When Paul "Chip" Jaenichen, the U.S. Department of Transportation's maritime administrator, made a local stop Thursday on a tour of area inland waterway operations, his mode of transportation was as much a focus as the water route he took from Massac State Park in Metropolis to Paducah on the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.
Jaenichen toured the area aboard AEP River Operations' M/V Donna Rushing, a renovated towboat that is an example of how the maritime industry has become more environmentally friendly.
"When this tug - initially built in 1973 - was renovated in 2011, it was updated with more than 100 energy saving and environmentally friendly components," Jaenichen said. He ran down a list that includes operating two fuel efficient engines using biofuel to reduce greenhouse gases, which double as heaters for the wheelhouse, galley and cabins.
It also features fuel and oil purification systems that eliminate the need for fuel and oil filters; solar-powered running lights; and low-emission generators that produce minimal emissions while powering air conditioning units, microwaves and other appliances. The vessel features all LED lighting.
"Thanks to AEP's 'Go Green' initiative, the M/V Donna Rushing is now one of the most, if not the most, energy efficient and environmentally friendly towboats on U.S. inland waterways," Jaenichen said. "This is a great example of how we can meet our nation's increasing freight demands while preserving our environment."
While the method of transporting cargo is often dependent on geographic location, "further integrating our waterways into our national freight network and using even cleaner operating vessels (like the Donna Rushing) can contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and ensuring a healthier environment for the next generation of Americans," Jaenichen said.
Improved conditions on towboats like the Donna Rushing greatly enhance crew endurance and will help the industry hire, train and maintain its workforce, he added.
According to Joe Brantley, senior manager of operations for AEP, the company incorporated ideas and suggestions from the crew when it began the renovation project. Employees designed and helped fabricate the water pretreatment system for the vessel.
Water misters mounted on the head deck, using the vessel's water supply to constantly create a mist of cool water, help keep the crew from overheating on hot days.
The galley wasn't overlooked either. A commercial-sized convection oven, which uses less energy and cooks in less time, was installed to help avoid extreme heat in the galley and provide a safer work environment.
Cook Florence "Flo" Futrell, of Cadiz, likes the galley improvements.
"It's the best job I've ever had," Futrell said of the position she has held for four years. "I wish I had done it (joined the crew) a long time ago."
Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun StaffWriter, at 270-575-8676.