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Doubleclick to enlarge, and take this in by details . . . name on the forward portion of the cargo deck and house as well as profiles on the horizon.  Surprise at the end of the post.

Consider this different vessel, Alblasserward by name.

Short sea shipping has been figured out in Europe using

vessels like these.  The flag is the Netherlands, and crane lifts the compact car onto the hard and dry when

inland waterwayfaring is done.

Ditto Alabama, the vessel in foto #1.

I hope by now you’re asking why an obvious European self-propelled barge carries a name like Alabama, right?  By the way, a personal connection here . . . my father reported that as a kid, he imagined growing up to be captain of such a vessel in the inland shipping business, aka binnenvaart.

So the surprise . . .  Alabama (1947) and Alblasserward (1949) and many other European waterway barges were built in  . . .  Alabama!  So you’re thinking . . . somewhere near Mobile?  Nope!  Up in Decatur, on that tributary of the Ohio called the Tennessee.  As part of the Marshall Plan.  What’s interesting is that these vessels do not appear on the Ingalls (now part of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding) record here.

The after and fore part of the vessel were built completely on the yard, living quarters including what was touted as an “American kitchen,”   engine room,wheelhouse, etc.  The middle section was shipped in crates and the engine was installed at the yard in Dordrecht, Netherlands, after traveling the Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi to New Orleans, and then the Atlantic.    Upon arrival in Rotterdam, the crates and forward section were placed on a barge and towed to the yard, and the aft section was towed to the yard separately.

All fotos thanks to Rene Keuvelaar;  info thanks to Rene and to Jan van der Doe.  Rene runs a web-log linked here.  You might also check a different forum/database called “binnenvaart” aka inland waterway shipping, which in Europe like the sixth boro among boros and states, seamlessly connects waters through different countries.  .  And given that these vessels are still earning their keep, I’d love to hear from anyone who knows, firsthand or otherwise, about construction and transportation of these US hulls to their final destination.  If one of these were brought back to the US, would they be considered US hulls even though they’ve never . . . in over 60 years, worked in US waters?  Europeans in Europe doing short sea shipping with US-built vessels . . . who knew?!@!!

More on this soon, I hope.

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March 2011