Genesis Marine welcomes new class of ‘go-anywhere’ towboats


Last August, the 84-foot Elizabeth Prince left the John Bludworth Shipyard in Corpus Christi, Texas, and joined Genesis Marine’s inland fleet. The 2,680-hp pushboat has proved a worthy addition.

“It’s a go-anywhere type of boat,” said Capt. Chris McBain, a vessel group manager for Genesis Marine. “She can work anywhere: around Houston, the Lower Mississippi or Illinois River, the (Intracoastal Waterway).”

About a month after delivery, on a clear mid-October day, Elizabeth Prince was moored near the San Jacinto Battleground Monument on a loop of the Old River in Channelview, Texas.

Where the Old River, the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou meet in the upper end of the Houston Ship Channel is a workboat aficionado’s El Dorado. At any given time, more than 50 vessels gather there across multiple fleets. Viewed from the air, the vessels project out from the bank like the fringe on a buffalo hunter’s coat.

Capt. Frank Struve helms Elizabeth Prince on the Old River near the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River in Channelview, Texas.

At the time, shortly after Hurricane Harvey ravaged greater Houston, Elizabeth Prince mostly moved tank barges on the Houston Ship Channel between Houston and Texas City or Galveston. Since then, it has been moving two- and three-barge tows of black oil and heated barges between Houston and greater New Orleans on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Mississippi River.

The vessel is the newest of 16 Bludworth-built hulls in Genesis’ inland fleet. Several years ago, the company launched a plan to standardize its equipment, said Shane Bird, director of marine operations for Genesis Marine.

The Bludworth design, Bird explained, produces a good solid “workhorse” boat. “And to top it off, the boats are so beautiful,” he said. “It’s like walking into a house.” They are indeed handsome vessels with their granite counters, custom cabinets and wood finishes.

“But the big advantage is the standardization throughout our fleet, minimizing operational, maintenance and repair costs. When catching one for the first time, the crews are almost instantly familiar with them, as they are essentially the same boat,” said Bird.

John L. Bludworth III designed Elizabeth Prince and its sister towboats.

Delivered in August 2017, the 84-foot Elizabeth Prince is powered by two Caterpillar 3512C engines with Twin Disc MGX-5600 gears at a 6.04:1 ratio. Total output is 2,680 hp.

Electrical power comes from twin John Deere PE4045 99-kW Marathon gensets. Electric 40-ton Wintech deck winches with Ultrex face wires are installed on the foredeck behind each push knee.

Shipyard owner John L. Bludworth III designed Elizabeth Prince. “We were very fortunate and honored to have been selected by Genesis Marine to design and build a total of 16 towboats for them to add to their growing fleet,” said Gasper D’Anna, the shipyard president.

D’Anna explained that the boat’s design, placement of machinery and other equipment is balanced along the centerline. The alignment minimizes the side-to-side list of the hull and eliminates the need for ballast to keep the vessel true. “The fore and aft trim of the hull,” he said, “is controlled through consumption of fuel and potable water, minimizing the need to add ballast for trim.”

The hull design, the lines with deadrise and a clipped chine, allow for cleaner water to get to the propellers, which leads to better performance, D’Anna said. The hull design allows for larger steering and flanking rudder blades, providing better steering in all situations.

Elizabeth Prince is equipped with four flanking rudders and two large steering rudder blades.

Genesis Marine’s newbuild program features four 110-by-32-foot towboats rated for 3,150 hp. Eleven more, including Elizabeth Prince, are 84 feet by 32 feet with 2,680 hp, and one is a 92-footer with a retractable pilothouse also rated for 2,680 hp.

Propulsion on the 2,680-hp Elizabeth Prince and its sister towboats comes from twin Caterpillar 3512 Tier 3 engines.

Equipment is standardized across the new vessels. All feature Caterpillar 3512C, EPA Tier 3 main engines connected to Twin Disc reduction gears. In each case, John Deere 99-kW units provide electrical power.

“I’ve worked on all styles of boats, but the Elizabeth Prince is spot on,” said Capt. Frank Struve. “The boat is very roomy and comfortable and is also very responsive. It is very well balanced and very powerful.

“The center of gravity is right on, right out of the yard,” he continued. “I bring a little level aboard with me, and this boat keeps the bubble right in the middle. It handles very well, flanks very well and does what she needs to do.”

In recent decades, keeping mariners happy — and retaining them — has taken greater importance when designing and finishing a workboat. Bludworth has taken this approach seriously during construction.

Elizabeth Prince normally has a six-person crew. Pictured from left are Capt. Frank Struve, level III tankerman Jeremy Farris, vessel group manager Capt. Chris McBain, relief captain Fred Brasseaux and level III tankerman Calvin Temple.

“We make the living areas as comfortable and quiet as possible because crewmembers will be living on the boat for weeks at a time,” D’Anna said. “The shipyard joiner crew builds and installs the custom stained-wood cabinets and bunks and then adds stained trim work, usually with the owner’s company logo on the door trim as well as other areas.”

With the granite countertop and dining table, stainless-steel appliances and faux wood flooring, the vessel has an attractive galley comparable to a kitchen in a well-appointed house. The bunks even have pillow-top mattresses.

Well-placed sound reduction coatings and insulated living areas contribute to the quiet and comfortable crew spaces, D’Anna explained. The design of the hull and the structure within the hull also contribute to reduced vibration.

“The beds are comfortable and the boat is well-insulated and quiet,” said relief captain Fred Brasseaux. “There is plenty of room in the crew quarters. This boat handles great, with the steering and the horsepower. It handles the barges very well.”

Level III tankerman Jeremy Farris tightens the Spectra face lines aboard Elizabeth Prince.

The wheelhouse electronics suite is comprised of a pair of Furuno 2117 radars, Furuno AIS, a Ritchie-Furuno satellite compass, Rose Point navigation software and an electronic chart display.

“The electronics are state of the art,” Brasseaux said. “I like having as many instruments available to me as possible. I’ve used them all at one time or another, but not necessarily all at the same time.”

Genesis Marine owns and operates 134 vessels in its inland and offshore fleets. The inland fleet has 33 push boats and 82 barges. Its total capacity is 2.3 million barrels of product consisting of black oil, asphalt, heavy fuel and crude stock. The company also moves jet fuel and other refined products offshore.

Elizabeth Prince completes the Houston company’s newbuild program for its inland fleet. During the six-and-a-half-year program, 18 tugs and 32 new barges joined the inland division. Its average age is 6.5 years — one of the youngest in the inland towing industry.

“We will have this boat looking brand new for quite a while,” Capt. Struve said. “I’ve got a great crew who is very proud of the boat and Genesis, and I’m very proud of them.”

Highlights: Final boat in 16-tug order • Standardized wheelhouse layout • Versatile “workhorse” design
By Professional Mariner Staff