Bunkering while underway

The Navy do this all the time, but pushers??:

5600 horsepower pusher VEERHAVEN IV NEUSHOORN passing Baanhoek while bunkering.
Photo : Arie Boer ©

Bunkering while sailing is common practice on Dutch inland waterway ships. With the exception of the Amsterdam IJ, the Waddenzee and the Oosterschelde, it is permitted everywhere to fuel a ship while sailing. Refueling while sailing is not demonstrably unsafe. Research by Rijkswaterstaat shows that there are ‘no indications’ that bunkering while sailing poses an ‘extra danger’ to the safety.of ship and environment.


With proper fendering and electrical/static grounding, inland bunkering while underway not a problem in calm weather.

I was on a towboat with an 18 barge tow on the upper Mississippi many years ago. We bunkered and took supplies underway. A very common occurrence on the rivers.

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It is pretty standard to bunker seismic ships underway using a chase boat.

I did it back in 1980s on a Coast Guard Cutter we took fuel and gave fuel to other cutters in the Caribbean. We did it Russian style with a towing hawser.

I remember being out in the lightering area offshore of Galveston for Class Surveys. There was a time crunch, so the lightering operation finished while both vessels were underway. . . . .


In 1960 the Mijdrecht participated as a bunker ship in the voyage to Dutch New Guinea of the aircraft carrier Karel Doorman and the frigates Groningen en Limburg.The photo shows the ship in full action.

I sailed on that tanker Mijdrecht. Her predecessor was the war time Mijdrecht who became quite famous as after being torpedoed by the U-70 she sank that sub by ramming it.

With that giant hole in her side she still managed to turn with increasing speed, with the Radio Officer at the helm, and running over the U-boat. A matter of getting even, settling scores.


A long while back, near the Galveston area we had a vessel lightering operation offshore with giant Yokohama fenders weather permitting. Don’t recall if the feeder was originally scheduled to be underway. Some got slightly underway before we were finished with not the best communication. My son participated in replenishment at sea for MSC, whole different animal. They at least talked to each other in the same language. Good story Dutchie, I forgot about that incident.

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Yes I’m familiar with the navy style of bunkering at sea, STS operations, bunker transfer to fishing vessels in open sea.

Open sea bunker transfer to seismic vessels with streamers in tow are now mostly done in-line by purpose built SSVs:

But I did not know that inland ships regularly did bunkering operation while underway in rivers and canals.

Hmm. . .wasn’t that OMI or similar? I am beginning to think of where we crossed paths. . . .OMS. . .THAT’S it.

The vessel we had was the tug “Enterprise” deep notched in the “O-262”. A converted ship “Cities Service Norfolk” tanker we cut the engine room and bridge out and deep notched it. About 260k bbls. Don’t remember who we were lightering from. Wasn’t a long term contract. Getting closer to the mystery kind sir.

Oh, okay. OMS ran the Yokohama fenders out and back from the lightering area (and might still do it) in the 90s. Was the ENTERPRISE the old IOT/Sonat/Maritrans tug? I didn’t ever survey the set up you are describing. I did spend a fair amount of time out on the ULCC/VLCCs, though.

Yes sir, correct on Enterprise. A frigging beast in her prime… We had saddles to carry and deploy our own Yokohamas, due to the Delaware Bay lightering experience. Sadly, as you know most of that wonderful fleet has been relegated to razor blades and Toyotas. Hoping my suv has a smidgeon of IOT steel DNA.

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I managed to find a photo of storing and bunkering underway. In the picture you can see the line out to the Barovane. The approach alongside has to be made keeping the bridge forward of this line instead of the normal approach made to a vessel underway. Deploying the Yokohama fenders was quite a bit of work.

On my ships we only bunker in port. We receive the bunkers from barges in the water or trucks on the quay and my crew first sound tanks aboard, etc. before the bunkers arrive aboard. During bunkering we take samples and, if all goes well, a couple of months later I pay the bill. I have a good credit, you know.

Yes that was how it was done “in the good ol’ days”.

That has all change now, with purpose built SSVs that keep distance from the mothership on DP and laser ranger for cargo transfer. Bunkering is done in-line.
Crew change is mostly by helicopter.

I remember the seeing those Main Iron Works boats when I was on the SEA SKIMMER. Sad to hear that those boats are gone. I know the SKIMMER (and probably the barge, too) met it maker last year. . .or the year before?

Main Iron works built well over half of our fleet. Awesome tug builders. The lightering was a substantial part of revenue, and still is today with the much smaller fleet, but much larger barges. One of my former deckhands is a Federal Pilot on Delaware Bay and still lighters at the anchorage. Damn proud of him.

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Even when we were alongside as in the picture the knuckle crane could not reach the entire back deck and containers were either de-vanned by the crew in New Zealand or positioned by tugger winch where the container could be plumbed by the crane in Aussie. In NZ we also pumped bunkers simultaneously.
Using the mark one eyeball and a line marked by bunting or low powered battery lights at night way back when I was in the navy we maintained about 60 to 80 feet off but we used a jackstay.
How far apart are the vessels using DP and lazer?
If I was to design an SSV it would have all your bells and whistles, be diesel electric so slow speed could be maintained with the right amount of prime mover. very good visibility from the control station of the entire port side. 700 tonne of cargo bunkers plus enough power for 3 intergral containers.