As ships get bigger, tugs and gear follow suit

Tugboats are rapidly evolving and gear is getting proportionally bigger to serve the new generation of containerships.

Today, tugs are typically being designed with twice as much power as 20 years ago, renowned designer Robert Allan has said, with bollard pulls likewise escalating. The daunting prospect of handling 18,000-TEU ships is a big driver of that trend.

Washburn & Doughty Associates Inc., East Boothbay, Maine, builds 93’x38’15’5″ Z-drive tugs for Moran Towing and other customers. The shipyard’s executive vice president Bruce Washburn said the 6,500-hp threshold poses a challenge, requiring much bigger Z-drives — 50 tons versus around 30 tons for less powerful tugs.

Seattle-based Jensen Maritime has been designing new escort tugs like the 100’x40′ Brian A. McAllister and Rosemary McAllister, being built for McAllister Towing by Horizon Shipbuilding, Bayou La Batre, Ala. The twin Z-drive, 6,770-hp tugs with 90 short tons bollard pull will be delivered in 2017 for offshore service, ship assist, escort, maneuvering and docking work.

Ridderinkof Winches has designed a dynamic braking system to help tugs handle the immense loads of post-Panamax ship escort work. Ridderinkof photo.

Ridderinkof Winches has designed a dynamic braking system to help tugs handle the immense loads of post-Panamax ship escort work. Ridderinkof photo.

Ridderinkof Winches, Hasselt, Netherlands, has designed a dynamic braking system to help these tugs handle the immense loads of post-Panamax ship escort work.

“On an 18,000-TEU ship, that’s a huge amount of windage,” said company director Paul Schut. For an escort tug near the stern of such a large vessel, pulling a line at a 30° angle, losing control can lead to disaster. “One error and you can pull it (the tug) right over,” he said.

Classification societies are looking for more powerful braking systems. “We decided it’s not there, so let’s start designing it,” Schut said. They came up with a 700-mm solid steel-braking disc that can bring two to three times the braking power of similar-sized winches.

“We’re saying you can do 250 tons (pull) all day,” Schut said. At an estimated cost up to 40,000 euros ($45,000), “that makes it a very cheap escort winch.”

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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