On Thursday evening, McAllister Towing and Transportation Co. Inc. is hosting an unusual double christening for the two newest tugboats in its fleet.

The Capt. Brian A. McAllister and the Rosemary McAllister, named for the longtime company chairman and his wife, will be on center stage off Pier 16 on South Street in New York City. The Brian has been working in New York Harbor since its delivery in late summer 2017. The Rosemary has come up from her new base at Norfolk, Va., where she started work in early June of this year.

At 100’x40’ and 6,770 hp, the new tugs are the first on the East Coast with engines and emissions controls to meet the new federally mandated Tier 4 air quality standards for the biggest marine engines.

WorkBoat got an early look at the Rosemary McAllister soon after her arrival at Norfolk, and she is the subject of our cover story in the August issue. In the Virginia ports long known for big ships – from hulking colliers to Navy aircraft carriers – the new McAllister tug is an important addition as new, larger containerships call.

The Rosemary McAllister at the Port of Virginia with Capt. Larry Sullivan. Kirk Moore photo

The Rosemary McAllister at the Port of Virginia with Capt. Larry Sullivan. Kirk Moore photo

“It’s hard to believe they’ve doubled in size in just a few years,” said Ashley McLeod, vice president of communications and membership with the Virginia Maritime Association. Having tugs of the Rosemary McAllister’s power coming on line is as important an addition to port infrastructure as the widening and deepening of the Hampton Roads ship channels, she said.

Rosemary’s captain, Larry Sullivan, who learned how to handle ships in his Navy career and has worked 15 years with McAllister, told me the tractor tug showed its mettle on the very first jobs.

“For escort work, we’ve already done one of these 1,200-footers and it handled great,” said Sullivan. Much of that work in Virginia is done at higher speeds and the tug is able to help pilots turn ships by applying power to the line in indirect mode.

Already Virginia port operators, pilots and tugboat companies are discussing how they will handle the next size up of very large container vessels (VLCVs). CMA CGM based in Marseille, France, set the new record back in 2015 when its 1,300'x177' Benjamin Franklin was introduced as the world’s biggest, with an 18,000-TEU capacity.

Now the Port of Virginia expects 1,500' VLCVs will appear within the next few years, said Elliott Westall, McAllister’s vice president and general manager in Norfolk.

The Rosemary McAllister will be there to meet them – and maybe a sister ship too. The Tier 4 tugs are first of a class, with two more on the ways at Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Panama City, Fla., and more could be built in the future.

Contributing 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 an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 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.