Moran builds its fleet of strategically sized ATB units

The 5,100-hp tug Pati R. Moran, shown on Page 50, is matched with a new 118,000-barrel petroleum barge, Charleston, one of three new barges in the current building program.  (Photo courtesy Moran Towing)

Pati R. Moran, the first newbuild articulated tug-barge unit to join the fleet of Moran Towing Corp., was introduced at the beginning of 2008. She is the first of three such vessels in a multiyear construction program.

The 5,100-hp tug is matched with a new 118,000-barrel petroleum barge, Charleston, also one of three new barges in the program.

Sean Perreault, assistant vice president of engineering services for Moran, fires up wheelhouse equipment during the final fitting out of the company’s newest ATB unit.  (Photo:  Greg Walsh)

The new ATB tugs are being built at the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in Maine, while the new ATB barges are being built at both Bay Shipbuilding in Wisconsin and Eastern Shipbuilding in Florida.

Pati R. Moran is among the larger boats ever built at the Washburn & Doughty shipyard. The tug’s elevated tower, complete with pilothouse attached, was built at a neighboring shipyard that normally builds yachts. And because of its heavy, concentrated weight, the ATB coupler system was moved around by crane in a partially disassembled state. The 121-foot hull was built inside the shipyard shed, then launched without the steel tower by marine railway. In recent years the shipyard has been building a series of z-drive tractor tugs for Moran, all of them less than 100 feet in length.

Pati R. Moran is the fourth articulated tug and barge unit to be put in service for Moran. Two others are converted offshore tugs with Intercon coupler systems, and a third is a Bludworth-equipped ATB that the company acquired a few years ago. All of these barges except the Bludworth model are equipped with Intercon’s C-series coupler system that is centered around 34-inch diameter rams. All five barges (two converted and three new) are interchangeable with their tugs.

Like other Moran ATBs, Pati R. Moran is a SOLAS-rated offshore vessel. The EMD-powered tug is matched with a 425-foot barge with 10 heated cargo tanks. The relatively small ATB units are matched to the needs of customers who are chartering the vessels, said Bruce Richards, vice president of barge operations.

“The routes for our ATBs have been relatively short,” said Richards. “The Pati R. Moran and the Charleston, in fact, will very seldom leave the New York area. Our other ATBs typically trade Philadelphia to New York and New England with only occasional trips to Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.”

Richards added that Pati R. Moran is on a five-year charter to the Hess Corp. The tug-barge unit typically turns in speeds of 10 to 12 knots depending on cargo load and weather conditions. Pati R. Moran is named after the wife of Bruce Richards.

Ted Tregurtha, president of Moran Towing, refers to the barges as “strategically small.”

“They are perfectly matched to the needs of our customers,” he said. “We think we have developed a nice niche for ourselves with this size. We are very pleased with them and chances are good that we will continue to standardize on this size barge.”

As an indicator of size, the Intercon C-series coupler system on these new tug-barge units is seemingly dwarfed by others produced by the same company. Some of the newer ATBs built for service elsewhere in the country have 50-inch and even 64-inch pin systems.

The new Moran tug is outfitted with a Wynn windshield system on the forward windows of its elevated pilothouse. (Photo courtesy Moran Towing)

Charleston, along with a sister barge being delivered this summer, are the ninth and tenth double-hull petroleum barges to join the Moran fleet. The company has been operating an all double-hull petroleum barge fleet for more than a year. In addition Moran operates a number of dry-bulk barges and inland-hopper barges.

Since her delivery, Charleston has been carrying heated cargoes of No. 6 oil to industrial users in the greater New York area. Most of Moran’s ATB barges, in fact, are engaged in the transport of No. 6 oil, according to company officials.

The new barges are designed to be able to load or discharge cargo at most of the ship and barge docks in the Northeast, according to Sean Perreault, assistant vice president of engineering services. Charleston has port and starboard manifolds with three individual connecting sites on each side. In addition, the barge has a port and starboard connecting site situated about 35 feet aft of the main manifold to facilitate ease of unloading at a discharge port at Northport, N.Y. on Long Island Sound.

The new barge has protective coatings on all tank interiors, a full-width wave breaker on deck, Bergen radar gauging systems on all tanks and six Markey electric mooring winches loaded with softline situated around the deck. “The typical run for this vessel is 24 hours or less, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for the crew,” said Perreault. “They don’t get much sea time, and they are frequently docking and undocking as well as handling cargo.”

The barges can discharge cargo at rates as fast as 10,000 to 12,000 barrels per hour, according to Perreault. The unmanned barges have two dedicated tankermen who are part of the overall tug crew of seven, he noted.

Moran’s newest tug is a 121-foot ATB unit with 5,100 hp from EMD engines, Lufkin gears and an Intercon coupler system. The tug is matched with the new barge, Charleston, shown at beginning of this story.  (Photos courtesy Moran Towing)

The new tug Pati R. Moran, and the sister tug Linda Moran, being delivered in early summer, are the last two Moran vessels being powered by EMD 645 series diesels. The engines were ordered and the tugs’ keels were laid in 2006, which was the last year of origination for that well-regarded family of EMD engines.

The next Moran ATBs will be outfitted with the 12-cylinder 710 series of EMD engines, with those being down-rated to 2,650-hp each at 800 rpm, using different reduction gears than their predecessors.

The new ATBs have tankage for 142,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and 16,000 gallons of potable water, and they are equipped with a Matrix reverse-osmosis watermaking system.

Interior accommodations include seven staterooms for as many as 12 crew when needed, plus five heads, an enlarged galley, and an office area.

Moran Towing, based in New Canaan, Conn., has been building new tugs over the years at a pace to keep up with its business. Moran continues to expand its fleet of z-drive tractor tugs, in part because of expansion into new ports on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, and also because of activation of several new contracts for LNG-related ship-assist service.

In the past year, Moran has acquired two tugboat companies: River Parishes Co., in Louisiana, and Cape Fear Towing, of Wilmington, N.C. In addition, the company has contracted to supply LNG-related ship-assist services in Freeport, Texas, Cameron Parish (near Lake Charles), La., and at the Port of Ensenada on the west coast of Mexico.

The company already provides ship-assist services at LNG terminals on Chesapeake Bay and on the Savannah River in Georgia.

“We do seem to have a bit of a track record in this industry, and we think we understand what the operators are looking for. We’ve been able to build new business on the back of prior successes,” said Ned Moran, executive vice president who heads up the harbor-towing business segments for the privately owned company.

The company has 10 additional tractor-style tugs under contract for construction in the next few years, in addition to the ATB tug-barge units.

Four new tugs for LNG service in Mexico are FiFi-1 class escort tugs, with 75 tons of bollard pull, under construction at Union Naval Shipyard, Valencia, Spain. Those tugs, designed by Robert Allan of Vancouver, British Columbia, are expected to be in service at intervals during 2009.

Four new tractors are also being built at the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in Maine. These are a pair of 5,100-hp tugs expected later this year and early in 2009, followed by a pair of 6,600-hp tractors destined for service at the Sempra-LNG project on the Calcasieu River in Louisiana.

At least two additional tractors are in the lineup at C&G Boatworks in Mobile, Ala. These will be 5,000-hp tugs either for general service or for LNG terminal work, according to Moran.

As is often the case, Moran is providing ship-assist service for its newest LNG projects in partnership with other companies. In Mexico, Moran is partnering with Compania Maritima del Pacifico. Until the four tugs under construction in Spain are ready for service in 2009, several Mexican tugs are being used for initial ship arrivals at the Energia Costa Azul LNG terminal, which received its first gas tanker in April.

In both Freeport, Texas, and Cameron Parish, La., on the Calcasieu River, Moran is partnering with G&H Towing of Galveston, Texas (which represents and operates the combined fleets of Bay Houston Towing and Suderman & Young Towing, both of Houston). At the Elba Island LNG terminal on Georgia’s Savannah River, Moran partners with Crescent Towing, and for its project on Chesapeake Bay, Moran partners with McAllister Towing.

By Professional Mariner Staff