Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Ocean and Coastal Towing: New Legislation Poses Challenges

 

September 1, 2019

Foss has expanded its fleet in Hawaii with the launch of four 123-foot Kāpena Class tugs for its Young Brothers subsidiary for cargo service between Honolulu and the neighbor islands. Photo by Rick Wilson.

For everyone involved in the towing and ship-docking business on the west coast, this year has presented at least three legislative issues that have collectively created the biggest challenge to the industry since the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. They are the start of the second year of Sub-chapter M compliance on Jul 22, the mandate for EPA Tier 4 emission controls on all diesel engines above 805 hp, the uncertainty surrounding the siting of shoreside LNG facilities for domestic maritime use and the general unease with shipping all "fossil" fuels. Add to these long-standing issues the unpredictable political situation on trade with China, most notably agricultural exports and containerized imports, and you have a recipe for sleepless nights for operations and planning staff in the marine transport sector.

The first year of Sub-chapter M (2018-19) mandated that 25 percent of fleets be inspected, the second year (2019-20) the rule applies to the next 25 percent. One industry veteran we spoke to pointed out that owners are naturally choosing their newest and best maintained boats to be examined first, which reduces the cost and work needed to obtain the new Certificates of Inspection (COIs). However, this inevitably leads to the second group of the fleet comprising the older vessels that have likely received less attention and now require more work and expense to reach compliance. The demand for extensive work to these vessels will likely collide with a reduction in drydock capacity caused by the closure of several smaller yards recently for a variety of reasons including shoreline economic changes and legacy pollution issues.

This situation could include the necessity of a re-power with Tier 3 as well or more issues for tugs working in Southern California, or in Northwest ports now considering local rules limiting emissions from the marine sector. These factors could lead to an unexpected number of older vessels being forced into retirement. Although Foss Maritime is the leading operator on the west coast, with a fleet of more than 40 ship-handling tugs, it closed the Columbia River yard in Rainier specializing in new construction in late 2018. This small but productive yard had successfully launched 13 new tugs in Rainier since 2005.

Foss Outsources Newbuilds

Foss continues to operate its main Shipyard in Seattle and is having four 100-foot ASD tugs built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Whidbey Island, Washington. These Jensen-designed tractors will be built to Subchapter M regulations, and powered by two MTU series 4000 mains with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) after-treatment with urea that meet Tier 4 standards. They are multi-functional to include ship assist and escort capabilities as well as towing, with 900 GPM fire pumps and monitors.

"By introducing new tugs to our fleet and cycling older vessels out, we will be able to optimize Harbor fleet size and meet current customer demand; reduce charter, maintenance, and repair expenses; improve vessel reliability; and increase asset use," says Foss. The contract includes the option of adding six additional vessels.

Foss has also expanded its fleet in Hawaii with the launch of four 123-foot Kāpena Class tugs for its Young Brothers subsidiary. Foss chose Louisiana-based Conrad Shipyard to build this Damen design. The twin G.E. 8L250 engines each rated at 3,000 horsepower are Tier 4 compliant using in-cylinder technology that avoids SCR. The Kāpena class are expected to improve the company's ability to provide "just-in-time" cargo service between Honolulu and the neighbor islands.

In Alaska, Foss is transferring modern boats northward to increase capacity at its Cook Inlet Tug & Barge in Anchorage. The first was the Bering Wind, formerly known as the Campbell Foss, a 5,000 hp Dolphin Class that underwent a hybrid conversion in Rainier in 2011. It arrived in Alaska at the end of 2018 from Long Beach, California with a bollard pull of 135 tons in full hybrid mode and will improve the company's level of service in the Port of Anchorage. Foss has also taken over all of Crowley's Prudhoe Bay, Alaska assets – including tugs, barges, heavy vehicles etc.

Cook Inlet Tug & Barge began operations on Alaska's North Slope in July during the three-month ice-free season with three newly acquired ex-Crowley tugs in Prudhoe Bay – Sag Wind, Kuparuk Wind, and Kavik Wind, all 64 feet by 27 feet with a draft of only 3.4 feet. They are each powered by three 1,095-hp CAT 343D engines.

These shallow-draft tugs and barges are ideally suited for work on the North Slope waterways and the Western Alaska markets," said Jeff Johnson, President of CITB. "These versatile workhorses help round out Cook Inlet and other Foss operations in Alaska."

Crowley Ice-Class Alaska ATB

Kate Fuhrman, director of business development at Crowley Maritime, notes that the increasing size of deep sea vessels is dictating the need for highly maneuverable and more powerful fuel carriers. Crowley Fuels is currently building a 483-foot 100,000-barrel ATB at Bollinger Shipyard in Amelia, Louisiana to transport clean petroleum products in the Alaska market. Designed by Crowley subsidiary Jensen Maritime of Seattle, it will be classed by the American Bureau of Shipping to meet all Ice Class and Polar Code requirements, with increased structural framing and shell plating and extended zero discharge endurance. "While Crowley has operated ATBs in Alaska in the past, this will be the first ATB of its size and class that will be dedicated to the Alaska market," Crowley Fuels Senior Vice President and General Manager Rocky Smith said.

Both the main engines aboard the tug and the barge engines are GE Tier 4. Propulsion is via twin ASD's with an Intercon C-series coupling system manufactured in Kansas City, Missouri with a fail-safe mechanical connection. The barge will be fitted with a ballast-water treatment system, while the tug will have a closed-loop ballast system that will transfer the tug's ballast to a retention tank on the barge. This eliminates the need for a ballast-water treatment system on the tug.

Crowley will operate the ATB under a long-term charter with Alaska-based Petro Star Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) – a Crowley customer for 40 years.

The barge will have deep-well pumps in cargo tanks and all-electric deck machinery to reduce the risk of hydraulic spills, and will carry a full range of spill- response equipment. Crew amenities will include 45-degree staircases, interior noise reduction and bathroom-equipped staterooms. It will also be SOLAS compliant with full firefighting capability. Crowley expects to take delivery in the fourth quarter of 2019 and the contract includes an option for a second unit.

New Unalaska Dock to Support Samson Tug & Barge

The City of Unalaska is celebrating a major dock renovation at the Port of Dutch Harbor after completion of the two-year, $40 million project. The port's biggest customers are Samson Tug & Barge, North Pacific Fuel and Matson. "In my estimation, this dock extension makes the Unalaska Marine Center one of the finest port facilities in the state of Alaska," said Mayor Frank Kelty.

The renovation has extended the dock by more than 700 feet, rebuilt the foundation pilings, installed security fencing, and created another acre of uplands. "This brings the total dock frontage to over 2,000 feet. This project will hopefully increase barge traffic and provide additional space for cruise ships – we have about 20 coming this season – and allow the continuation of calls by the Alaska Marine Highway System ferries," he added.

The renovation could also boost Unalaska's strategic importance, according to Rear Admiral Matthew Bell, commander of US Coast Guard District 17 in Alaska. "It is the gateway to the Bering Sea and the arctic. That's my personal opinion," he said. "If you look at the volume of traffic, the volume of containers, and the price-dollars of fisheries coming out of Dutch Harbor, it is the capital for the state." Bell's endorsement was a big deal to Unalaska's port director, Peggy McLaughlin. She said the recognition meant a lot, especially as the city funded the entire project without help from the state or federal government.

"Finally, somebody from outside gets the connectivity of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor," she said. "This facility is a huge asset. It opens up so many doors for transportation and connectivity. This dock sees 900 vessels ranging from 150 feet to over 1,065 feet every year, over two billion pounds of cargo, 65,000 containers and nearly 30 million gallons of fuel, " she pointed out. The upgrade has extended the dock's crane rail, giving the port the option of adding a second container crane in the future.

Vane Brothers Arrive on West Coast

Baltimore-based Vane Brothers is a leading provider of towing services on the east coast with a fleet of 150 tugs and barges. It recently began adding ATB's and has sent its first launch – the a 4,400 hp Assateague coupled with the an 80,000-bbl DS-801– to California. This combination was built at the Conrad yard in the Gulf and measures under 500 gross tons. Propulsion is by twin 2,200-hp Cummins QSK60 Tier 3's turning conventional props through Reintjes WAF 873 reduction gears.

Vane Brothers President C. Duff Hughes says, "Our much-anticipated arrival in a new market on the west coast unlocks exciting opportunities. Now that equipment, crews, and key support staff are in place, we have a platform for continued growth." Current west coast fleet operations are focused on two fronts: ship-bunkering in Washington's Puget Sound with Marathon Petroleum, and ATB dock-to-dock transfers for Valero Energy in Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as the Port of Benicia at the head of San Francisco Bay. "We are gratified that companies which are among the nation's foremost have tapped Vane Brothers to support their west coast activities," Hughes says.

Kirby Fined by Canadian Court

The US west coast has avoided major barge spills since the Oil Pollution Act became law in 1990, but the sinking of the 95-foot ATB Kirby tug Nathan E. Stewart on the northern coast of British Columbia in October 2016 released about 29,000 gallons of diesel and lubricants. The double-hulled 287-foot tank barge was empty at the time, but the tug carried approximately 200,000 gallons of diesel. The barge was decoupled and recovered, while the tug sank and sat on the bottom for weeks. The $6.4 million vessel was later lifted onto a barge by a 700-ton crane barge brought in from Seattle, then declared a total loss. This spill fouled fishing grounds of the indigenous Heiltsuk Nation, forcing a shutdown of commercial clamming, finfish harvest and local subsistence fisheries.

The sinking returned to the spotlight on July 16 when a Canadian provincial court in Bella Bella, BC fined Kirby Offshore Marine C$2.9 million. The investigation had found that the second mate had fallen asleep while on watch and hit a marked reef in the Seaforth Channel, part of the Inland Passage route.

Kirby is the largest US tank barge operator and is a major player in the Northwest, transporting petroleum products Washington and Alaska. The Heiltsuk Nation placed an advertisement in the Houston Chronicle asking readers to petition Kirby to do more in addressing consequences of the sinking. "We sincerely regret this incident, and we have amended our operating procedures, training, auditing, promotion protocols and equipment to help reduce the potential for future accidents," the company said. Those changes include wheelhouse alarms and better awareness of fatigue risks.

Harley Marine Exiting Inland Gulf Towing

Harley Marine Gulf, the Houston-based affiliate of Harley Marine Services in Seattle entered the Gulf-based bunkering market in 2011 with its acquisition of MGI Marine. On May 29, the company sold four of its 12 towboats and eight 30,000-barrel black oil barges, closing the inland tow business in favor of growing its bunkering operation. This announcement will see Harley expand into new Gulf markets outside the Port of Houston.

"Over the last few years we've looked to simplify our service offerings in the Gulf, so we can focus on what we are good at–bunkering and blue water terminal transportation," said Matt Godden, president of Harley Marine Services. He expects to further achieve new contract and bunkering fleet growth in the latter half of 2019 to meet the demand resulting from the 2020 IMO sulfur regulations.

Western Towboat Completing Another Tug

In June, the Western Towboat building crew launched the 19th tug built in-house at their base on the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. Although the 80-foot, 330-ton Mariner is smaller than the seven 120-foot Titan class vessels that the company has constructed in the last 20 years, it still took most of the day to trailer it to the adjacent Trident Seafood depot and dock with two big trucks pushing, and a forklift steering at the bow. At the water's edge, it was rolled onto a drydock belonging to the Foss yard across the canal, moved out into the middle of the channel, and finally floated.

The Mariner is the third 4,000-hp boat of its type, capable of ship docking, moving empty barges around the Seattle waterfront, and generally working in tight spaces. Fitting out is now underway at the company's dock where all its 22 tugs are moored and maintained.

Western has been based in Ballard since 1948. The Shrewsbury family began building boats for their own use in 1982, powering their entire fleet with Caterpillar engines, which allowed them to stock most of the spare parts they may need.

Five years later, in 1987, they developed the first long-haul tug on the west coast with ASD drives. This has been the key to the company's successful long-term partnership with Alaska Marine Lines, because of their superior maneuverability that permits the experienced crews to drop the tow and dock the barge without assistance in the small ports of SE Alaska. Since the 1990's, all the new tugs have also been fitted with Schottel z-drives.

Bob Shrewsbury is the second generation of the family to run the company and now has the title of president while his son Russell, the third generation, is taking the helm of the business with the support of his brother Ross and sister Kristin. The year-round bi-weekly freight routes to Alaska still make up about 70 percent of the company's business. "As Southeast Alaska has expanded, so has our business in order to fill their needs," said Russell.

He also gave us an update on the company's longest tow this year by the 3,420 hp Western Ranger. It arrived in Pearl Harbor on July 26 after towing a navy barracks barge from Guam for the US Navy/MSC. "This trip was put together in two days, so hats off to our crews for turning this boat to go on a moment's notice," Russell told us. "It will light tug back to Seattle next, then head for Alaska and most likely bring some fish back."

Dunlap Orders a Third Hansen Tug

Dunlap Towing provides a full range of services on the US west coast from the operations base in Everett, Washington. They operate ship-assist services to vessels of all types in Puget Sound and also station four powerful tugs in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The company's offshore tugs maintain a regular barge service to Hawaii and remote locations in Western Alaska. Dunlap is also one of the only companies in the Pacific Northwest that still provides full-service log handling, log-raft towing and storage, and chip barging in Puget Sound to support the wood and paper products industries.

In 2015, the company embarked on a long-term program to replace its older vessels, contracting with its local builder Hansen Boat Co. to construct the 5,350 hp 121-foot ocean towing tug Sigrid Dunlap, an updated version of the 5,100 hp Phyllis Dunlap, that Hansen launched in 2001. Hansen is now constructing a third version of this design by Hockema Whalen Myers Associates for delivery in 2020.

At the end of July, Dunlap's Towing Assistant Controller Meghan Dunlap-Rice reported that the 4,000 hp Polar Storm was in Barrow, Alaska carrying cargo for Alaska Marine Lines to the communities along the North Slope. The 4,800 hp Polar King will be underway for Western Alaska on Friday with several stops at ports including Bethel, Dutch Harbor, and Naknek. The 4,960 hp Polar Ranger was returning to Seattle from Western Alaska with an Alaska Marine Lines barge carrying refrigerated containers loaded with fish from Bristol Bay, while the 3,670 hp Gene Dunlap will be resuming work chip barging along the coast.

Shaver Addresses Subchapter M with New Hire

Running a full-service towing business on the Columbia River presents a unique challenge to Shaver Transportation: constructing tugs that can push barges on the 450-mile Columbia- Snake river system with its eight dams, and also handle ship-assist duties in the Portland-Vancouver area along with the company's dedicated Harbor tugs. In 2017, company president Steve Shaver added an extra role for the new boat he was planning: escort and towing from the ocean over the Columbia Bar into the river.

The result is a very versatile, multi-mode vessel, the 112-foot by 44-foot Samantha S, designed by Jensen Maritime, built at Diversified Marine in Portland, and launched early in 2019. The tug is classed under the general heading ABS Maltese Cross A1. This encompasses a large group of certification options, from which Shaver selected the following: Towing Vessel, Escort vessel, FiFi Class 1, and Loadline. It is powered by a pair of medium-speed GE V-12 Tier 4 diesels each weighing 30 short tons and producing 4,224 hp.

A bollard pull of 115 tons puts the Samantha S in a class of its own, well above typical ship-handling tugs. Deck gear includes high-power Rapp hydraulic winches, plus a total of eight electric Wintech wire winches – six on the aft deck with a capacity of 120 tons and two on the foredeck, for rigging to barges on the river.

Shaver's fleet of 14 tugs now consists of four dedicated to ship assist, seven with push knees for ship/barge work, two purely for barge work, and the new Samantha S. Six of these vessels are tractor tugs, and five of the older designs have been repowered with modern low-emission diesel engines.

"We have opted to utilize the USCG route for our Subchapter M compliance, with our tug Sommer S being the first in the nation to receive its Coast Guard Option COI," said Shaver's VP Marine Services Rob Rich. "Our newest tug the Samantha S is our first Tier 4 vessel, and is performing well with the GE engines," He added. To manage the transition to Subchapter M, they hired retired USCG Commander Jon Hellberg.

"We are also proud to have taken delivery of two new 4,000-ton inland grain barges in November of 2018 from Corn Island Shipyard in Indiana. This further demonstrates our commitment to grain barging on the Columbia-Snake River system," he remarked. He also noted that the crews and vessels are all audited to ABS standards with special emphasis on crew training, safety and environmental responsibility.

Bay Delta Adds Hybrid to SF Bay Fleet

Bay Delta's fleet of six conventional 100-foot by 40-foot Valor-class tugs was recently joined by Delta Teresa, the first new hybrid tug in the USA for a decade. Like her sisters, she was designed by Jensen and built by Nichols. These tugs are responsible for assisting many of the large container ships and tankers that visit San Francisco Bay. This large body of water is covered by strict state emission/environmental rules for all marine traffic, which has resulted in a steady upgrade in the engine technology used in the Bay Area's many ferries and tour boats.

Baydelta Maritime is a family-owned tugboat company operating in San Francisco Bay since 1982. It has around 30 customers, including major oil companies, and serves the five oil refineries in the San Francisco Bay. Escorting and assisting tankers into and out of the oil refinery docks on the east side of San Francisco Bay requires the best technology available and the most recent of the Valor tugs all have more than 90 tons of bollard pull from a pair of Tier 3 Caterpillar 3516CX, each with 3,356 hp.

Bay Delta's fleet of six conventional 100-foot by 40-foot Valor-class tugs has recently been joined by Delta Teresa, the first new hybrid tug in the USA for a decade. Photo courtesy of Bay Delta.

Commenting on their operational performance, Baydelta's Captain Mike Peery said, "The Teresa is equal to our other Valor-class vessels in power, but exceeds the others in versatility by increased propulsion options and infinitely variable thrust, provided by the Kongsberg PTI system, for sensitive operations demanding less prop wash." Baydelta could have more tanker work if the US Army Corps of Engineers succeeds with its plan to dredge and deepen a 13-mile channel across San Francisco Bay from 35 feet to 38 feet deep.

The channel would allow loaded crude-oil tankers with a deeper draft to reach the refineries on the north-east shore of the bay. The first of two proposed segments would cut across the southern third of San Pablo Bay, beginning northwest of Richmond and extending to the Carquinez Strait. The second runs from Martinez to Avon, under the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Local environmental groups are already staging protests over the plan.

 
 

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