Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Vessel Profile: Nicole Foss


August 1, 2017

Foss Maritime

The Nicole Foss, the third and last of the company's Arctic class tugs, joined the Foss fleet in a ceremony in Tacoma on June 6.

The Nicole Foss, the third and last of the company's arctic class tugs, was recently launched by the Foss Shipyard in Rainier, Oregon and officially joined the Foss fleet in a ceremony in Tacoma on June 6. Five years after this 7,268-HP design by Glosten naval architects was first made public, the 132'x41'x18' Michele, Denise and Nicole Foss now comprise the most powerful and versatile class of long-haul tugs built on the west coast. With a bollard pull of better than 100 tons, the arctic class combines the best features of traditional towboat design integrated with advanced engineering concepts to meet the highest standards of safety and operational efficiency in the harsh arctic environment.

These are the first tugs in the western hemisphere built specifically to operate in the far north, and comply with the ABS Guide for Building and Classing Vessels Intended to Operate in Polar Waters, including ABS A1 standards. They also meet the SOLAS rules that are required for international work, with a Green Passport certification that requires an inventory of hazardous materials. Their hulls are reinforced to meet ABS "D0" Ice Class rules to withstand first-year ice up to one meter thick. "In their short lives, the first two arctic Class tugs have already spent time in the Alaska and Russian Arctic," said Scott Merritt, COO of Foss Maritime. "These vessels are designed and certificated to go anywhere in the world that our customers may require our services – and that is exactly what our mariners will do with them."

The ABS rules also drove the engineering of complex structural elements, piping systems, and navigation safety standards demanded by the oil and gas industry. The bow is reinforced by closely-spaced frames and 1/2-inch plate, with a 1-inch thick band extending along the deck line; the topsides are 3/8-inch steel with an inner skin creating a void space three feet wide to protect against impacts from loose ice with Schuyler's high-absorption fendering providing additional protection. Along the hull's 1/2-inch bottom, this void protects the engine room and is used for additional fuel storage.

Like her two sister ships, the Nicole Foss is powered by a pair of medium-speed Caterpillar C280-8 engines each producing more than 3,600 HP at 1,000 rpm. The bollard pull was measured above 100 metric tons in an ABS-certified test and the fuel capacity of 122,000 gallons is sufficient for a 30-day/3,000-mile operation. Other notable engine room machinery includes a Nautican Integrated Propulsion System (IPU), reduction gears from Reintjes, and an Alfa Laval centrifugal fuel separator.

The arctic class also stands out as well ahead of the current regulations in terms of the environmental aspect/awareness with the systems including "green" features like the complete elimination of ballast-water tanks, the use of holding tanks for black and gray water, and all hydraulics using biodegradable oil. "This is the top standard for operating these vessels," said Susan Hayman VP of External Affairs for Foss Maritime.

The Michele Foss completed her first arctic assignment in 2015, pioneering a new route across the North Slope, towing a sea-lift of oil field modules from South Korea to the Alaskan arctic. In 2016, the Denise Foss maiden voyage was a 7,350 nautical-mile round trip from Seattle towing a 400-foot by 105-foot double-deck barge. The first port of call was Vancouver, Washington to load a cargo of oil and gas processing modules for transport to Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope of Alaska.

"We designed the boat around the winch and the towing mission," said Jay Edgar, former president of Glosten. To cope with extreme cold, the decks are heated and the bulwarks have been boxed in to reduce ice build-up; the winch is enclosed on three sides and covered by a roof that extends aft from the deck house. The engine coolers are housed in sea chests, which can be heated by coolant from the generators to prevent ice from blocking them.

Besides the Caterpillar Tier 2 mains and the Reintjes WAFF 3455 reduction gears, the power train includes flexible couplings and over-size drive shafts to withstand the shock of ice operations. The gen-sets – a pair of Tier 2 Cat C9-2, 215kW, 480 VAC – are installed in a separate space aft of the engine room. The generator room also houses a John Deere 4,045 99 kW engine set athwartships below the Markey tow winch turning it via a reduction gear and a drive chain inside a heavy chain case. Foss chose a direct-drive Markey double-drum TDSD-40 model with a line pull of 91 metric tons.

Each drum carries 3,000 feet of 2.5-inch under-wound wire that is controlled by Smith Berger shark jaws and towing pins that retract flush with the deck and exit through the cutaway in the stern bulwark. "This keeps the crews as safe as possible," explained Scott Kreis, Markey Machinery's vice president of sales. Foss also specified a horizontal warping head on the port side and a pennant drum on the starboard, which are driven by a 40 HP electric motor. The John Deere is backed up by a 15-HP electric "get-home" drive that will take over if the diesel fails to start. The pneumatic band brake on each drum can apply 230 metric tons of resistance and is supplemented by a water-cooled slip brake in the drive train that can be set to release wire in response to surges in the towline in rough weather. The towing bridle is assembled from 3-inch chain.

A control station at the aft end of the boat deck gives the operator a clear view of the aft deck with displays showing all necessary situational information, including the sophisticated digital tension monitoring system. If any work needs to be done on the wire or the drum, there are two access hatches in the roof. The bow winch is a hydraulic Markey WEWD-22, with a single hawser drum, anchor windlass, and warping heads. It is run from the wheelhouse, where the layout was finalized in consultation with the crews who will man the tug for many weeks at a time.

Planning included the use of a 3D model that resulted in the positioning of a large chart table behind the helm station, with jog-stick steering. The sides of the wheelhouse are angled in looking forward to provide clear sight lines from the interior and the external walkway. The accommodation consists of seven staterooms – four doubles and three singles – all above the main deck. The galley is equipped with a Lang range and Cospolich refrigerator, with spacious walk-in reefer, freezer and dry good storage filling the fore cabin up to the collision bulkhead.

Particular attention has been paid to insulation throughout the vessel, to reduce noise and vibration, ensuring the crew can maintain awareness on watch, relax off-watch, and sleep well. The exhaust and silencer are also selected to reduce engine noise. Other green features include holding tanks for black and gray water to permit operations in "no discharge zones," eliminating the chance of introducing invasive species to arctic waters. Instead, it will adjust trim by transferring fuel between several inter-connected fuel tanks. During fueling, a new piping system allows diesel oil storage tanks to cascade to port and starboard overflow tanks as an additional level of safety.

After the first sea trials, the vessel made 13 knots on the open ocean at full throttle, and Merritt expressed the company's satisfaction with the boat. "Our project teams invested countless hours over several years to design and build a boat that would meet our vision. The craftsman of the men and women at Rainier rivals the best yards in the world, and these vessels reflect their desire to provide a world-class product to the mariners that will sail on them, and fulfill that vision." The arctic tug's performance over three arctic seasons has validated the selection of Nautican to supply a pair of its IPU. The stern gear is of particular importance since it must be capable of withstanding broken ice, along with maneuvering barges and drilling rigs in difficult weather conditions.

The IPU combines a high-efficiency nozzle with pre-swirl stators, 126-inch-diameter fixed-pitch propellers, and linked triple-vane rudders. The whole unit was custom-built to "Ice-class" standards; the five-blade, Kaplan-style stainless steel propeller has thicker leading and trailing edges. The nozzle is assembled with a large head box that slots into a recess in the stern, anchoring it firmly into the hull, explained Elizabeth Boyd, president and owner of Nautican – who recently opened a manufacturing facility in Prince Edward Island, Canada to produce their IPU systems.

The steering is driven by two powerful independent hydraulic systems controlled by three separate steering controls to provide ample backup: the standard jog sticks on the bridge; direct control of the valves at the steering pumps; or an emergency manual wheel in the steering-gear room aft. This is the third of the vessel's impressive machinery spaces, with the engine room notable for its size, height and the extensive piping, overhead wire runs and sub-panels to meet SOLAS standards. Overall, the arctic class resembles a small ship more than a typical offshore tug.

Foss Maritime

An Integrated Propulsion System combines a high-efficiency nozzle with pre-swirl stators, fixed-pitch propellers and linked triple-vane rudders custom-built to "Ice-class" standards.

The builder is the Foss Rainier Shipyard, located on the Columbia River midway between Astoria and Portland. The Nicole Foss is the 22nd hull built at Rainier yard, with the other arctic class tugs preceding her along with ten of the 78-foot Dolphin class ship-handling tugs, a large ferry, pilot boats and many other projects. For the arctic class, the yard was expanded by 10,000 square feet to create more space for assembly and launching onto a drydock.

"It's definitely the biggest and most complex boat we've built here," stated Rainier Shipyard director Don Nugent, "and we delivered the Nicole ahead of schedule and under budget." The estimated cost is around $20 million per boat.


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