Nichols Brothers busy with tugs, ferries

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Washington’s Whidbey Island is buzzing this fall as yard crews work on a pair of Z-drive tugs for Harley Marine Services and a pair of steel superstructures for two new auto ferries for Washington State Ferries. 

Vigor Shipyards, Seattle, is the prime contractor for the new 144-car ferries, and Nichols is the superstructure subcontractor, as it was for three recently built, 64-car Kwa-di Tabil-class ferries.

The two ASD tugs for Seattle-based Harley are being built from the same Jensen Maritime Consultants design that was used to build five tugs for Baydelta Maritime, San Francisco, and one for Minette Bay Ship Docking, Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Of the five built for Baydelta, three are being leased, two by Crowley Maritime and one by Foss Maritime.

The new tugs will measure 100’×40′ with a draft of 17′. Power will be provided by pairs of Caterpillar 3516C main engines rated at 3,400 hp each. Rolls-Royce 255 azimuthing drives will provide the propulsion. Bollard pull will be about 94 tons. “These boats can really pull,” said Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders. “They’ve been nicknamed ‘The Big Bad Boys.’ ”

Each tug will also be outfitted with two Cat C9 generators and electronics from Mackay Marine Electronics, a Northern Lights HVAC system, Markey winches forward for ship assist and aft for towing, and a Smith Berger tow pin. The first of the two tugs, the Robert Franco, is scheduled for delivery in the spring of 2013 followed by the Ahbra Franco in mid-summer 2013. Construction on the first tug began in May and the second in August.

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