Blount Boats to build New York canal tugs

Blount Boats delivered the specially-built 56-foot, 750 hp tug Breaker II to the NYPA in 2021

Rhode Island-based Blount Boats has been contracted by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to build four steel inland tugs for use on the 524-mile Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canal network.

According to the state agency – which owns and operates the New York State Canal Corporation as a subsidiary – the first two tugboats are scheduled to be delivered in 2025, the bicentennial year of the Erie Canal, with two additional tugs planned for delivery in 2027.

“With more than 200 communities along its banks, an investment in New York State’s Canal system is an investment in the upstate economy,” said New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation Trustee and Syracuse Area Canal Recreationist, Bea Gonzalez. 

“The Canal Corporation’s workforce that maintains this historic and vital water transportation route and recreational asset will leverage these new tugboats to ensure our children and grandchildren can enjoy all of the benefits the Canal system offers for many decades to come.”

Staffed by Canal Corporation tugboat captains and floating plant personnel, the new tugs, each 65-feet in length, will support operations required to maintain navigation along the Canal system. 

Some of that work includes buoy placement and retrieval, movement of spoils in hopper scows, transporting dredge pipe, and mobilizing hydraulic and mechanical dredge units. In addition, the new tugs will have ice breaking capabilities such as thicker steel and tighter spaced framing in the bow built into them.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “These four new tugboats are a significant investment into the Canal Corporation’s maintenance fleet that routinely ply the waters of upstate New York.” 

For nearly two centuries the Canals have been economic engines – supporting livelihoods and commerce while spurring the growth of villages, towns, and cities – and this investment ensures our workforce can efficiently maintain the canal’s navigable waters for the next generation of users,” he said.

In 2017, the Canal Corporation contracted with Northport, N.Y.-based AENY, to perform a vessel assessment of its floating equipment. Based on the assessment, a long-term plan was developed to replace the aging fleet. 

AENY is a New York-based engineering services group commissioned by the State of New York to analyze and certify projects in the naval architecture, marine, and industrial sectors. 

The construction of the four new vessels will be carried out in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard Sub-Chapter M regulations and a Certificate of Inspection will be obtained.

When delivered, the new tugs will serve alongside the tug Syracuse, a 1934 tugboat built by the State of New York that has been the workhorse of the maintenance fleet since its launch. The new tugboats also will join the Canal Corporation’s Harriet Tubman, one of 10 smaller push tugboats that have been added to the fleet over the past five years.

New York Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “Once placed into service, these new maintenance vessels will give our dedicated personnel the opportunity to complete their tasks safely while operating aboard modern tugboats equipped with the latest marine technology. 

“As stewards of the Canal system, we know how important the iconic waterway is to so many communities. These new work boats will help ensure the canals continue to support economic development, community building, and expanded recreational uses across our great state for years to come.”

Blount Boats “has worked with the NYPA before and this project is a perfect fit for us,” according to Bob Pelletier, Blount Boats vice president and project manager for the New York tug project. 

The agency “is very particular in what it expects to see from us. They’ve been very happy with the work we’ve previously done for them and we’re sure they’ll be very satisfied with the work we will  do for them in the future.”  

In 2021, Blount Boats delivered the 56-foot, 750 hp tug Breaker II to the NYPA. 

That tug typically works in the eastern part of Lake Erie and along the Niagara River as far north as Niagara Falls. Its primary function is the placement and retrieval of a 9,000-foot ice boom that blocks ice sheets from entering the Niagara River and occasional duty as a secondary icebreaker.