With as much as $1 million worth of product loaded on its barges, PotashCorp can’t afford to have the tugboats that guide them go out of service. So it’s a good thing those tugs are powered by Cat® engines—and supported by a unique maintenance plan that’s kept them running without failure for nearly a decade.
One of the world’s largest fertilizer companies, with operations around the globe, PotashCorp operates an open pit mine in Aurora, North Carolina, that produces phosphate rock, phosphoric acid, purified acid and phosphate feed. These products are shipped via local waterways to barges in Morehead City, about 60 miles away, with the help of two tugboats, the Pamlico and the Beaufort Belle.
The Pamlico was built for PotashCorp in 1966 and repowered with Cat engines in 1988—two 3516s and two 3306s. The Beaufort Belle, built in 1974 and acquired by PotashCorp in 1980, received its Cat 3512 engines in 1998 and 2008.
According to Tim Heaney, parts and service support representative for Cat dealer Gregory Poole, PotashCorp is a longtime Cat customer—with its vessels powered 100% by Cat engines and its mines filled with Cat equipment. He says the company’s been pleased with the performance and longevity of the Cat engines in its tugboats, but simply didn’t have time for unplanned maintenance and service issues.
“They were experiencing some failures, and knowing that these boats spend 4-6 weeks in the shipyard every year anyway, we said, ‘Why don’t we just put a set maintenance plan in place?’” Heaney says. “They agreed, and it’s turned out to be cheaper for them in the long run.”
Gregory Poole’s maintenance program for the Pamlico and Beaufort Belle runs on a four-year schedule. Year one calls for a complete overhaul of the port engines, with a complete overhaul of the starboard engines in year two. In years three and four, the dealer performs a top-end overhaul of the port engines and starboard engines, respectively. Then the cycle starts all over again.
“We haven’t had an engine failure on either boat since we started doing this, and that was eight or nine years ago,” Heaney says. “The 3516s in the Pamlico are 27 years old. It’s not unusual for Cat marine engines to run that long, but the maintenance program definitely keeps them going strong.”