Foss announces new Arctic-class tugs

Out West here, Crowley and Foss are the big boys of the tug-and-barge world. Harley is nipping at their rudders, but both Crowley and Foss have long histories and large fleets. Both have been innovative. Foss’s hybrid harbor tugs are still the only ones of their kind anywhere. And Crowley’s new Legend-class ATBs and Ocean-class tugs are impressively large, fast and powerful.

The two companies are keen competitors, but from my vantage point, the competition is friendly and respectful. I’ve never heard anyone from either company disparage the other.

One segment both companies compete in is ocean towing. With its new Ocean-class tugs, Crowley has jumped out in front of Foss, which has nothing like them. Now, however, Foss has just announced the upcoming construction of at least three Arctic-class tugs that will also be capable of long-range towing anywhere in the world. In this week’s announcement, Foss said the bollard pull will be “in excess of 100 metric tons.” Crowley’s Ocean-class tugs produce 165 tons of bollard pull, so the Foss tugs may not be as powerful. On the other hand, as the name implies, Foss’s Arctic-class tugs will be designed and built for “the rigors of Arctic operations.”

Foss is clearly positioning itself to be the go-to company for Arctic operations, which are sure to grow as the ice cap shrinks. In the press release, Foss president and chief operating officer Gary Faber said, “Foss has worked Alaskan Arctic waters for decades with a well-known record for our focus on, and innovation in, environmental protection with the highest of safety standards. We have unique skills when it comes to the transportation of infrastructure needed for Arctic oil and gas exploration into areas with little or no infrastructure.”

Foss will build the new tugs at its own shipyard at Rainier, Ore., on the Columbia River, which will probably make the project easier than contracting with a separate yard, as Crowley has had to do.

Foss has been intending to build a new generation of ocean-going tugs for quite a few years and it will certainly need them to compete with Crowley’s new boats for big, international jobs. Making them Arctic capable is ice on the cake. 

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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