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The Success of Thordon's RiverTough Spurs Fleet-wide Conversion for Harken Towing

This blog was originally published on Palmer Johnson Power Systems is a distributor for Thorton Marine Bearings in British Columbia, Canada.


Harken Towing Granny Hutch Vessel websize
Harken Towing Outside waters fleet of tugs for marine towing in the Pacific Northwest

Harken Towing, a western Canada-based workboat company with operations along the Fraser River, is converting its vessels’ tailshaft bearings to RiverTough following the success of the Thordon bearing system aboard the 14.54m (47.7ft) twin-screw tug Granny Hutch.

Since the first installation in 2015, Harken Towing, which operates a fleet of ten shift tugs, five continuous tugs and nine aluminum water taxis, has installed RiverTough to an additional three tugs and plans to convert the remaining vessels at subsequent drydockings.

Sandy Bourquin, Marine Account Executive at Palmer Johnson Power Systems, Thordon Bearings’ distributor in British Columbia, said the installation has significantly reduced the company’s operational expenditure.

“Many tug owners operating in highly abrasive, silty waterways, such as the Fraser River, find that traditional rubber bearings need to be replaced every two years. This means that vessels have to be routinely taken out of service and have their shafts withdrawn, which is a very costly exercise. RiverTough bearings are saving operators a lot of unnecessary expenditure as it is lasting over 2 times the life of rubber bearings!”

Granny hutch 1

The 152.4mm (6in) polymer bearings installed to Granny Hutch five years ago have not been replaced and remain in almost perfect condition.

Harken Towing engineer Shawn Davies said: “We checked wear and clearances during a recent drydocking and found the bearings to be in excellent condition. RiverTough has proven itself. The whole system and all the components are in perfect working condition.”

Since that first installation, Harken Towing has converted from rubber bearings to RiverTough tailshaft bearings on Ken Mackenzie and Harken 6.

Scott Groves, Thordon Bearings’ Regional Manager – Americas, said: “While there are five companies operating Thordon’s RiverTough along the Fraser River, this is the first clearance data we have received for a vessel operating on this waterway. The feedback from Harken Towing provides clear evidence of RiverTough’s superior wear life in very abrasive water conditions. They routinely outlast rubber bearings by factor of two or more.”

Data from workboats operating the Mississippi River system show typical RiverTough wear rates of 0.075mm to 0.100mm (0.0029in to 0.0039in) in 6000 to 7000 hours of annual use.

Harken Towing plans to install RiverTough to its remaining vessels over the course of the next few years.

Founded in 1948, Harken Towing is one of the most prominent marine towing services companies on Canada’s West Coast. The company’s main focus is towing log booms and barges in the rivers and Coast of the Pacific North West.

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