From Bulk Carrier to Split Hopper Barge
Way back in 2006, a mine owner and exporter of iron ore acquired 6 new mini bulk carriers for transshipment of ore from mine port to mother ship. In a few years the iron ore mining was banned due to environment reasons. The vessels were lying idle, slowly deteriorating. In 2016 there was a casual enquiry for investigating possibilities of deploying the vessels to some other trade.
The exporting company also were in dredging in a large way. I suggested that conversion of the vessels to self-propelled hopper barges may be a good idea as they may be of good use to a dredging company. It would be a simple job to introduce doors in the bottom and use the vessels as conventional hopper barges.
Nothing happened for a year or so. A fresh enquiry came on the same subject. But this time the requirement was for split hopper barges. This was a different ball game altogether. It was necessary to make a far more detailed investigation. One very important issue was that single engine room with two engines would also need to be split and each had to be self-sufficient and comply with all regulations. New gensets would be required for powering the hydraulic system for splitting. The installation and alignment of splitting mechanism will be a far greater challenge in a decade old vessel than in a new build.
Solutions were found for all challenges and conversion was undertaken. One vessel has gone in to service. The other three will join soon.