PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Port Authority has received a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration to help fund the design of a new hybrid vessel that could return container service between the ports of Portland and New York.
The port authority has been working on this project since 2010. It also on Dec. 1 released a Request for Qualifications to identify a pool of potential private sector partners interested in operating the container service.
Once a private sector partner is identified, the $150,000 would go toward design work to build the hybrid ship, known as an articulated tug-barge, or ATB, John Henshaw, the port authority’s executive director, told the Bangor Daily News.
An ATB is essentially a tugboat that can attach itself to a barge with a shiplike bow, Henshaw said. It is more reliable than the traditional tug-and-tow container service that operated between Portland and New York previously, he said.
“This is a design concept that we think can bring container service to many more ports along the U.S. coasts, and using this federal funding in concert with a private sector partner brings us a lot closer to turning the concept into a reality,” Henshaw said in a prepared statement included in a press release from Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office that announced the $150,000 grant.
Henshaw said private operators have been asked to respond to the RFQ by mid-January, after which time there would be a more formal Request for Proposal process in February. Henshaw said the project has a two-year timeline.