LMC confident Badger will sail in 2013

December 14, 2012

LUDINGTON — The owners of Lake Michigan Carferry are confident the historic SS Badger will be sailing next year. As the deadline for the service’s coal ash discharge exemption nears, the company continues to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to extend the deadline until an alternative form of fuel or other solution can be fitted onto the 60-year-old vessel.

Pat McCarthy, vice president of shore operations, spoke to the Ludington Rotary Club Thursday afternoon and said LMC has provided the EPA with all the information they have asked for and the company is confident it will be operating in 2013. The application will soon be entering the public comment stage.

In the meantime, the company is continuing to explore alternative fuel options. The most likely option, McCarthy said, is liquefied natural gas. Last year there was talk of compressed natural gas. That idea has been scratched for the more viable LNG, McCarthy said. “If we were to convert to LNG, the Badger would actually have a negative carbon footprint when you consider the emissions of the vehicles the Badger transports if they had to drive around the lake,” McCarthy

said.

LMC along with the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute (which is a cooperative with the University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota), has been studying the use of LNG in the maritime industry. LNG is already in use in the long haul trucking industry. Wisconsin has embraced the new fuel and provides fueling stations for truckers in various locations around the state.

“There are some challenges for us,” McCarthy said. “LNG as a marine fuel is still in its infancy. We have to figure out how to implement this fuel source on a 60-year-old ship. ”McCarthy said it is likely that fuel tanks will be placed where coal is currently stored. Pipelines would then feed the gas into ship’s historic steam engines. McCarthy said estimates for converting the Badger to LNG are

between $7 million to 10 million.

He was asked about converting the SS Spartan, Badger’s sister ship, instead. He said just getting the Spartan’s engine back into running condition would take an estimated $17 million plus another $3 million to $5 million to upgrade the passenger areas. He also commented on a recent story published in a local newspaper about the Spartan being sold to a company in Washington state.

“No one has ever contacted us,” he said. “It would never make it. Once it hit salt water its hull would be like an Alka Seltzer tablet dissolving in water.”

McCarthy said the company proved this year the Badger is a needed mode of transportation across Lake Michigan. “We had a great year this year. Our passenger numbers were solid. We extended our season because of the wind tower traffic and we have been in discussions with GE about transporting even more wind towers in 2013.”

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

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