One-of-a-kind rocket-carrying vessel.
The M/V Delta Mariner was recently involved in a bridge allision on the Tennessee River near Cadiz, Kentucky. There were no reports of injury or pollution. The incident is under investigation and it is premature to speculate as to the cause. It is timely, though, to generally discuss this unique vessel, which has been quietly performing its work for the past 12 years. It was built in 1999 by Halter Marine in Moss Point, Mississippi for Foss Maritime. The sole mission of the Delta Mariner is to transport rocket components from the point of manufacture at the Boeing facility in Decatur, Alabama to launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida or Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The vessel is routed either through the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway or via the Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. It can carry up to three 160-foot long, 16-foot diameter Delta IV common booster cores. As their name implies, the common booster cores are attached to the Delta IV rockets to provide additional thrust for satellite launches. The Delta Mariner is specially constructed to operate on both inland rivers and the open ocean. It is 312 feet in length, has a beam of 56 feet, and has a design draft of 14 feet. It is classed with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and its Protection and Indemnity coverage is with the American Club. A quick review shows no previous detentions or deficiencies with the US Coast Guard. Designing the Delta Marine required special engineering and project management during construction to meet Boeing’s unique requirements for transporting the valuable and sensitive cargoes. A large door across the stern facilitates loading of the common booster cores onto this ro-ro vessel.