In this day and age of bigger and bigger ships carrying more and more cargoes to centralised ports, are we ignoring the smaller port cities that have draft restricted harbours and limited dock space? Are we underutilising routes that proceed inland like the St Lawrence Seaway or inland river routes that may be found in India, Europe and Asia? Does this centralisation cause its own congestion and bottleneck issues?
What if there was a system developed to take into account servicing smaller ports and docks on a regular basis, a concept that could take into account the advantages of drop and swap, and take advantage of the efficiencies of shipping via water. What if there was a concept that could keep small shipyards in business, and create jobs in small port cities that are suffering from high unemployment. What if there was a system that allowed shippers to unload their cargoes on their time instead of having to unload a ship in the middle of the night because it has a schedule to keep. What if smaller companies were able to locate in less congested areas and not have to build multi-million dollar docks to be able to ship their cargoes via water? What if government entities did not have to consider billion dollar bridge replacement or lock lengthening projects just to make room for the Super Max and larger ships to proceed under or pass through?
The Seasnake solution
A concept is under development that can address these issues and answer these questions.
The Seasnake marine train is a patented vehicle for transporting liquid, bulk and container cargo. It is the only allpurpose utility vehicle designed for safe, rapid, cost-effective movement of cargo through any marine transport system. Seasnake will modernise the shipping industry without the need for raising bridges, changing port designs or dredging channels, and can utilise existing loading and off-loading systems. Moreover, the Great Lakes model incorporates design technology which allows it to operate ballast-free, eliminating the anticipated need for expensive invasive species prevention measures.
The design incorporates a multi-module cargo handling system, allowing for rapid adaptation to all types of cargo in all types of markets. Unlike current cargo ships, Seasnake modules can simultaneously accommodate food-grade oil, industrial chemicals and fresh vegetables in one sail without the danger of cargo crosscontamination. This flexibility allows cargo shipping companies to maximise load capacity and gain industry efficiencies that were previously unattainable.
Commercial and military uses
While the Seasnake system is the obvious choice for the commercial shipping industry, the highest and best use of the technology is in military cargo hauling applications. The ability to ‘drop and swap’ modules and leave them moored at a port or a sea-base to load or discharge cargo at the discretion of the shipper, provides flexibility that allows the rest of the train to continue delivery of modules to other ports or maintenance facilities, maximising utility (and revenue for commercial applications).
Seasnake can transit all major canals and lock systems, operate in shallower ports and can match existing ships in speed and power. Unlike existing tug-barge systems, Seasnake can safely navigate open ocean storm conditions. The ability to isolate modules in the event of an accident, fire or attack gives the military an additional measure of control and containment that is simply not available in traditional shipping vehicles. It can be outfitted with alternative fuel systems, allowing the military to circumvent dangerous fuel stops.
Cargo modules can be designed to act as helicopter landing zones, electrical power generators, water purification systems, field hospitals, command and control segments or other support systems that would be significant assets in response to national security incidents. Modules can be towed to the scene of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis, to aide in disaster relief. Special security modules could be inserted into marine trains to deter piracy on some trade routes.
The cost in steel to build Seasnake is dramatically lower than traditional cargo ships and differing units or modules can be built simultaneously in multiple small shipyards thus cutting down on overall construction time, benefiting workforces and economies in multiple locations.
Because the cargo modules are unmanned, the crew sizes, thus labour costs will be less and because the segments are towed instead of pushed, the fuel costs will be less than an integrated tug barge system.
The concept is, in effect, a marine train that uses modular barge units or waterborne boxcars that can be configured to carry whatever cargo a shipper would require, be it a liquid, bulk or containers. Designed in three different drafts, a 45 foot draft model (SS45) for open ocean trade, a 35 foot draft model (SS35) for coastal trading and a 26.5 foot draft model (SS26.5) for trade on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway system and other draft restricted waterways worldwide.
The train of barge modules is held together with a ball and socket type connection that links the train together at the centre of a circle which circumscribes the underwater cross section of the semi-circular hull designed cargo modules.
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