Crescent Towing of New Orleans continues to modernize and expand its fleet of z-drive tugs with the introduction of a 6,100 hp tractor specifically designed for ship-assist work involving LNG tankers on the Savannah River in Georgia.
Crescent’s new tug, Bulldog, was delivered from the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine, in early 2006. She is one of two nearly identical tractor tugs introduced earlier this year for service in support of the newly expanded Elba Island LNG terminal on the Savannah River. The other is the tug James R. Moran, introduced by Moran Towing Corp., also featured in this issue.
Bulldog incorporates six diesel engines — a pair of General Electric 12-cylinder 7FDM12 medium speed diesel engines for main propulsion, two John Deere 99 kw diesel generators and two 900 hp Caterpillar diesels driving firefighting pumps.
She is the 10th tug in Crescent’s current fleet of 23 vessels to be powered by GE engines. Bulldog and another Crescent tug, Point Clear, are the only tractor tugs operating in the United States with GE diesel engines for main propulsion. There are undoubtedly other conventional tugs operating with GE engines, but Crescent certainly has the market cornered in that regard. The company’s tugs operate in three different ports — New Orleans, Mobile and Savannah. Most are older, single-screw boats, but the first GE-powered tug in Crescent’s fleet, Port Hudson, began operating with a single engine in 1971 and is still operating today with two GE diesels, having recently undergone a twin screwing and refurbishment.
At some point, everyone strays temporarily from family tradition, and that must explain why one of Crescent’s three z-drive tractors, Savannah, is powered by Caterpillar diesels — just that one.
After being fitted out and tested in Maine at the end of 2005, Bulldog made her way down the East Coast and reported for work in Savannah in early January, destined to be regularly stationed at the LNG importation terminal at Elba Island, according to Ed Bazemore, manager of Crescent’s Savannah operation since it was started in 1985.
After a hiatus of almost 20 years, LNG (liquefied natural gas) began arriving at Elba Island again in October 2001. The facility had been closed for many years because of insufficient demand for LNG products.
Southern LNG, a part of El Paso Corp., first built the LNG-processing terminal there in 1978. The facility is being dramatically expanded with ongoing projects and can currently handle at least two arriving tankers. The facility is situated about 10 miles down the Savannah River from the City of Savannah. The Coast Guard previously required every ship passing through the terminal to be escorted by two tugs when an LNG tanker was docked there. But since the facility’s two new piers have arriving tankers docking a bit farther from the main river channel, the requirement has been dropped.
Whenever an LNG tanker is docking or sailing from the LNG terminal at Elba Island, Crescent’s Bulldog is likely to be there. The tug’s high horsepower rating and bollard pull of 90 tons make her a perfect candidate for assisting pilots with the maneuvering of these huge ships in a relatively confined area. Her firefighting capabilities are also an important part of the design package required for assignment to an LNG terminal. A major portion of the engine room on FiFi-1 class tugs is dominated by diesel pump engines, water pumps and piping for the monitors located at the aft end of the upper deck. Each of the Nijhuis water pumps is powered by a 900 hp Caterpillar 3412C diesel engine. Controls for the pump engines and monitors are located both at the monitors and in the pilothouse. The firefighting system also includes an eight-station, self-deluge exterior sprinkler system with the ability to recharge SCBA tanks used by crewmembers possibly working in firefighting mode. FiFi-1 certification also includes the ability to conduct sustained firefighting operations for at least 24 hours.
Bulldog has become the prime escort tug for LNG tankers arriving at the Savannah River. The 98-foot tug routinely makes the 2.5-hour trips from Crescent’s dock near downtown Savannah to the outer sea buoy to meet each arriving ship. From there the tug typically takes up a tethered position at the ship’s stern, available to help with steering or braking in the event of an engineering failure. Working with tractor tug consultant Greg Brooks and naval architects at Glosten Associates of Seattle, computer modeling tests predicted that when in a tethered mode and moving at 8 knots, the tug could exert a steering force of 75 tons and a braking force of 116 tons.
Crescent Towing, which competes only with Moran Towing in this busy port, operates five other tugs there in addition to Bulldog, with most of them being manned around the clock. Other tugs include the 4,000 hp tractor, Savannah, as well as conventional tugs General Oglethorp, Georgia, Florida and Angus Cooper. The company’s base is located on Hutchinson Island adjacent to a new trade center and just off Savannah’s historic waterfront.
“This port is really booming,” said Bazemore. “The level of business is ever increasing and all indicators are good for continued growth. There is very positive and progressive support from all levels of government.”
While the port was considered depressed just 15 years ago, today it is described as the 10th busiest container port in North America. The port set a record for the first six months of its fiscal year 2006, handling 1,004,793 TEU containers, according to the Georgia Ports Authority. That’s an increase of 16 percent over the prior-year period. It was just five years ago that the port logged a million TEUs for an entire year. Investing hundreds of millions of dollars in port facilities and dredging, port officials have arranged for arrival of new gantry cranes, ship-to-shore cranes and berthing facilities. Approximately 2,500 ships a year call at the historic port, situated 22 miles up the Savannah River, 90 percent of them calling at berthing facilities of the Georgia Ports Authority. Among the largest ships are LNG tankers and the newest container vessels, which are sometimes in excess of 950 feet LOA.
While Bulldog is on call for every arriving LNG tanker, the tug is also frequently available for commercial ship docking work, the bulk of which involves container vessels.
“She’s a newer and much more powerful tug, so all the docking pilots try to request her,” said Bazemore. “A real advantage of having Bulldog here is the availability of her advanced firefighting capability to respond to local community emergencies, since there is no fireboat in this port. Local officials have all been coming down to see her and to talk about how she can fit into emergency response plans.”
Bulldog is a versatile and powerful vessel, Bazemore added, specifically designed to handle some of the most sophisticated ships arriving at U.S. ports. She’s a credit to the Port of Savannah.”