• ITVI.USA
    15,378.070
    -88.350
    -0.6%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.743
    0.001
    0%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.820
    0.290
    1.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,350.040
    -89.040
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.280
    -0.020
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.190
    0.050
    1.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.560
    -0.030
    -1.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.420
    0.090
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.220
    0.050
    2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,378.070
    -88.350
    -0.6%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.743
    0.001
    0%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.820
    0.290
    1.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,350.040
    -89.040
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.280
    -0.020
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.190
    0.050
    1.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.560
    -0.030
    -1.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.420
    0.090
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.220
    0.050
    2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
American ShipperShippingTrade and ComplianceWarehouse

Big ship with little ships inside

Seahorse Shipping hopes to make “jumbo barge carrier” a reality.

   In the 1950s, a Swedish ship captain
named Bengt Tornqvist teamed up with Olof Wallenius to develop
special ships for transporting cars. Today, Wallenius Lines, together
with its Norwegian partner Wilh. Wilhelmsen, is one of the leaders in
roll-on/roll-off shipping.
   About 30 years later, Tornqvist had
another brainstorm, what he called the “jumbo barge carrier.”
   His plans never reached a shipyard
before his death in 1998, but a similar idea has been modified and
refined and is now being promoted by Seahorse Shipping Ltd.
   An appropriate name is Seahorse.
Just as the father seahorse carries his brood in a pouch, the company
envisions building mother (or should that be father?) ships that
could each carry six, 446-foot-long barges. Each of those barges, in
turn, could hold 2,250 TEUs of containerized cargo or 23,000 tons of
bulk cargo, or ro/ro modules with 5,000 autos.
   The idea is somewhat similar to the
LASH (lighter-aboard-ship) and Seabee (sea barge) ships that carriers
such as Waterman Steamship and Lykes Bros. once operated, but on a
much, much larger scale.
   Gerald Fisher, managing director of
Seahorse, said he and a group of shipping executives have been
working on the idea since the early 2000s.
   The shape of the hull and many
details have been modified.
   While the company is focusing on
commercial applications, over the years Seahorse has met with
officials from the U.S. military and explored the possible uses of
such a ship for military purposes in the past.
   In addition to commercial cargo, the
Seahorse could carry barge modules housing power generators,
desalinization plants, accommodations, floating hospitals, aircraft
repair units, and self-sustaining modules from which containers or
ro/ro cargo could be offloaded.
   Fisher said the ship has been
designed to travel at speeds up to 25 knots, though he said it’s
not clear anyone would want to have a ship that would consume the
fuel needed to move that fast.
   When the Seahorse arrives outside a
destination port, it would ballast down to 82 feet and float the
barges off. Once the inbound barges are on their way to their
destination terminals, loaded outbound modules that are positioned
and awaiting the mothership are floated aboard, and the mothership
de-ballasts and departs for its next destination. Turn-times would be
less than 24 hours.
   Because the Seahorse barges (which
could be towed or self-propelled) would have a 23-foot draft, they
could call any terminal with the modest infrastructure needed to
handle a 2,250-TEU or 23,000-deadweight-ton vessel, Fisher said. The
barges could also be used to reach river ports.
   Cargo could be “parallel
processed” at several terminals, and at less expense, contends
Seahorse, because terminals are more efficient “when they receive
2,250-TEU ‘bites’ of cargo rather than 10,000-TEU avalanches.
Large cranes, land footprints and costly dredging are not required.”
   An attorney who helped companies
adjust their supply chains and contracts in the wake of the Ocean
Shipping Reform Act, Fisher sees Seahorse as a shipper-friendly
innovation.
   The replacement of tariff rates with
confidential shipping contracts have driven freight rates down, but
he said it has also created problems for shippers.
   Carriers have become less willing to
offer door-to-door service, and terminals have become major
bottlenecks for cargo, he said.
   More ocean carriers are focusing on
port-to-port moves, and “that’s why 3PLs have grown their
businesses, by solving the problems created by the return to a
dock-to-dock business,” Fisher added.
Under the Carriage of
Goods at Sea Act, carriers are very rarely penalized for late
delivery of cargo. “If your cargo is not damaged, they’re not
liable. You miss your market, you miss your opportunities, they’re
not liable,” he said.
   That has “been a huge problem for
shippers” who from the late 1970s to the 2000s “were relying on
door-to-door service of the carriers to be their warehouses and they
counted on that throughput and the timing of that throughput,”
Fisher explained.
   With many carriers concentrating on
port-to-port moves, and the challenges faced in servicing megaships,
he believes Seahorse is an innovation that can help ease the biggest
chokepoints in container shipping.
   “We view this as an alternative
for cargo. Our focus is not on the shipping industry, our focus is on
beneficial cargo owners and those who have a different perspective on
the service that they would like to have,” he said.
   Fisher has spoken to both shippers
and 3PLs about the concept, who said they are interested because the
movement of cargo through ports is the “one piece of the supply
chain where they have little control.”
   In fact, he said, Seahorse would
look to a “consortium of cargo interests,” both shippers and 3PLs
to fund the project. “Nobody wants to own ships themselves, but
they’d sure like better control of their cargo,” Fisher said.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.

We are glad you’re enjoying the content

Sign up for a free FreightWaves account today for unlimited access to all of our latest content

By signing in for the first time, I give consent for FreightWaves to send me event updates and news. I can unsubscribe from these emails at any time. For more information please see our Privacy Policy.