Construction at the U.S. Eisenhower Lock near Massena, in January 2017 to install the slots and rails for the hands-free mooring system. Photo from ‘Seaway Compass’ Spring 2017, a publication of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
MASSENA -- During the 2017 winter season, the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) completed the first major phase of a multi-year project to install hands-free mooring technology (HFM) at Eisenhower and Snell Locks, said a press release issued by the agency.
Similar to the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC), the SLSDC is updating the way vessels transit the locks, which has not changed significantly since the opening of the Seaway almost 60 years ago, said the corporation.
The new technology allows commercial ships to transit faster and more efficiently, while also enhancing workplace and operational safety conditions. The HFM system uses vacuum pads, each of which provides up to 20 tons of holding force, mounted on vertical rails inside the lock chamber wall to secure a vessel during the lockage process. The HFM System keeps the vessel at a fixed distance from the lock wall as it is raised or lowered. The last step in the lockage operation consists of releasing the vacuum and retracting the pads so that the vessel is able to sail safely out of the lock.
The SLSMC first began testing the HFM technology in 2007 for potential use to replace the traditional practice of manually securing commercial vessels within the Seaway locks with mooring lines. Subsequent testing over the years led to the current fourth generation design, which includes three units with two vacuum pads on each unit, mounted on slots in the lock chamber wall.
In May 2015, the Seaway’s HFM technology was recognized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with the Promising Innovation in Transport Award.
The SLSDC is completing the installation of HFM at Eisenhower Lock at the end of 2017. Once fully implemented at the U.S. and Canadian Seaway locks, HFM will produce a number of benefits involving workplace safety, carrier operating costs, lower emissions, transit efficiencies, and system competitiveness:
• Eliminates traditional linehandling operations with wire ropes, which increases the risk of incidents/ injuries.
• Allows commercial users to reduce crew sizes and require less equipment necessary to meet current transit requirements.
• Reduces the time to transit one of the Seaway locks by approximately seven minutes each way — that’s nearly two hours of potential time savings once installation through the entire system is complete.
• Allows commercial carriers to save on fuel costs and reduce air emissions.
• Increases the number of commercial ships capable of transiting the Seaway.
• Allows Seaway Corporations to utilize existing lock operations work crews on other priority projects, including routine maintenance.