Blount to build four tugs for New York canal duty

Removable side rails

(WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.) — The New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corp. have announced a strategic investment in the future of the New York State Canal System through the procurement of four new maintenance tugboats.

The new tugs, to be built by Blount Boats of Warren, R.I., will be operated by Canal Corp. personnel and positioned along the 524-mile canal system to support the operation and maintenance of the statewide navigable waterway. The first two tugs are scheduled to be delivered by the end of the navigation season 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 Bea Gonzalez, New York Power Authority and Canal Corp. trustee and Syracuse area canal recreationist. “The Canal Corp.’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.”

Removable side rails
Breaker II, delivered by Blount Boats to the New York Power Authority in 2020, has removable side rails to facilitate the deployment of ice booms each fall and spring. Will Van Dorp photo

“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,” said New York Power Authority President and CEO Justin Driscoll. “As stewards of the canal system, we know how important the iconic waterway is to so many communities. These new workboats will help ensure the canals continue to support economic development, community building, and expanded recreational uses across our great state for years to come.”

Staffed by Canal Corp. tugboat captains and plant personnel, the new steel inland tugs, each 64.5 feet long, will support operations required to maintain navigation along the canal system. Some of this work includes buoy placement and retrieval, movement of spoils in hopper scows, transporting of dredge pipe, and mobilizing hydraulic and mechanical dredge units. In addition, the new tugs will have icebreaking capabilities such as thicker steel and tighter-spaced framing in the bow.

“These four new tugboats are a significant investment into the Canal Corp.’s maintenance fleet that routinely ply the waters of upstate New York,” said New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton. “For nearly two centuries the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca 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.”

In 2017, the Canal Corp. contracted with AENY, located in Northport, N.Y., to perform a vessel assessment of its floating equipment. Based on the assessment, a long-term plan was developed to replace the aging fleet. The construction of the four new vessels will be in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard Subchapter M regulations.

When delivered, the new tugs will be placed into service alongside the tug Syracuse, a 1934 vessel 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 Corp.’s Harriet Tubman, one of 10 smaller push tugboats that have been added to the fleet over the past five years.

The board of trustees for the New York Power Authority, which owns and operates the New York State Canal Corp. as a subsidiary, awarded the contract to Blount Boats at its July 27 meeting. In 2020, Blount delivered Breaker II, a tugboat owned and operated by the New York Power Authority that supports its generation of electricity and champions icebreaking activity in the winter months along the Niagara River in western New York.

– New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corp.


By Rich Miller