 tons of sand a day from the bottom of the lough for the construction industry,” says Kenny Emerson of Norman Emerson and Sons Ltd., which owns and operates the barge. “Speed is important to meet our quota and shorten the working day, and Norman can reach 9.7 knots empty and 7.8 knots fully loaded.”
Reliability is important, too—and Emerson gets that from the barge’s 1972 Cat D343 engine. A marine version of the 1693 truck engine widely used in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, the D343 was a predecessor of the popular Cat 3406 engine. The unit powering Norman is believed to be the last operational D343 in Ireland. Still, it gets the job done—and then some.
“The engine runs for 12 hours a day, sometimes up to 16 hours,” says Emerson, who maintains the D343 himself, servicing it every 400 hours and sourcing parts from Cat dealer Finning UK & Ireland. “Although it’s over 40 years old, it’s the most reliable marine unit we’ve ever owned. Old Cat engines have always had the reputation of being strong, reliable workhorses.”
That makes it a good match for Norman, which has proven to be quite a workhorse itself over the past eight decades. Built in the 1930s, the 150-foot-long by 21-foot-wide (46-meter-long by 6-meter-wide) barge transported coal up and down the canals of Holland before, during and after World War II. Norman Emerson and Sons Ltd. purchased the vessel in 1997 from a family in Rotterdam who were living and working on it, transporting goods via the water.