Crowley tugs keep pace at bustling LA/Long Beach


The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach kept Crowley Maritime’s fleet of four tugs busy last spring, with each vessel conducting 110 to 120 ship moves per month.

“We are above average right now,” said Ryan Stirewalt, Crowley’s port captain in San Pedro on Los Angeles Harbor’s Main Channel. “We’re getting so busy here and in San Diego that we need a new manager (in Southern California).”

On a mid-May tour of the channel aboard the cycloidal-drive tug Master, Capt. Mike Schmidt idled the vessel to observe Master’s twin, Leader, with Capt. Carol Peckham at the wheel, and the z-drive tug Goliah, with Capt. Steve Peckham on the joysticks, assisting the tanker Navig8 Violette to its berth.

“I like the maneuverability of the cycloidal drives,” said Schmidt, a hawsepiper with 31 years of experience at Crowley. “You can stop them on a dime and pull yourself out of trouble, especially when you get up into the flare of a ship.”

Stirewalt echoed the sentiment, explaining that captains love the agility of cycloidal drives and pilots love the power of z-drives.

Admiral rounds out the local triplet of 4,800-hp Harbor-class tugs powered by two Caterpillar 3512-C mains with Voith-Schneider cycloidal propellers. The 105-foot tugs were built in 1998 by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, Wash. The 99-foot Goliah is a 5,150-hp tug with Rolls-Royce z-drive units built in 1997 by Marco Shipyard of Seattle, Wash.

Chief mate Anthony Fisher applies indirect pull on the tanker Overseas Reymar headed for Bravo 8 Anchorage in Long Beach Harbor.

The three Voith-Schneider propulsion tugs each have a hydrofoil-shaped skeg that increases their steering and seakeeping ability. The hull hydrodynamics increase the steering and braking force of the vessels, especially when assisting ships at higher speeds.

Master’s bollard pull is 58 short tons for a direct pull and more than 120 tons at 10 knots for an indirect pull. On Master’s stern — the working end of a cycloidal tug — is a Markey DYSS-52 hawser winch with 650 feet of 8-inch AmSteel-Blue line, and a Markey DYP-36 deck winch. On the bow is a Markey DYSD-42 winch used primarily for moving barges.

Later in the day, Master and Leader were assigned to assist the tanker Overseas Reymar along the Main Channel in Los Angeles Harbor to Bravo 8 Anchorage in Long Beach Harbor. Master, with chief mate Anthony Fisher on the wheel, had a line up on the ship’s stern centerline. Leader, with mate Evan Wanamaker on the wheel, had a line up on the ship’s starboard shoulder.

“I’m on standby to slow the ship down if need be,” said Fisher. Once the flotilla cleared the channel, the pilot called for Fisher to conduct an indirect pull to starboard, heading the ship toward the anchorage.

Nearing the anchorage, the pilot let Leader go and instructed Fisher to take a direct inline position at the stern to maneuver the ship precisely over the anchorage point.

“I’m using direct inline pulls to put the brakes on the ship and drag the ship one way or the other to put it on the mark,” Fisher said. Once the hook was dropped, the pilot let Master go and Fisher turned the tug for home and the next assignment.


One of two Caterpillar 3512-C mains, rated at 2,400 hp each, that provide Master’s propulsion.


The tug’s crewmembers, from left, chief engineer Arsen Perhat, Capt. Mike Schmidt, Anthony Fisher and AB Daniel Babatunde.


Master’s Markey DYSS-52 hawser winch, above, is wound with 650 feet of 8-inch AmSteel-Blue line.


Capt. Carol Peckham pushes Crowley’s Leader hard against the hull of the tanker Navig8 Violette.


By Professional Mariner Staff