Marine Towing of Tampa’s latest tractor tug arrives right on time


Three years ago, after having taken delivery of Patriot, Marine Towing of Tampa co-founder Capt. James C. Brantner suggested the company would order another tugboat within “a couple of years.”

Based on his prediction, Independent arrived right on schedule: Washburn & Doughty delivered the 5,000-hp ASD tug in May 2017, and the East Boothbay, Maine, shipyard also provided plans for the vessel.

The 93-by-38-foot Independent has plenty in common with its sister vessel Patriot, although it is by no means a carbon copy. Both have twin Caterpillar engines, Rolls-Royce z-drives, a JonRie InterTech double-drum hawser winch and a 75-ton bollard pull rating. But Marine Towing omitted the advanced firefighting equipment required for a FiFi-1 rating, and the JonRie stern winch is also absent from the latest build.

Capt. James R. Brantner, Marine Towing’s port captain and CSO, said the company rarely performs ocean towing, making the stern winch unnecessary. Should such a need arise, Patriot could handle the job.

“It’s not the kind of work we do. We just do the harbor work here in Tampa. We are not really geared up to go out and tow things, so we left the winch off it,” he said of Independent.

Marine Towing of Tampa operates four tugboats in and around Tampa Bay and occasionally in Key West, Fla., about 250 miles south. The tugboats typically perform ship-handling work for tankers, bulk carriers and the occasional containership calling in Tampa Bay.

Marine Towing installed a Timberland Equipment capstan on the stern, alongside a shipyard-built H-bitt.

Independent is the company’s fifth tugboat and its fourth from Washburn & Doughty. In addition to Patriot, the firm operates the 92-by-32-foot Liberty and Freedom, delivered in 2007 and 2005, respectively. It also operates Endeavor, a 90-by-50-foot ship-docking module built in 2000.

“The only difference between (Independent) and the other two boats, the Freedom and the Liberty, is she is 6 feet wider, so it gives you a lot more room inside for the crews, and she has a keel on her that is good for escorting,” Brantner said. “It is a lot more stable boat than the narrower ones.”

Washburn & Doughty delivered its first 93-foot tug six years ago, and the design has found wide acceptance across the industry. Moran Towing has ordered 13 93-footers, many of which are assigned to high-volume East Coast ports, and McAllister Towing and Seabulk Towing also have built tugs to this design.

Bruce Washburn, naval architect and executive vice president at the Maine shipyard, said the 93-foot tug represents an evolution from the 92-by-32-foot design. The enhanced keel and wider beam translate to better escort performance and indirect escort stability. The wider bow also reduces direct pressure on a ship’s hull.

“Compared to the other boats, it’s got a much bigger fendering footprint to reduce the pressures imparted to the ships they are docking,” Washburn said, referring to the Morse Rubber fendering applied at the bow.

Another benefit: The wider beam allows for roomier crew spaces, particularly in the engine room. The tug is powered by twin Caterpillar 3516C Tier 3 engines producing 2,500 hp each, and the port main also drives an FFS fire pump linked with an aft-facing FFS monitor located on the upper deck. A JonRie 75-hp hydraulic power unit for the bow winch sits between the two mains.

Alongside each engine are two Weka box coolers. Washburn said the units are as effective as grid keel coolers but are located inside a sea chest in the hull, reducing drag in the water.

The double-drum JonRie Series 220 hawser winch is wound with 400 feet of 9-inch Spectra line.

Aft of the main engine room is another room separated by a bulkhead. Inside are two John Deere 99-kW gensets providing ship service power, and twin Rolls-Royce US 205 z-drives. Those drives are connected to the Cat engines via carbon fiber Centa shafting.

Tim McLean, Washburn & Doughty’s project manager, said putting the generators in a separate space lets the engineer work in relative peace and quiet when the vessel is tied up. Shutting the bulkhead door also muffles generator noise to other parts of the boat.

Independent will operate with four crew: captain, mate, engineer and deck hand. Crew spaces above the engine room consist of four cabins — two singles and two doubles — and two full heads with showers, one of which is attached to the captain’s quarters. There is also a day head. The galley has stainless steel appliances and cabinets made by Senecal Construction Services of Brunswick, Maine.

The vessel has satellite TV and Internet access for crew, who typically work a week on and a week off. During that time they live on board. Consequently, the vessel is “decked out” to keep them comfortable during on and off hours, Brantner said.

In a cabinet alongside the galley, a server rack holds much of the vessel’s IT and telecom infrastructure, including equipment for a 13-camera closed-circuit TV system. Images from the cameras appear on a pilothouse monitor, alongside Furuno electronics and navigation equipment.

“The captain can easily look at all the cameras in the engine room and see where the engineer is at,” Brantner said. “In the past, they didn’t have anything like that and they would have to call around and wait for a response.”

Propulsion aboard Independent comes from twin Caterpillar 3516C engines each generating 2,500 hp linked with Rolls-Royce US 205 z-drives through Centa carbon fiber shafting.

“The whole engine room is covered,” he added. “There are two pan-tilt-zoom cameras on the mast, and a couple of them fixed looking forward and one fixed looking aft.”

Although there is no towing winch on the stern, Marine Towing installed a Timberland Equipment capstan rated for 20,000 pounds alongside a shipyard-built steel H-bitt. The decks are coated in an aggressive poured rubber non-skid coating. The coating works as expected — traction was no problem during a vessel tour on a cool, damp spring morning.

Forward of the pilothouse is a JonRie Series 220 double-drum hawser winch spooled with 400 feet of 9-inch Spectra line. JonRie President Brandon Durar said the double drum allows for a second line to be connected with the ship.

“This concept, used on the Panama Canal for many years as a redundant line tethered to the ship, also acts as an escort bridle, making the tug more stable in prop wash during long escorts,” Durar said. “The twin drums also afford less loading on each rope under braking.”

The winch features foot-pedal controls for hands-free operation and constant tension capabilities, and it has an auto-abort system. It offers line speed of 100 feet per minute, a 600,000-pound brake rating and 18 tons of line pull.

Marine Towing has typically replaced an existing vessel after taking delivery of a new tug. As of early May, it wasn’t clear how Independent’s arrival would affect the company’s fleet. In any case, Brantner was looking forward to getting its latest boat in the water.

Asked to describe what he liked most about Patriot’s performance, Brantner responded, “Is ‘everything’ too broad?” He has similar expectations for Independent.

Highlights: Sister tug to Patriot delivered in 2013  Updated design omits the stern winch  Tug joins Marine Towing of Tampa’s z-drive fleet
By Professional Mariner Staff