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Smaller Troika tug means bigger business opportunities through France’s narrow Canal du Nord.


Some may know a “troika” as a traditional Russian sleigh, whose team of three horses provides a powerful, fast ride along snowpacked roads. But Christian Cnudde’s Troika is a transformed pusher tug, maneuvering through the narrow inland waterways of northern Europe with a robust, unusual design and a new John Deere PowerTech™ 6135AFM85 engine.

Cnudde is passionate about his profession but knows the risks. “You need an agile, responsive vessel, proper care, and good navigation to ensure goods arrive safely, on time, and within budget,” he explains.

A vessel fit to purpose

With a clear vision of what he required to support his success, Cnudde converted a 10-year-old Frecineyt barge into a modern pusher tug. The barge was cut from 38 to 17 meters (125 to 58 feet) in length, and widened from 5 to 5.75 meters (16 to 19 feet).

Kevlar lifting slings and hydraulic controls were installed for safe and easy loading and unloading of goods.

“Her new length and width are perfect for Europe’s inland waterways,” explains Cnudde. “The extra width provides more stability and workspace, but she can still navigate safely through France’s 6-meter-wide (20 foot wide) Canal du Nord. This is the most important stretch for waterway transport between Paris and Dunkirk, and for fast travel north to Belgium or the Netherlands.”

Easy power from the new engine

To ensure sufficient pulling power, Cnudde installed a larger 5-blade propeller, with a more powerful engine to drive it. “I had heard only positive comments about John Deere engines, and when I discovered the 6135AFM85 engine at the annual Euromaritime fair in Paris, it seemed straightforward in design and easy to run and maintain.” The engine drives the propeller through a gearbox with a ratio of 4.5:1, and the hydraulic pump in the steering system.

John Deere marine engine distributor NPS Diesel SAS supplied support throughout the selection and installation of the engine. “Whenever I had a question, I could rely on them to supply relevant information quickly,” Cnudde recalls.

The engine is quieter, cleaner, and more responsive than the original engine, even when Troika is fully loaded. Power, maneuverability, and fuel efficiency: With this trio of advantages, Cnudde and his Troika are ready, willing, and able to take full advantage of the many opportunities of northern Europe’s waterways.

John Deere Distributor in France: NPS Diesel SAS in Pontchâteau, France:

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