September 9, 2022
It’s 7 a.m. on a Monday and Yard Operator Darwin Dennis is starting a 12-hour shift aboard the Reddy K – a tow boat that is used to maneuver coal barges around the harbor at Fort Martin Power Station in Maidsville, W.Va. Darwin has several job functions as a member of the station’s Materials Handling group, and today he is piloting FirstEnergy’s Reddy K along the banks of the Monongahela River, which runs by the station.
This is not your average boat. The 760-horsepower vessel recently became the first boat in the Pittsburgh region – and one of the first in the country – to pass inspection under the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) Subchapter M regulations.
Subchapter M outlines towing vessel safety regulations for inspections, standards and options for safety management systems. The regulations are applicable to all towing vessels that are used to push, pull or haul barges and other watercraft.
“We’re proud that the Reddy K has received its certificate of inspection from the USCG,” said Darwin, who has been piloting the boat for seven of his more than 19 years with the company. “Twenty-four crew members are responsible for maintaining the boat and keeping it in excellent operating condition, and it’s a job that we take seriously.”
The Reddy K was in drydock at the Georgetown Shipyard for about six weeks while an internal structural exam was performed. During this time, Fort Martin used the opportunity to have some other work completed, such as painting, lubricating lines and steering gear equipment, and performing other general maintenance for both longevity and appearance.
Life on the Water
“Piloting a boat is great when the weather is nice, but during the winter months when it’s cold and icy – not so much,” Darwin said with a chuckle. “Most days on the water are peaceful, and you can spot wildlife both in the river and along the shoreline. However, you also get days with high water levels and strong currents – especially after a heavy rainfall – and that makes the job more challenging.”
Fort Martin’s tow boat pilots move barges full of coal into the unloading area, where a barge unloader scoops the coal and deposits it onto a series of conveyors that lead to the coal pile. The pilots also are responsible for transferring the empty barges to a holding area, and for moving barges full of limestone, which is used in the operation of Fort Martin’s flue gas desulfurization (scrubber) system.
“We move about eight barges per shift, which equates to approximately 8,000 tons of coal,” added Darwin.
Yard Operator Jason Holstein is another of the Reddy K’s pilots. He emphasized the crew’s commitment to safety and the amount of time it spends on training and maintenance activities.
|Did You Know?
Reddy Kilowatt is a cartoon character that served as a corporate spokesperson for electricity generation in the United States and other countries for seven decades. Created by an Alabama Power employee in 1926, the Reddy Kilowatt trademark is currently owned by Xcel Energy.
“We participate in multiple training sessions throughout the year, including USCG exercises, fire drills and man overboard training,” said Jason, a 15-year veteran of the company with two years of piloting experience. “We also perform monthly inspections, making sure the equipment is operating properly, all the necessary supplies are onboard, and the boat is kept clean. We take a lot of pride in maintaining the Reddy K.”
According to Gary Johnston, Yard superintendent, the Reddy K’s USCG certification is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Fort Martin’s Materials Handling group.
“Our Yard operators are passionate about their jobs, and they have a strong commitment to completing tasks safely,” said Gary. “Whether they are piloting the Reddy K, operating a bulldozer or keeping an eye on the conveyor belts, they are instrumental to generating electricity for our customers.”
|Providing Fuel to the Fort
Fort Martin’s Yard operators rotate among several job functions, including tow boat pilot, deckhand, bulldozer operator to maintain the coal pile, coal barge unloader operator, and equipment watch, which involves walking the yard area to check that the conveyor belts are operating properly and the coal chutes are clear. The following employees serve as Yard operators at the station:
Bill Forman, senior Generation specialist