Aboard ASD tug William S, Bisso crew are feeling pretty cool


On a brilliant fall afternoon the sparkling new Bisso Towboat azimuthing stern drive (ASD) tug William S put a line up to the 737-foot bulk carrier Golden Kiji at Nine-Mile Anchorage below New Orleans. Along with Michael S on the stern, the tug ran with the ship upriver to the mooring dolphins outside of Chalmette Slip.

“I learned this job from people who had done it for 20 or 30 years,” said Capt. Rob Liebkemann at the helm of William S. “You cannot learn this job by reading a textbook. Experience is paramount, especially on this particular river — high river, or low river. And with these tugs, everything I learned on a conventional tug, I had to unlearn. It just takes practice.”

The vessel assists bulk carrier Golden Kiji, with the help of a Markey DYSF-42 hydraulic bow winch and 500 feet of 8-inch Plasma line, south of New Orleans.

In 1999 Bisso Towboat introduced the first z-drive tug, Cecilia B. Slatten, to the Mississippi River. Alma S and Michael S followed. William S is the fourth ASD tug in the company’s fleet of 12 that work from the Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge.

All four 100-foot-by-38-foot ASDs were built at Main Iron Works in Houma, La., and are essentially identical. However, Cecilia and Alma are 4,300-hp boats powered by EMD mains. Michael and William are 4,000-hp boats powered by Caterpillar 3516B, Tier II mains.

William S has Rolls Royce 205 MK2 z-drives and four-blade stainless steel propellers in stainless steel nozzles. The two generators are 99-kW Marathon units driven by John Deere 6068TFM76 engines.

On the foredeck, William S has a Markey DYSF-42 hydraulic bow winch with 500 feet of 8-inch Plasma line and a stainless steel bow staple and H-bitt. On the aft deck there is a stainless steel H-bitt with a Washington Chain & Supply RSRH100 100-ton quick release tow hook.

Air conditioning is a hot topic during a steamy Gulf Coast summer. The unrelenting rays of a Louisiana sun play havoc with HVAC compressors mounted conventionally aft of the pilothouse. On William S the company adopted a keel cooled air conditioning system.

“It’s extremely efficient,” said Jon Davis, the company’s safety and quality manager. “The forced air is constantly being cooled by the river water. The amount we spend on AC maintenance will be exponentially better on this boat.”

Davis explained that they reconfigured the duct work for the engine room blowers so that the air flows through the space from back to front in a straight line. “The air circulates more quickly and it is cooler than the old system of forcing the air down from above.”

Chief Engineer Mellen Paine (top) keeps the Bisso Towboat vessel moving along with Capt. Rob Liebkemann (bottom).

Bisso Towboat was founded in 1890 by Capt. Joseph Bisso. His son, Capt. William Bisso, succeeded him and ran the company until he died in 1963. His daughter, Cecilia Bisso Slatten, and his grandson, Capt. Billy Slatten, led Bisso through a reorganization and established the Slatten name within the company. William S is named for the son of Bisso Executive Vice President Bill Slatten, Jr.

One of William S’s two Rolls-Royce 205 MK2 z-drives.

A stainless steel quarter bitt.

Besides the Markey winch, William S’s deck is equipped with a stainless steel bow staple and H-bitt.

Liebkemann surrounded by his crew, from left, mate Anthony Portier, deck hand Travis Tastet and Paine.


By Professional Mariner Staff