By now we know that moving goods over water is the most efficient mode of transportation. Not only is it the safest and most environmentally friendly mode of commercial transportation according to American Waterways Operators, it is the most economical choice to move commodities in and out of the United States.

Omega Morgan is no stranger to moving large equipment, from transformers and manufacturing machinery to fragile semiconductor equipment and beyond; but one area of growth the company has been eyeing recently is the maritime industry. Having handled sixteen barge moves in the last decade for some of the West Coast’s largest shipbuilders, Omega Morgan has really honed their skills. The result, an efficient process using an Omega Morgan designed and built system, which can be repeated over and over again for an industry that shows no signs of slowing.

One of the most notable vessels that Omega Morgan has moved is the Left Coast Lifter, which is the largest barge crane ever used on the West Coast, made famous for its critical role in the replacement of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge. After completing its work on the Bay Bridge, the Left Coast Lifter made its way to New York in 2015 to work on the Tappan Zee Bridge that spans the Hudson River.

Earlier this year, Omega Morgan moved an ATB tank barge weighing in at 4,000 tons and 422 feet in length, from the shipbuilders build way to their dry dock. Also this year, utilizing the same equipment and process, Omega Morgan moved another 3800-ton ATB tank barge. The impressive moves were completed in less than five hours, however the prep time took much longer.

Moving the 4000 ton barge.
Moving the 4000 ton barge.

The Omega Morgan crew was mobilized eight days prior to set up equipment and prepare for the move. With 32 trucks worth of equipment, the four-man crew began the process by leveling the ground under the barge with gravel and laying down 20-foot sections of crane matting. Next the crew laid down Ekki timber on top of which Omega Morgan’s skid beams were set and leveled.

The skid beams, which are the same design used to move the historic Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon, are 14-foot long, ski-shaped steel units that slide on the Teflon pads in the skid track.

Skid beams designed to slide acroos the Tephlon pads and move the barge.
Skid beams designed to slide acroos the Tephlon pads and move the barge.

The crew expanded to 12 men on the day of the move. With a 4:00am start time to prep and run through safety checks, Omega Morgan began the move at 7:30am using 32, 150-ton capacity hydraulic jacks to lift the barge from its blocking and then used four 40-ton push-pull cylinders to move the barge forward. The vessel was slid from the build way on land onto the dry dock, where the shipbuilder ballasted the dry dock to keep it level as Omega Morgan transferred the vessel across. Once in place it was disconnected and chained down so that crews could knock off welds from the temporary push/pull clips and touch up paint. Once dry, the dry dock was sunk lowering the barge into the water and a tugboat pulled the massive barge out onto the river.

One of the biggest benefits that Omega Morgan has realized using their skid system versus traditional hydraulic platform trailers, is the overall cost savings. The skid system takes less time, material and equipment rentals to mobilize, which translates to an overall cost savings that can be passed on to the customer.

“For linear moves, this system just can not be beat,” said Ralph DiCaprio, vice president of engineering with Omega Morgan. “While the set up on-site takes more time, ultimately the moves are completed more efficiently, particularly in locations that are remote or that require a more agile system, able to maneuver in tight or challenging conditions.”

Another benefit of the skid system is that Omega Morgan’s engineers do not need to stand at the power packs in order to complete the move; the system is operated entirely by remote, allowing for a better overall view of the project which means adjustments can be made more quickly.

Omega Morgan is quickly becoming one of the Northwest maritime industry’s most trusted partners to manage the pre-launch preparation and move of the multi-million dollar vessels that keep our economy running.