Crescent tugs bulk up to handle new era of megaships

Arkansas 1

Shortly after the Panama Canal expansion was completed in June 2016, new containerships carrying twice the cargo of Panamax vessels began arriving in the Port of Savannah, Ga.

The tug Arkansas, freshly delivered from Steiner Shipyard in Bayou La Batre, Ala., to the Crescent Towing fleet in Savannah, was designed and built to service the increasing number of larger ships, also called neo-Panamax vessels, visiting the port.

“Right after the wider canal opened, we started getting two or three of the (neo-Panamax) ships a week in here,” said Andrew White, Crescent Towing’s operations manager in Savannah.

The massive ships calling at Crescent’s ports of New Orleans, Savannah and Mobile, Ala., motivated the Cooper/T. Smith Corp. to build a series of higher horsepower tugs at Steiner Shipyard. Mardi Gras was delivered last year, and Arkansas and South Carolina followed in February.

At the helm, Capt. Patrick Cazaubon guides the tug into position to assist the 929-foot MSC Lausanne. The tug Georgia is at the cargo ship’s bow.

The 92-by-38 foot tugs, designed by Jensen Maritime Consultants, are fitted with eight-cylinder, 2,748-hp Tier 3 GE mains and Rolls-Royce US255 z-drives producing 75 tons of bollard pull.

The bow staple on the new tugs is fitted 6.5 feet farther back than on a similar series of tugs built with six-cylinder GE engines. The new location provides a better center of gravity for towing, increased stability and improved steering during operations.

Arkansas will be used primarily for escorting, docking and undocking ships on the Savannah River, and assisting vessels calling at the Elba Island liquefied natural gas terminal. The tug’s deep draft of 19.5 feet enhances its escort capability.

“Anything with a 143-foot or more beam requires an escort tug from Fort Jackson to Garden City Terminal,” said Hays Clark, vice president and general manager of Crescent Towing’s Savannah fleet. “We can put the Arkansas to good use on those escorts. And the horsepower and maneuverability of the tug are needed to get those bigger ships turned around in the turning basin.”

Getting the work done on Arkansas are, from left, engineer Jeff Parker, mate Doug Lewis, deck hand Ben Murphy and Capt. Patrick Cazaubon.

White explained that Crescent designed the details by committee, applying input from port engineers and senior captains regarding control placement and “the little things that make operating the tug easier and more comfortable to live on.”

Arkansas was assisting the 929-by-130-foot Panamax containership MSC Lausanne, loaded with a mere 4,870 TEU, on the Savannah River when the 1,139-by-148-foot behemoth APL Barcelona passed by, looming high above the tug’s bridge with 10,000-plus TEU smothering the deck.

At Arkansas’ helm, Capt. Patrick Cazaubon said it was the most comfortable boat he has ever worked on. “There are not many tugboats with three heads on them,” he said. “She is a real strong tug and the extra horsepower is noticeable. With the depth of the drives, she is real smooth at the higher rpms. They got everything right on this boat.”


A pair of GE L250 Tier 3 main engines provide nearly 5,500 horsepower.


Auxiliary power is courtesy of two John Deere 4045AFM85 99-kW gensets.


Ben Murphy puts up a line on MSC Lausanne. Arkansas has a JonRie Series 230 escort winch and a bow staple that sits 6.5 feet farther back compared to earlier tugs in the series.


On Arkansas' aft deck is a JonRie 424 hydraulic capstan.


By Professional Mariner Staff