The RApport 2400-series tugboats developed by Robert Allan Ltd. have earned their keep around the world. Now, Crowley Maritime has put the first U.S.-built RApport 2500-series vessel to work in Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest container ports in the United States.
Crowley chartered the 6,008-hp tug from Brusco Tug & Barge of Longview, Wash. Diversified Marine of Portland, Ore., built the vessel, originally named Noydena. It left the shipyard around April 1, 2020, before making its way to Los Angeles later in the spring. Crowley renamed it Hercules to honor an oceangoing Red Stack Fleet tugboat acquired in the early 1900s. The newbuild is the company’s first ship-assist tug equipped with Tier 4 propulsion.
The 82-by-40-foot Hercules has Caterpillar engines paired with Cat z-drives. The electric Markey hawser winch on the bow facilitates efficient ship handling, while the towing bitt on the stern provides some additional flexibility as work arises around the port.
“It is fuel efficient, while also being able to handle the big tankers coming in, given it pulled 88 tons ahead and 86 astern,” said Porter Sesnon, general manager of ship assist and escort for Crowley Maritime. “It’s nimble and small enough to maneuver the containerships around both harbors.”
The RApport 2500 design evolved from Robert Allan Ltd.’s time-tested RApport series dating back almost a generation. The 2400-series tugs — themselves based on Cates-series tugs designed for C.H. Cates and Sons of North Vancouver, British Columbia, between the 1960s and 1980s — were among the first ASD tugs operating in North America. The vessels have a flush deck and small house, and are known for being nimble, responsive, cost effective and plenty capable.
The 2500 series, named for its 25-meter length, builds on these strengths. The new design adds more than 3 feet of length and nearly 10 feet of breadth to accommodate more powerful engines and deliver greater bollard pull. Hercules has a skeg under the keel that’s big enough for effective escorts but small enough not to hinder quick moves along the hull when docking ships.
The wheelhouse is designed for excellent all-around visibility.
Jim Hyslop, manager of project development for Robert Allan Ltd., said the RApport 2500 series is meant to be highly maneuverable, powerful and offer good visibility, just like its predecessors. But its larger envelope acknowledges industry demands for more bollard pull as ships — and the tugboats that work with them — keep getting bigger.
“What we did with that (2400 series) design is we kept increasing bollard pull, and it got to the point where it became too much for that boat,” Hyslop said. “The new design is a little bigger, a little more powerful, with a little more beam and a little more length. Basically, it is just a more capable package.”
“It is fairly simple, clean and basic, but at the same time it is a very high-performance harbor tug,” he added.
Diversified Marine built seven RApport 2400 tugs for Brusco between 2001 and 2017. Brusco kept some for its work in smaller West Coast ports and chartered others to different operators. The most recent in the 2400 series, the 4,750-hp Teresa Brusco, left Diversified in late 2017 and went to work in San Francisco Bay under charter to AmNav Maritime.
Crowley signed a seven-year charter with Brusco to operate Hercules. Changes happening elsewhere in Crowley’s West Coast harbor tugboat fleet influenced the decision, as charters on other vessels were winding down, Sesnon said. Hercules’ size, power and its availability at the right time made it an enticing opportunity, he said.
Crowley’s Los Angeles-Long Beach fleet consists of four tugs, three of which are 105-foot Harbor-class tugboats with 4,800 hp and Voith Schneider cycloidal propulsion. Hercules replaced Veteran, a Valor-class workhorse that Crowley moved to San Francisco Bay where it joined its sister tugboat, the namesake Valor.
The wider, longer RApport 2500 series can accommodate more powerful engines than its predecessors.
There is plenty of work to go around in Southern California, particularly with the massive containerships calling on Los Angeles and Long Beach on a regular basis. The Port of Los Angeles moved more than 9.3 million TEU in 2019, and the neighboring Port of Long Beach isn’t far behind, with more than 7.5 million TEU for each of the past three years.
Despite those volumes, which have fallen somewhat in 2020 due to trade challenges and the coronavirus outbreak, both ports are relatively confined. They also have heavy traffic, making a nimbler tugboat appealing. “That Robert Allan design is one of the most prolific throughout the world, and it’s proven over and over again to provide a lot of performance in a small package,” Sesnon said.
That small package got quite a bit bigger, and more powerful, with the 2500 series. Hercules is powered by two Tier 4 3,004-hp Cat 3516 engines turning Cat MTA 627 z-drives through carbon-fiber shafts. Two Cat C7.1 gensets producing 118 kW each are installed along the centerline between the two mains. Hercules is equipped with a Duramax DuraCooler and DuraCooler SuprStak keel coolers.
Teresa Brusco, by comparison, shares the Cat engine room but with smaller 2,375-hp Cat 3512-series Tier 3 engines and Rolls-Royce z-drives. Bollard pull is 67 tons.
As with most Tier 4 tugs, Hercules’ engine room required some rethinking to accommodate the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) units installed above the main engines. Hyslop said the exercise wasn’t particularly challenging, in part because the vessel itself has sufficient space to accommodate the equipment. Two 1,250-gallon tanks supply diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) that’s injected into the exhaust stream to sharply reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter in compliance with Tier 4 standards.
There are notable changes to the deckhouse as well. The RApport 2400 tugs have traditionally operated as day boats, with limited amenities and perhaps a couple of bunks for crew to use between jobs. The beamier Hercules has a comfortable galley and mess, along with laundry and a head on the main deck. Three double cabins are below deck for a vessel that will typically have four or fewer crew.
The wheelhouse is roomier than its predecessors and is loaded with top-shelf navigation electronics. The operators can look to Furuno FR-8125 radars, a Furuno satellite compass and a Transas navigation system while underway. Closed-circuit cameras show what is happening below deck in machinery spaces.
Hercules has an all-Caterpillar engine room and Cat MTA 627 z-drives.
The Markey DEPC-52 electric hawser winch and staple are the centerpiece of Hercules’ bow. The proven winch is loaded with features, including Render/Recover to maintain constant line tension. Its single drum can hold 750 feet of 3.25-inch line, with a line speed of up to 360 feet per minute and a brake capacity of 600,000 pounds.
The FM-200 fire suppression system for the engine room is stored in a locker on the main deck rather than in the engine compartment. The vessel’s off-ship firefighting system consists of a single 2,000-gpm Elkhart Brass Spit-Fire monitor with a Carver pump driven by a 150-hp Baldor electric motor.
Hercules is just the latest tugboat Diversified Marine has delivered to Brusco over the past 30 years. Kurt Redd, Diversified’s owner, recalled how its first ASD tugboat, Wynema Spirit, left the yard for Brusco in 1999. Since then, it has built seven RApport 2400 tugs for the company, which is based about 50 miles to the north via the Columbia River.
Changes from the 2400 series to the more modern 2500 also included enhancements to meet Coast Guard Subchapter M standards. Redd said the yard’s crews took those changes in stride. “We like Robert Allan designs, and we have been building these long enough that we are good enough at getting everything in where it needs to go,” he said.
Diversified has already begun construction on a sister tug for Brusco in the new 2500 series, and Redd said there are discussions about adding a third. “Brusco keeps building and innovating,” Redd said. “They are a great group to work with.”