Powerful SCHOTTEL driven push boats

HIDROVIAS Push boat for the new waterway of superlatives: 3x SRP 1215 (1,600 kW each)
One of eight: This HIDROVIAS push boat has been built to transport formations measuring about 285 m in length and 60 m in width.


The La Plata River Basin with the Paraguay-Paraná river system is a huge, economically and ecologically important region extending over four million square kilometres and covering five countries – from the port of Cáceres (Brazil) to cities such as Puerto Suárez (Bolivia), Asunción (Paraguay), San Nicolás (Argentina) and Nueva Palmira (Uruguay). The river system extends over 2,500 km and is characterized by alterations in the rivers’ flow, dams, sedimentation, forestry, silting and pollution, all of which have great impact on the design of the vessels, and in particular the propulsion system.


The waterways in the Atlantic Ocean between Buenos Aires and Montevideo are kept open by constant dredging. Traffic on the river system has increased considerably over the past decade. For Argentina, the river system (Hidrovia) is the main export waterway through which almost 80% of Argentinian exports are shipped. Capt. Juan Pablo Presedo of Vega & Co. Trade and Shipping Lawyers refers to studies by local agencies showing that about 2,100 ships transit the Hidrovia each year, 45% of which are of Panamax size. Traffic on the Hidrovia is expected to increase by 75% over the next ten years.



In order to prepare the system for the rising traffic, and to make passage safer, a huge modernization project is underway. Since the waterway covers so many different countries, this is a great challenge for the planners. The Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee was formed back in 1967 by Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina. It was jointly agreed that the Paraguay-Paraná-Plata Rivers are to be treated as international waters for navigation. Hidrovias do Brasil is playing a key role in the huge modernization programme, providing the construction and operating convoys comprising a system of barges loaded with iron ore and driven by push boats. According to Hidrovias do Brasil, each convoy to navigate along the Paraná and Paraguay river system measures approximately 285 m in length and 60 m in width (equivalent to two soccer fields).




Canadian ship designer Robert Allan Ltd. designed eight powerful river push boats and 144 hopper barges for this project. The Turkish UZMAR yard was awarded with the construction of the vessels. Robert Allan says, “the biggest challenge in the design of these vessels was the necessity to be able to stop the entire convoy in less than 2.5 flotilla lengths when operating fully laden and at full speed running downstream. Extensive analysis and testing was performed to ensure this capability as well as developing a suitable hull form to meet the pushing, braking and manoeuvring requirements, while achieving the fuel capacity, draft restrictions and endurance required for the entire operation. Hull form optimization studies and fuel consumption analyses were performed including model testing at the Vienna Model Basin to verify the results of the CFD analysis.” Robert Allan Ltd. describes the push boats as follows: “These high-performance push boats, measuring 46.5 m x 16.5 m x 4 m are propelled by a state-of-the-art diesel-electric propulsion system, with three main diesel generator sets providing power to three 1,600 kW motors each driving a SCHOTTEL SRP 1215 Z-drive with nozzle modified for shallow draft operation. The push boats run on HFO with the ability to operate on MDO if needed. Each vessel has a total fuel capacity of 500 cbm of HFO and 30 cbm of MDO, and a ballast capacity of 400 cbm.”



Each vessel is outfitted for a maximum complement of 18 persons with six single cabins and six double cabins spread over two deckhouse levels. Above, a large wheelhouse with unobstructed 360° view allows operators excellent visibility of the barge convoy ahead as well as enabling supervision of barge connection work taking place on the raised forecastle deck. Robert Allan: “In trials the push boat exceeded bollard pull and free running speed contract requirements and the manoeuvrability was exceptional.” SCHOTTEL is an ongoing partner for Hidrovias do Brasil: When the German company was selected as supplier, this was not just because of the tailored thruster design, but for a customized support concept, for which SCHOTTEL do Brasil is responsible.



Indeed, Hidrovias do Brasil selected SCHOTTEL for further Projects - two push boats built at the Brazilian ERIN yard in Manaus. The strong vessels are equipped with three SRP 1215s (1,600 kW) in the stern and provide a bollard pull of 65 t each. In this case, the thrusters are driven directly by diesel engines. The vessels are designed for operation on the Amazon River. With a length of more than 7,000 km, it is one of the largest rivers in the world, with the longest part in Brazil and a smaller part in Peru. Although the Amazon is a huge river, with a depth of some 30 to 40 m and a width of several kilometres, depending on the tides, it can only be accessed via the Strait of Breves which limits the length and draft of the vessels. Moreover, the strait meanders and is bordered by ravines, making Navigation a real challenge.



However, even the Amazon itself is not easy to navigate. The huge volume of the river carries an enormous amount of wood and debris. Large tree trunks and even whole trees act as obstacles to vessels. Furthermore, there is also a large amount of sedimentation. Considering all these adverse conditions, Hidrovias do Brasil opted for a SCHOTTEL propulsion system. The German manufacturer, together with its subsidiary in Brazil, designed thrusters with optimum manoeuvrability, extra-strong propellers and top and bottom flattened nozzles. SCHOTTEL also offered a convincing, customized service package to meet all present and future needs.

The push boats push barge convoys laden with grain. They are part of an innovation programme to modernize the water system and to develop grain transportation on the Amazon River. The new building programme for Hidrovias is complemented by an order for one smaller push boat, also designed by Robert Allan Ltd. and contracted with ERIN. This vessel is equipped with two SRP 440s, with a power output of 559 kW each. The Task of the push boat is to connect the barges to form large barge trains which will then be taken up by the large boats for the long journey.