The 103'4"x45'6"x15'7" Rotortugs Signet Sirius and Signet Capella were voted WorkBoat’s Boat of the Year for 2023.

The Boat of the Year is elected by our readers from a list of 10 Significant Boats that are chosen by our editors each year. This year’s Significant Boats were announced in early October. The list was then released to the public on WorkBoat’s web page, where readers were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite.

"I believe the hard work and dedication of everyone involved paid off," said Gayle C. Snyder, Signet's executive vice president. "We can't wait to get these boats to work and involved in what they are supposed to be doing." 

Choosing the 10 Significant Boats each year is subjective, with many boats deserving of making the list each year. However, there are certain parameters that the editorial staff adheres to in its efforts to give all boats that qualify a chance. For example, we try to select at least one boat from each sector of the industry that WorkBoat covers — inland towboats and barges, harbor and coastal tugs, offshore service vessels, and passenger vessels.

In addition, if possible, we try to select one boat from each region of the U.S. — East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, and the Great Lakes.

While design is a very important ingredient in selecting a Significant Boat, it is not the only one. What makes a boat “Significant” can be that it’s a first of its kind, a successful series build, where it operates and who it serves, or how it helps advance new workboat markets like wind energy.

Only boats that appeared in WorkBoat magazine from December 2022 to November 2023 were eligible this year.

Signet Shipbuilding & Repair (SS&R), Pascagoula, Miss., delivered the first of two new Robert Allan Ltd.-designed Rotortugs to Signet Maritime.

SS&R is owned by Houston-based Signet Maritime, which operates a fleet of tugs that provide ship assist, ship escort, towing, offshore support, subsea and rig moves.

Snyder said she believes that the new tugs are the first towing vessels to receive an ABS ENVIRO notation, first in the U.S. to achieve an ABS LEV (low-emissions vessel) notation, and first in the U.S. to receive an ABS Cybersecurity-1 (CS-1) notation. 

The tugs will work for the Enbridge Ingleside (Texas) Energy Center, moving VLCCs (very large crude carriers). Enbridge Ingleside is the largest crude oil storage and export terminal by volume in the U.S.

The tugs will operate through Aransas Pass and its unique geography. It’s a narrow channel with a strong cross-current from the north and up to 6.5', six-second wave periods. The Rotortugs will have to maintain outbound speed to steer the ships properly and pull the ships against the crosscurrent at the bar.

“This Rotortug design is the only available technology to assure the safe movement of future, deeper draft VLCCs through the currents in the jetties in Corpus Christi,” said George Burkley, executive director, Maritime Pilots Institute, Covington, La.

The tugs’ hulls are designed to meet intact damage stability criteria in each compartment.

According to Signet officials, Signet Sirius and Signet Capella are built for close-quarter operations in narrow marine terminal slips and can shoulder indirect and accelerate assist maneuver deep-draft VLCCs not otherwise possible.

A hull breach in any space will keep the vessel upright. In addition, the tugs will carry custom-designed, modular ultra-high-performance polyurethane elastomer fenders from Buoyant Works. The fenders are 30% lighter than materials normally used and can be individually replaced. This eliminates the need to replace an entire fender because of damage to one area.

Main propulsion comes from three MTU 12V4000 M65L Tier 4 marine engines producing a total of 7,725 hp. The mains connect to Kongsberg US 205 controllable pitch Z- drives with 2,500mm-dia., 4-bladed nibral propellers in nozzles.

Ship’s service power comes from a pair of Tier 3 John Deere 6135 AFM85 gensets, sparking 300 kW of electrical power each.

The tugs have two Markey Marine winches each on deck — a DESF-52 AGILE, 200-hp, electric winch on the bow; and a TESF-32 AGILE, 200-hp, electric winch on the stern. These were complete winch redesigns. Both winches transition between gears for increased line tension and speed to protect the vessel from high pitch and roll moments in two-meter, six-second seas and protect ship and tug from shock loads and zero-tension (slack line) issues.

Also on deck, the tug is equipped with a Fire Fighting Systems AS (FFS) SFP 1,000-kW centrifugal fire pump, and two FFS 1200LB remotely operated monitors with 10,600-gpm flow and a range of 400'.

The new tugs have a three-thruster design — two forward and one aft — making them able to steer and affect line tension in different directions. 

This year’s Significant Boats voting page had 15,869 views. Signet Sirius and Signet Capella received a total of 402 votes out of a possible 1,717 votes cast. 

Once again, here are this year’s Significant Boats in alphabetical order:

Artemis: 46'x16' Tour Boat

Builder: BRIX Marine, Port Angeles, Wash

Owner: Hawaiian Adventures Kona, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Designer: BRIX Marine, Port Angeles, Wash.

Capt. Les Eldredge: 62'x21'6"x20' Crew Transfer Vessel (converted charter fishing boat)

Builder: Hornblower Shipyard, Bridgeport, Conn.

Owner: Coast Line Transfers Inc., New Bedford, Mass.

Designer: Nautical Design & Consulting LLC., Berwick, La.

Empire State, Patriot State, State of Maine, Lone Star State, TBD: 524.3'x88'6" (Security Multimission Training Vessel)

Builder: Philly Shipyard, Philadelphia

Owner: Maritime Administration, Washington, D.C.

Designer: Herbert Engineering (guidance design), DSEC (detail and function design), TOTE Services, Philly Shipyard

Freedom: 100'x34'x10'9" Towboat

Builder: Vessel Repair, Port Arthur, Texas

Owner: Tennessee Valley Authority, Knoxville, Tenn.

Designer: Sterling Marine, Fairhope, Ala.

Neebish Islander III: 92'x33' Car-Passenger Ferry

Builder: Burger Boat Co., Manitowoc, Wis.

Owner: Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority (EUPTA), Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Designer: Seacraft Design, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.


Over the Horizon Cutter Boats: 25'6"x8'6" Patrol Boats

Builder: Inventech Marine Solutions, Bremerton, Wash.

Owner: U.S. Coast Guard, Washigton, D.C.

Designer: Inventech Marine Solutions, Bremerton, Wash.


R.B. Weeks: 364’6”x79’6”x27’3” Trailing Suction Hopper Dredge

Builder: Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Panama City, Fla.

Owner: Weeks Marine, Cranford, N.J.

Designer: Royal IHC, Netherlands


Seaway Trident: 60'x28'x10'6" Tug

Builder: Washburn & Doughty, East Boothbay, Maine

Owner: Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., Massena, N.Y.

Design: Glosten, Seattle


Shackleford: 73'x26.7' Wind Survey Vessel

Builder: All American Marine, Bellingham, Wash.

Owner: Geodynamics, Newport, N.C.

Designer: Teknicraft, Auckland, New Zealand


Signet Sirius, Signet Capella: 103'4"x45'6"x15'7" Rotortugs

Builder: Signet Shipbuilding & Repair, Pascagoula, Miss.

Owner: Signet Maritime, Houston

Designer: Robert Allan Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia


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.

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