Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Ocean and Coastal Towing: More Respect for Tug and Barge Operations


In July, the Crowley barge 455-8 moved a drilling rig from Vancouver, Washington to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Crowley Marine.

It's been said in the past that the towing industry plays second fiddle to the ship assist and escort sectors. And while that may have been true historically, it seems to be less and less the case with each passing month, because from ATBs and tank barges to conventional tugs and deck barges, yards keep launching new floating equipment for west coast operators.

Among them is Western Towboat Co., located on the north side of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. It's among the numerous companies on the west coast that have been quite active over the past several months.

"We have had a busy summer working between Seattle and Alaska on various projects with Lynden's Alaska Marine Lines," Western Towboat's Russell Shrewsbury told Pacific Maritime Magazine. "We just got back from the island of Attu where our tug Ocean Ranger and Alaska Marine Lines landing craft Sam Talluk successfully loaded out 10,000 tons of contaminated soil from WWII."

Western Towboat also launched its newest vessel, Bering Titan, in June. She's a 120-foot, 6,500-HP Z-drive tractor tug that will tow a 420-foot by 100-foot rail/containerized freight barge for Alaska Marine Lines from Seattle to Whittier, Alaska.

Earlier this summer, Western Towboat was also involved in moving the 243-foot by 200-foot by 46-foot jack-up rig Randall Yost from the Homer, Alaska deep water port to the Kitchen Lights area in Cook Inlet.

The company also recently towed the deactivated US Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Sea from Seattle to Vigor Industrial Portland where she had shafts and equipment removed, then the vessel was return-towed back to Seattle's Pier 36 USCG base where she now sits inactive.

Polar Sea, which was commissioned in 1977, had been one of the world's most powerful, conventionally propelled icebreakers, but has been out of service since 2010 due to a complete failure of five of her six Alco main diesel engines.

Also busy during the summer season was Crowley Maritime, a company that is now headquartered in Florida but retains a strong presence on the west coast, particularly Alaska.

In July, the Crowley barge 455-8 departed Vancouver, Washington for a voyage north to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, transporting a new rig for Nabors Drilling, Alaska, which is under contract to Conoco for their expanded Alaska drilling program.

"Crowley Marine Solutions is providing engineering and project management for the project – skills that have been developed through many years of performing the annual sealifts to the North Slope of Alaska," Crowley Marine spokesman Mark Miller told pacific maritime magazine.

In addition to the sealift, Crowley is providing coastal barging service this summer for ExxonMobil's Point Thomson oil production project near the arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Both the sealift and the coastal barging program must be complete by the end of September, when the ice returns to the North Slope at the conclusion of the short 75-day summer season, Miller said.

Regarding Crowley-related vessel design and construction, Jensen Maritime, Crowley's Seattle-based naval architecture and marine engineering company, announced in early February that it had been chosen to provide detailed design services for two, 100-foot long, 40-foot wide, escort tugs for New York-based McAllister Towing.

Both 12-knot, 6,770-horsepower tugs are being built at Horizon Shipbuilding in Bayou LaBatre, Alabama, and are scheduled for delivery in 2017. Since 2001, Jensen has designed 13 tugs for McAllister's fleet.

Other vessel deliveries and christenings this year included Sause Bros., Foss Maritime and Tidewater Transportation, among others.

On April 30, a launch ceremony was conducted at Gunderson Marine Shipyard in Portland for the Namakani, the latest in the fleet of vessels for ocean towing, cargo handling and ship assist outfit Sause Bros.

The Namakani is joining the fleet of Sause barges working in the Hawaiian Islands and is expected to make her maiden voyage to Hawaii in September, which happens to be when Sause Bros. celebrates its 50th anniversary of continuous service to the Hawaiian Islands.

The vessel has a length of 438 feet, a beam of 105 feet and a depth of 25 feet.

"The Namakani will join our new advanced modernized fleet of wind class barges," Sause Bros.' Caitlin Sause explained, saying that the new vessels usher in a "new era of increased environmental sustainability and expanded capacity."

The sustainability and capacity increases are due in part to the vessels' somewhat unusual design. A computational group in Germany – the same team that worked on the Americas Cup for Larry Ellison – was brought in to work on designing this latest barge with the newest and most advanced engineering in the world.

"The same engineers predict that this will be the fastest barge ever built," Sause said.

In July, Vigor Industrial's Seattle Shipyard delivered the Dale R. Lindsey, a 95-foot by 38-foot by 16-foot, 3,000 hp ATB Twin Screw Tug to Harley Marine Services. It is the eleventh vessel built by Vigor for long-time customer Harley.

Designed by Elliot Bay Design Group for primary operation in Alaska, the ATB tug utilizes an Articouple FRM-43M coupler system to pair with the 20,000-barrel oil barge, Petro Mariner. It also features a raised aluminum pilothouse for optimal visibility built by Vigor subsidiary Kvichak.

On June 1, Foss Maritime christened the second of three state-of-the-art arctic Class tugs, Denise Foss, at the Foss Waterway Seaport in Tacoma.

The Denise Foss, designed to operate in the extreme conditions of the far north, is ice class D0, meaning the hulls are designed specifically for polar waters and are reinforced to maneuver in ice.

She includes a Caterpillar C280-8 main engine, has a bollard pull of 221,000 pounds and incorporates several environmentally focused designs and structural and technological upgrades, like the elimination of ballast tanks, so there is no chance of transporting invasive species, and the installation of holding tanks for black and gray water to permit operations in no-discharge zones, such as parts of Alaska and California.

The first of the three planned arctic tugs, the Michele Foss, debuted in 2015; the Denise Foss entered service this summer. The third vessel, the Nicole Foss, is currently under construction.

Also in June, the newest inland river towboats in Tidewater Transportation and Terminals' fleet, Granite Point and Ryan Point, were christened during a ceremony in Vancouver, Wash.

Both vessels, which were christened June 11, are built to the same specifications – 104 feet in length, with a 38-foot beam, plus a depth at full load of 11 feet and a hexagonal wheelhouse with floor-to-ceiling windows on all six sides. Other features include an enhanced steering system utilizing four main steering and four flanking rudders, coupled with two Caterpillar 3516C Tier 3 engines.

In May, Seattle-based Harley Marine announced the construction of two new ship-handling vessels, with the two tugs to be built at Diversified Marine in Portland, Oregon.

Each tug, designed with a length of 80 feet, a beam of 36 feet and a depth of nearly 17 feet, is expected to enhance the company's fleet presence on the west coast.

When fully built, each would be capable of producing 70 short tons of bollard pull. They're designed to be equipped with two CAT 3516, Tier 3 propulsion engines, for a total of about 5,200 horsepower, plus two Caterpillar C7.1, Tier 3 generators.

The cutting edge engines can reduce NOx and particulate matter, from Tier 2 models by 74 percent, according to Harley Marine.

The vessels will also each be equipped with a Markey bow winch, a barge handling stern winch and Shibata fendering.

There were also a couple of other notable vessel happenings during the first half of the year, one involving Gunderson Marine and Harley Marine Services, the other involving construction company Ledcor.

Gunderson Marine said in April that it has received an order from Harley Marine Services to build two articulated ocean-going barges. The deal is for two 430-foot barges, each with an 82,000-barrel carrying capacity.

Gunderson most recently delivered a barge to Harley in 2009.

Construction on the barges began mid-2016, with delivery of both expected during the second half of 2017.

Also in April, Ledcor announced that its already substantial marine fleet has been bolstered by the addition of two new British Columbia-built tugs that will operate along the Fraser River.

Both tugs are equipped with two Caterpillar C18 Acert diesel engines that provide each tug with 1340 horsepower at 1,800 RPM. Each is 48 feet long, 22.5 feet wide and 10 feet deep, and can provide accommodations for up to two crewmembers.

Gunderson Marine Shipyard in Portland launched the barge Namakani for client Sause Bros., who believe the carefully-designed vessel will be "the fastest barge ever built." Photo courtesy of Sause Bros.

The tugboats, which were christened the Herb L. Ledcor and Lorne M. Ledcor after two founding members of Leduc Construction, the predecessor to Ledcor, were built by Richmond, British Columbia-based Bracewell Marine Group, a family-operated marine refit and construction outfit.

Ledcor says the vessels are unique in that many of the design and outfitting features were products of input from the company's mariners, with operations on the Fraser River in mind. This includes the pilothouse layout, location of multiple control stations and the increased visibility from the pilothouse for safe operations.

With the addition of these new vessels, the total combined horsepower of Ledcor's marine fleet is 10,770 hp.

The company, which has head offices in both San Diego and Vancouver, BC, has a marine division comprised of 22 barges and nine tugboats, serving clients in the forestry, bio-energy, and industrial sectors. Eight of the nine tugboats in Ledcor's fleet operate in the Vancouver area; the other services British Columbia's capitol city, Victoria.


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