It wasn’t too many years ago in the U.S. that Z-drives on workboats were considered too expensive and too hard to get parts for.

There was definitely some truth to this, having to tie up while a part is rushed over from across the Atlantic is not good business. It may be acceptable for a yacht owner or pleasure boat owner, but for a commercial vessel it didn’t make sense.

Over the last several years, things have changed. Tugs and other workboats have been won over by the maneuverability that Z-drives provide. There’s also the fuel savings. Parts are easier to come by as manufacturers have opened facilities in the U.S. where parts and services are more easily obtainable.

ZF Marine recently opened its newest "global facility" in New Orleans — more specifically Elmwood, La. Though ZF has been in New Orleans for 20 years, the new facility represents a major upgrade to its manufacturing and services availability, particularly to the commercial marine industry.

The new facility “will help us respond to customer needs faster than before,” Dr. Klaus Geissdoerfer, head of ZF’s industrial technology division, told those in attendance at the new facility’s grand opening. Geissdoerfer and other ZF senior management officials made it clear that the company plans to continue to grow its presence in the area in the future.

Mike Babin, ZF’s senior product manager, commercial product line, North America, Central America and the Caribbean commercial/fast craft, said the new facility makes sense on a number of levels, particularly when it comes to “being close to our customers and understanding our customers.”


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.