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MN Floating Museum Faces Corrosion

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

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Duluth, Minnesota’s 611-foot-long floating museum, known as the William A. Irvin, recently had to extend its already monthlong stay in drydock due to the discovery of damage that was worse than originally expected—namely the corrosion of rivets.

Corrosion damage was also found along the vessel’s hull. According to the Star Tribune, Irvin has been moored in the harbor for more th 30 years.

William A. Irvin History

The floating museum, a steel-hulled bulk freighter, was built in 1938 by the American Ship Company (Lorrain, Ohio) for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company. The Irvin spent four decades transporting iron ore and coal between ports in Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio. Irvin was retired in 1978, and was later renovated and permanently moored in the Duluth Harbor in 1986. From there, the Irvin was open for public tours, though recent maintenance needs have prevented tours for the past two years.

McGhiever, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Duluth, Minnesota’s 611-foot-long floating museum, known as the William A. Irvin, recently had to extend its already monthlong stay in drydock due to the discovery of damage that was worse than originally expected—namely the corrosion of rivets.

Powered by two 2,300-horsepower cross compound type steam turbine engines, the Irvin is also equipped with a 15-foot-6-inch-wide propeller, which has four 8-feet-long bronze blades. The design has largely remained unaltered since its original construction—all that has essentially changed is the installation of a gangway to allow for tourist visits.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, the Irvin has been located close to the docks on the Minnesota Slip that it used to serve.

Recent Corrosion Issues

Though harbor bacteria was expected to cause extensive pitting on the vessel, the damage to the rivets came as a surprise. Currently, officials are gathering cost estimates to help them determine if they should repair the rivets or epoxy and paint them. The project is being monitored by AMI Consulting.

A $504,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society was intended to go toward a $455,400 paint job for the vessel, with the excess going toward other maintenance work, which would include work on the hull. Chase Dewhirst, a marine civil engineer with AMI, noted that the rivets could be handled a number of different ways, depending on the damage: If a rivet is more than 50% corroded, a structural repair is likely needed. He added that 95,000 rivets are below the ship’s waterline, and if structural repairs are needed on 10-15% of them, the work is going to become expensive.

Officials have also noted that the ship has reportedly never leaked. Experts posit that the pitting on the Irvin may very well be connected to bacteria found in the harbor: Bacteria adhere to metal, forming a spot of rust, and when ice scrapes off the nodule, the steel is left exposed for the process to start all over again. Stray electrical currents, namely from nearby boats or the vessel, could have also contributed to the corrosion problem. To address this, officials plan to eventually ground the boat.

After the ship became a draw for tourists in 1986, a storm that same year caused it to be relocated to an area between the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and Canal Park. (DECC owns the Irvin.) The ship was moved last fall so that environmental cleanup workers could address harbor sediment. In light of the ship being moved, officials chose to have the ship drydocked so the hull could be sandblasted and painted. Delays pushed back drydocking to beginning in early August. Tours are slated to reopen next May.

   

Tagged categories: Coating failure; Corrosion; Historic Preservation; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Ships and vessels

Comment from john lienert, (9/10/2019, 5:59 AM)

scrap it


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/10/2019, 8:41 AM)

Sounds like the Irvin needs its own cathodic protection system.


Comment from Karl Kardel, (9/10/2019, 12:53 PM)

Iron fixating bacteria eat up old barn nails and the surrounds. Seems the rivets are acting like a ground due to a different type of steel. When I consulted at the Folsom Dam in CA. the engineer had replaced the steel rivets with stainless, which resulted in accelerated corrosion. Not too smart.


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