Dravo Launches 40th Viking-Class Towboat

Dravo Corporation's Neville Island shipyard near Pittsburgh, Pa., recently launched its 40th Viking-class towboat, the Ned C. Sheats. The 5,600-hp towboat is the latest in the Viking line, which began in 1972 in response to the need for increased productivity in river transportation. Following testing and delivery, the towboat will service the American Electric Power System.

Today, 38 states are served by commercial water transportation. Inland waterways, which complement rail, truck and airline systems, transport over 15 percent of all commerce in the U.S., at about 2 percent of the total freight cost. Most of the cargo that travels on the waterways are raw materials used to make consumer products, such as coal, iron ore, petroleum, sand and gravel, grain and chemicals. The development of riverboats has progressed from canoes through flatboats, keelboats, steam-powered paddle-wheelers, to today's ultimate — 10,500-horsepower diesel-powered towboats.

Members of the latter category, which includes Dravo subsidiary Union Mechling Corporation's Jason and Argonaut, are the most powerful river towboats in the world.

Dravo's Viking line, featuring five different hull sizes and six horsepower ratings between 1,800 and 10,500, is noted for superior steering and maneuvering characteristics. To improve power and handling, modified kort nozzles are featured on all Vikings. Dravo imported the kort nozzle concept from Germany and applied its design to the requirements of the American waterways industry. The first U.S.-built towboat to employ the kort nozzle method of propulsion was launched by Dravo in 1936.

The first of Dravo's Vikings, the M/V Phyllis, was sold to Alter Co., Davenport, Iowa, and found to be very efficient in achieving maximum ton-mile production with minimum fuel consumption. Dravo's first involvement in the shipbuilding business began in 1906, with the building of a machine shop on Neville Island to service its floating and land-based construction equipment. The firm's first vessel, a sand and gravel barge, was launched in 1915.

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