In anticipation of growth at the Port of Lake Charles, La., a muscular new ASD tug, Atlas, joined Condor and Energy Zeus in Seabulk Towing’s Lake Charles fleet in late summer of 2013.

The 92-foot tug was designed by Jensen Maritime of Seattle and built at Great Lakes Shipyard in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Port of Lake Charles is connected to the Gulf of Mexico via a 34-mile-long, 40-foot-deep, 400-foot-wide ship channel that also intersects the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The port is a major terminus surrounded by the refineries and petrochemical plants concentrated at Lake Charles and Sulphur, La. The port ranks number 11 by tonnage in the country.    

The JonRie A220 double-drum escort winch with Saturn 12 hawsers.

Indications are that Dynamic Industries, an offshore service company primarily fabricating interconnection piping and installation services to the offshore industry, and CB&I, a construction company serving the offshore, nuclear, LNG industries and others, will be increasing their activity significantly in the near future.

In addition, Leevac Shipyards of Jennings, La., established a Lake Charles yard a few years ago to take advantage of the site’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. That strategy seems to be working, since the yard is currently finishing the construction of several OSVs.

And then there are the anchor industries such as British Gas, which operates the Turnpike LNG terminal across from Seabulk’s moorage and Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG terminal on the Calcasieu Ship Channel near the Gulf. Sempra has recently been awarded an export permit, and Magnolia LNG, a subsidiary of Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd., is developing a mid-scale LNG facility in the port.

The tugs Condor and Zeus are on contract to the British Gas LNG plant, and Atlas is assigned to general ship-assist and escort duties. However, all three tugs are kept busy with tankers calling at the area’s extensive refinery and petrochemical facilities. Atlas, a sturdy tug with stability provided by a 38-foot beam, is well suited to assisting the giant tankers, especially when conducting an indirect tow, a technique more in demand as ships get larger and ports seem to get smaller. The boat’s draft is 18.3 feet.

The wheelhouse features a compact split console and 360° visibility.

“The main considerations were bollard pull, escort capability and firefighting capability in a tug whose mission would primarily be as a ship-assist and docking tug,” said Seabulk Vice President Tom Denning.

The z-drive arrangement with an extended keel on Atlas increases the tug’s escort capability, according to Denning. He also cites the FiFi-1 system, the JonRie double-drum hawser winch and the double-hull arrangement of the fuel and lubricating oil tanks as significant attributes that will help Atlas achieve its mission at Lake Charles.

In a tanker-driven port, Atlas meets the increasingly stringent requirements imposed upon marine operating companies. The customers, primarily oil and gas companies, are sensitive to the scrutiny they undergo from regulators and the public. Mishaps are costly both in money and reputation, a situation that drives the marine industry to crew its boats with highly skilled people and to have equipment that is powerful and responsive enough to work the big ships safely and efficiently.

The propulsion system on Atlas consists of two Tier 2 Caterpillar C280 diesels generating 2,320 hp each at 900 rpm shafted to Rolls-Royce US 205 azimuthing stern drives. The system produces bollard pull of 62.8 tons and a speed of 12 knots.

The two Tier 2 Caterpillar 6.6 marine generators produce 150 kW each at 1,800 rpm. Denning cites efficiency and reliability as the reasons for choosing Caterpillar.

On the bow, is a JonRie A220 double-drum winch wound with 450 feet of 2.25-inch Saturn 12 line, along with a wide and sturdy H bitt and bow staple.


The Rolls-Royce US 205 z-drives produce a bollard pull of 62.8 tons.

According to JonRie owner Brandon Durar, the Super Series winch was designed for larger capacity rope. The double-drum type of winch is typically used in the Panama Canal, with the line on the second drum acting as a redundant line up to the ship. In a long escort, an escort bridle makeup can be employed to stabilize the tug in the ship’s prop wash. But for the most part in the United States, the second drum is redundant, employed if there is a problem with the main drum or if the line on the main drum is suspect.

“We have used JonRie winches on several of our vessels and found them to be both reliable and durable,” said Denning. The winch features JonRie’s active heave compensation system, independent drives for each drum and a foot pedal for hands-free operation. Also featured on each drum is a side light with a tension readout system. There is a JonRie A421-201 hydraulic capstan and hefty H bitt on the stern.

Chief Engineer Mike Matte next to one of the Caterpillar C280 main engines, which produce a total of 4,640 hp.

The FiFi-1 system consists of a Caterpillar C32 engine and a Fire Fighting Systems SFP 12,400-gpm fire pump feeding two Fire Fighting Systems FFV-1 monitors on the forward wheelhouse deck. There is also a deluge system and a Hiller FM-200 onboard fire suppression system.

Fendering consists of Shibata tubular rubber on the upper bow and Schuyler double-loop and laminated rubber on the lower bow. There is 12-inch Schuyler D rubber along the main deck edge.

“The fender fully protects the tug and allows the bow to be used to push on the assisted vessel without any metal to metal contact,” said Denning.

The boat has two FFS monitors on the upper deck.

One of the major considerations for a modern-day marine operating company is crew recruitment, training and retention. Recruitment and training pose their own challenges, but a tug with a high level of amenities and comfort goes a long way in helping companies retain crewmembers.

“We wanted the accommodation for eight persons to be very comfortable,” said Denning. “To achieve that, compressors and generators were moved to the z-drive room so that they are separated from the quarters, both above and below the main deck, as far as possible.”

The wheelhouse is compact with wraparound visibility, as is typical of modern ASD tugs, with a compact split-console setup. The generous visibility and proximate controls and monitors were significant considerations when designing the house for one-person operation.

There is a Furuno FAR 2117 radar on the port side console and a Furuno 8062 radar on the starboard one. The Rose Point navigation system has a Big Bay monitor hanging from the starboard ceiling. The compass is a Ritchie Navigation Helmsman Steel Boat. The AIS is a Furuno FA-150.

A Caterpillar C32 engine powers the FFS 12,400-gpm fire pump.

Atlas is ABS classified with an A1 notation, Towing Escort AMS, FFV1, and carries a crew of four to six. A sister tug, Aura, is on long-term lease to E.N. Bisso & Son in New Orleans, where it performs ship-assist, escort and docking duties.

Seabulk Towing, a subsidiary of Seacor Holdings Inc., is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The company has tugs in Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and Tampa, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; and Port Arthur, Texas, in addition to the Lake Charles operation.

The mythological Atlas is often depicted as a muscular giant hoisting a celestial sphere. That image seems appropriate for a 92-foot tug moving a 900-foot behemoth loaded with oil. And when you consider that the Atlas of history is also the Titan of astronomy and navigation, it seems that Atlas, the tug, is well named.

With the Panama Canal expansion expected to be completed in the near future and with the Gulf Coast ports feeding off expanding oil and gas activity and upbeat offshore bustle, Seabulk may be thinking of building more tugboats.

“We are looking at several designs at this time,” said Denning.

By Professional Mariner Staff