Foss adds a pair of high-profile tractors in charter from Signet

The newest tug in the Foss Maritime fleet, America, is a Robert Allan Ltd -designed ASD tractor with 89 tons bollard pull. She is one of two identical vessels built for Signet Maritime of Texas, but recently chartered to Foss.  A second tug, provisionally named Stars & Stripes, is expected to be at work by early summer.

Foss Maritime, faced with the need for ever more horsepower and tug capability in its Puget Sound operations and elsewhere on the West Coast, was able to find just what it needed in a pair of high-profile tugs just built at a Tacoma shipyard that suddenly became available to charter.

Earlier this spring Foss announced it would charter two new 6,600- hp ASD tractor tugs from Signet Maritime of Houston, Texas. At the time the tugs were under construction for Signet at the J.M. Martinac shipyard in Tacoma, Wash.

The first of these tugs, a 98-foot z-drive tractor with a FiFi-1 firefighting rating and 89 tons bollard pull, was christened as the America with Foss colors in February. The second tug is expected to be in service by late June. The name of that tug had not yet been determined by Foss as of late April.

Signet Maritime, which may have been developing the tugs for prospective LNG work in Texas, instead will be chartering a smaller Dolphin-class tug from Foss along with a conventional twin-screw tug with towing capability. The two companies reported they were entering an alliance with shared assets and potential shared future business opportunities.

America, with MTU main engine power and Niigata z-drives, has been assigned to ship-assist work for Foss in North Puget Sound. The second such tug, with built-in anchoring equipment and enhanced crew accommodations, will likely take over for America in Puget Sound, thus allowing that tug to bolster the Foss tug fleets elsewhere on the West Coast, according to Scott Merritt, senior vice president of operations for this Seattle-based company.

“We still have plans to build some new high-horsepower ship-assist and escort tugs, but these boats come in very handy right now, a year and a half earlier than our construction schedule allows,” said Merritt.

Foss reported it may change the name of the second tug in the near future. They were designed by Robert Allan Ltd, a naval architecture firm in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Meanwhile, Foss is continuing to construct its fleet of 78-foot Dolphin-class tugs at its Rainier, Ore., shipyard. Over the past year Dolphin boats #7 and #8 were delivered to the Foss subsidiary AmNav in Oakland, Calif., operating under the names Patricia Ann and Sandra Hugh, respectively. Dolphin #9, expected for completion in August, will likely be assigned to the Foss fleet in Los Angeles, while Dolphin #10 is under construction as the company’s much publicized hybrid tug, with completion scheduled for late fall of 2008.

As part of its agreement with Foss, Signet Maritime will also be chartering a 5,080-hp Dolphin-class tug. That vessel will be constructed as Dolphin #11, according to Scott Merritt.

With the addition of two more Dolphin-class tugs (#7 and #8), AmNav in San Francisco can now boast of five azimuthing z-drive tugs including four Dolphins, plus a sixth tug that is of the combi-tug style with single-screw propulsion with azimuthing z-drive forward. Foss Maritime itself also operates 17 tractor-style tugs of various styles in ports up and down the West Coast, while the Foss subsidiary Hawaiian Tug & Barge has five tractor tugs to its name. Not to be eclipsed by activities on the West Coast, Foss unit Constellation Maritime in Boston also operates two tractors in that port, one a cycloidal-drive tug (Orion) and the other a Dolphin-class tug (Leo).

Signet Maritime, meanwhile, is paving the way for increased business and a substantial fleet of offshore towing boats and z-drive ship-assist tugs at its base in Corpus Christi, Texas. The company, which counts rig movements as a core of its growing business, already counts two z-drive tugs in its fleet of about 20 vessels. These include the 4,200-hp Signet Challenger (ex-Frontier), and the 1,200-hp Signet Volunteer (ex-Belle Watling). A third tug in the form of a Dolphin-class tractor from Foss is expected to arrive in the near future.

Signet is headed by J. Barry Snyder, a graduate of the U.S. Maritime Academy, who has been in the Texas maritime business for more than 30 years.

By Professional Mariner Staff