I feel there are probably many readers, like me, who feel a shiver down their spine when they think of the times they spent or are spending on cold, wet, and windy days and nights handling mooring ropes and wires, fore and aft, when transiting locks and canals around the world.
But it would appear, at least for those seafarers working on vessels transiting the locks on the mighty Saint Lawrence Seaway, there is help ‘at hand’. This is in the form of the innovative, now fully operational and deployed hands-free mooring (HFM) system in place throughout the seaway, which I am sure will get a ‘thumbs-up’ of approval from them.
The US Department of Transportation’s Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) has announced that Hands-Free Mooring (HFM) technology is fully deployed throughout the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The new technology revolutionises the method for locking vessels through the Seaway and is the most important technological advance since the Seaway’s opening in 1959.
“This new technology is a significant modernisation of the St Lawrence Seaway’s infrastructure, and will enhance workplace safety, lower operating costs for carriers, and decrease vessel transit times through the locks,” said US Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao.
The SLSDC invested $23 million to install HFM technology in the US Snell Lock and the US Eisenhower Lock. The Seaway’s HFM project is the first use of this technology for an inland waterway, and the SLSDC has prepared its workforce with the skills necessary to implement the new system.
“The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation has a long history of implementing technological innovations to improve the safety and efficiency of its operations,” said SLSDC Deputy Administrator Craig H Middlebrook. “Hands-Free Mooring will dramatically improve the vessel transit experience through the Seaway by enhancing safety and achieving greater efficiencies in freight movement.”
The HFM system uses vacuum pads, each of which provides up to 20 tons of holding force. The vacuum pads are mounted on vertical rails inside the lock chamber wall to secure the ship during the lockage process as it is raised or lowered while keeping it a fixed distance from the lock wall. The last step in the lockage operation consists of releasing the vacuum and retracting the pads so that the vessel can sail safely out of the lock.