R.P. Gettelfinger, Tow, C280-12
What is the true value of a captain’s confidence in his ship? How much is a deckhand’s happiness really worth?
In December 2013, American Commercial Lines took its tallest river tug, the R.P. Gettelfinger, out of service for 6 months. But the crew still worked during that time – completely overhauling their ship. They gutted it, replaced the old engines with more powerful ones, and upgraded the steering system. They improved the lighting and soundproofed all the rooms. They even installed multiple Wi-Fi signals and satellite TV. And they added 400 tons of steel to the hull.
A vital link in the supply chain
The R.P. Gettelfinger operates on the Lower Mississippi River, towing up to forty-eight barges southbound and up to forty-nine barges northbound. That’s six-and-a-half acres of cargo. When you consider that a common truck can only carry eighteen tons of cargo, but each barge can hold 1,800 tons, you can see why river tugs are still our most efficient method of transportation.
But the job isn’t easy – especially on the Lower Mississippi, an untamed river. There are no locks here, so the current and depth can vary wildly from day to day. Some of the passages are narrow. Plus, the river can be rife with shifting sandbars, dense fog, and, sometimes, even downed trees. But the really, really tight turns could be the river’s most difficult challenges. Because tugs have shallow hulls, they tend to slide – not a minor worry when you’re pushing a load that is bigger than an aircraft carrier. For an inexperienced captain or pilot, these turns are the most white-knuckled part of the journey.
The Price of Loyalty
Watch how R.P. Gettelfinger operates on the Lower Mississippi River.