Florida Marine Transporters tweaks proven design for new retractable


Over the last decade, Florida Marine Transporters has embarked on an unprecedented building program that has transformed its inland fleet. 

During that time, the company has accepted delivery of 62 90-foot towboats from Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Fla., and three more are on the way. Over the last six years, Florida Marine also has taken seven 140-foot towboats from Horizon Shipbuilding of Bayou La Batre, Ala. 

With guidance from Florida Marine, naval architecture firm Gilbert Associates modified its conventional 120-foot design to include a retractable pilothouse. These lower-profile boats will be capable of pushing fuel barges under low bridges found in the northern part of the Western Rivers. It also could see extensive work on the Great Lakes.
Marty Cullinan, at 120-by-35-by-11.5 feet, is the first of this new class tentatively set for delivery in June 2016 from Horizon. The yard also is building another conventional 120-footer, A.B. York, and a second as-yet unnamed 120-foot retractable for Florida Marine. 

Jeff Brumfield, Florida Marine’s manager of boat construction, said the company chose a proven design as the basis for its new 120-foot retractables. 

The retractable pilothouse on Marty ​Cullinan. The vessel has an eye level of 32 feet and a lowest fixed height of 17 feet, 6 inches.

“We had a known horsepower and a known hull and we know that combination works,” he said in a recent interview. “And the horsepower we needed was not going to be any more than 4,000 because primarily it’s for Great Lakes operation for a two-barge tow.

“In the Mississippi River, and elsewhere, it could handle four to six barges, but for the work in the Great Lakes it is primarily for two-barge tows,” Brumfield said, noting that the vessels will push 30,000-barrel fuel barges.  

Florida Marine currently has two retractables, one of which carries an ABS limited load line assignment. The company is seeking a similar rating for Marty Cullinan, which is named for a longtime company port engineer in the Chicago area. 

Gilbert Associates has designed 80-, 120- and 140-foot towboats for Florida Marine, but Marty Cullinan was its first design with a jacking pilothouse. The company borrowed heavily for the design from existing 120-footers, using the existing hull structure, foundation, rudders and vessel service piping, naval architect John Gilbert said.
However, the new vessel required an extensive redesign to fit crew quarters and internal components onto a single deck. The new plans also had to account for lost storage space for the hydraulic cylinder that lifts the pilothouse. 

Machinists Eric Pettway and Doran Webb welding components for the 100-inch Sound propellers on Marty ​Cullinan.

“We designed for the boat’s new ventilation, superstructure, exhaust, potable water, drain waste and vent pipe, fire main pipe, collapsing pilothouse stairway, pilothouse jacking arrangements and details, and all above-deck structural bulkheads and decks,” Gilbert said. 

Marty Cullinan has a lowest fixed height of 17.5 feet, but with the pilothouse fully extended it has an eye level of 32 feet. Gilbert chose a Phelps Industries hydraulic cylinder typically used to lift and dump truckloads of wood pulp to move the pilothouse up and down. Gilbert chose the heavy-duty cylinder to withstand years of wind, vibration and other stresses.

“One aspect (of the design) was the ability to take a little bit of lateral movement as well as a good solid seal,” Gilbert said. “We wanted it to be able to withstand a good bit of lateral movement in case the pilothouse takes a high wind load from a storm.” 

The vessel has an 8-foot draft whereas the company’s conventional 120-footers have a 9.5-foot draft to account for the reduced weight from the single-tiered superstructure. As with other Gilbert designs, Marty Cullinan has a rounded propeller tunnel for maximum efficiency, particularly when rivers are running low.

“The propeller tunnel is probably the biggest efficiency you can give a boat. These boats operate in very shallow water, so the ability to be able to get a good flow of water to the propeller is critical. The same is true for the rudder and steering,” Gilbert said.

Stainless steel doors on Marty ​Cullinan are installed for durability and appearance.

Marty Cullinan has the same Caterpillar 3512C Tier 2 main engines as the company’s other 120-foot vessels, which are rated at 2,000 hp each at 1,600 rpm. The engines turn conventional 100-inch open-wheel Sound propellers. 

Other equipment includes Twin Disc 6.56:1 marine gears, an EMI steering system and an East Park Radiator Duraweld engine cooling system. Backup power comes from two Tier 3 John Deere 6090 generators producing 200 kW each. Heating and cooling is courtesy of a Mitsubishi split system. 

On deck, Marty Cullinan has two Patterson winches rated for 65 metric tons of pull, and a 10-hp capstan from Schoellhorn-Albrecht Machine Co. The vessel uses Hiller Systems onboard fire suppression equipment and is wrapped with Schuyler fendering. 

“I use as much of the same equipment, whether it’s a fire pump or a winch or a ballast pump or a fan in the exhaust, so the spares are a lot less back at the warehouse,” Brumfield said of the similarities between vessels. “As much as practical, we make it the same.” 

Brumfield has overseen Florida Marine’s boat construction since 2006. Over the years, he has incorporated tweaks into the vessels intended for ease of maintenance, safety and appearance. For instance, Marty Cullinan’s engine room windows have wire-impregnated glass to prevent injury during a blowout. The vessel also uses stainless steel piping for durability and stainless steel interior doors for strength and aesthetics. 

Schuyler Companies supplied the push knee and bulwarks fendering on Marty Cullinan.

“If you shine those up, they’ll look good for a year,” Brumfield said of the doors during a visit to Horizon’s shipyard.  

Metal stairs on the vessel can be replaced by removing a bolt and swapping in a replacement with no hot work required. These seemingly small changes are intended to reduce future maintenance and keep the boat at work. 

Crew comfort is increasingly important on inland towboats, especially when the eight-person crew is working in such small quarters. Florida Marine crews typically work 28 days on and 14 days off, so any shortcomings in the interior would be amplified during a month-long shift. But future crew will find plenty to appreciate on Marty Cullinan despite its single tier. 

Highlights include Internet access and satellite TV connections in every bunkroom, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and custom cabinets in the combined lounge-galley. The vessel has five bunkrooms, with singles for the captain and chief engineer and three shared rooms. Each bunk is connected to a shared bathroom with a full shower. 

“When you’re left with a single-tier boat, the ability to provide the same kind of amenities as on a larger boat is diminished. But we were able to do that and I think the boat is going to be more than comfortable for the crew,” Gilbert said. 

The keel cooling system on Marty Cullinan adds to the overall cost of the vessel.

The vessel uses mineral wool insulation throughout the deckhouse and engine room to muffle sound, while the flooring is a combination of Tufflex and Sika sound-dampening underlayment to further reduce vibration and noise. 

In the pilothouse, crew have access to modern Furuno radar and AIS systems, a Ritchie compass, Rose Point Navigation Systems electronic chart display and Dehart Marine Electronics autopilot system. 

Marty Cullinan isn’t the only new boat Florida Marine is building this year. The company also is expected to take delivery of the 90-footers Lawrence Campbell and Capt. Ricky Torres, both of which are under construction at Eastern’s Panama City yard. The conventional 120-footer A.B. York also is expected this fall from Horizon. 

As such, Florida Marine remains well positioned for the long haul. Marty Cullinan and its sister vessel expected next year will add versatility to an already-proven fleet.

By Professional Mariner Staff