The Mine

Bridget asked me a question while I was at work and I rudely never responded!  I'm here to rectify this!

So is the tug going really slow to get these calm, quiet looking photos? Pushing/pulling a large barge?
— Bridget

Here is the operation in a nutshell:

I was working at the Port Site of a mine.  The mine is approximately 50-60 miles inland.  The product (ore) is trucked to large buildings that act as holding facilities.  At the Port Site the product is moved from the buildings to 'the cells' on a belt system.  The cells are basically an Offshore Terminal.  This isn't the most correct description because they aren't very far offshore but it will work.  

 the cells

the cells

Once the product is loaded onto a barge at the cells it is towed to the anchorage where it is discharged to a ship.  There are normally three to four ships waiting in the anchorage for product.

There are two barges and four tugs.  Each barge has a dedicated tugboat and either end (the anchorage and the cells) has an assist boat.  When things are running smoothly the barges are simultaneously loading at the cells and discharging at the ship. 

 tug and barge headed to anchorage

tug and barge headed to anchorage

I was on the assist boat working the cells however; we were also kind of the 'work boat'.  Meaning, we would work the ship too if it freed up the outside boat to make up to the loaded barge faster.  Our primary function was to keep the operation moving as efficiently as possible.  

 the anchorage - you can see that both tugs are made up to the barge as they make their ship approach

the anchorage - you can see that both tugs are made up to the barge as they make their ship approach

It takes approximately three hours to load a barge.  This meant that every three hours we would 'pop' a loaded barge off the cells and then meet the empty barge to 'land' them at the cells.  Once the empty barge was landed we'd have three hours until we did it all over again- so we'd tie up to the dock with that barges tug - and this is why it looked so calm in my photos!  We were tied up!

 landing alongside the ship - the yokohama fenders were critical

landing alongside the ship - the yokohama fenders were critical

The port site is north of the Arctic Circle which gives it a fairly well defined season.  The tugs and barges headed up in June and will be heading home by the end of October.  Lots of people just work the full season.  I did a pier head jump from one tug to this tug - which means I was ready for a break!  I'm home for a month and then hopefully I'll head back up to finish the season.

There you have it!

**I realize this post was super 'nuts and boltsy' but, well, it was work which is kind of 'nuts and boltsy'...