Moran expands with new business and more tugs

Moran Towing, with its corporate offices in New Canaan, Conn., continues to reinvest in its growing business. Even in dismal economic conditions, this company continues to build new tugs at a prodigious rate and to expand its list of ports served, primarily through acquisition and through involvement in new LNG importation terminals.

New ASD tractor tug Loretta B. Moran is launched by crane at the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine. (John Snyder photo)

As of this year, Moran is involved in ship-assist work, escorting and stand-by services at four of the seven active land-based LNG importation terminals in the continental United States, plus a fifth terminal recently opened on Mexico’s west coast. That is far more involvement with LNG contracts than any other U.S. tug company.

In part to facilitate this LNG success story, Moran has been building a series of ASD tractor tugs at two different shipyards. Several of these were introduced in 2009 with another four expected to be introduced in 2010. These are all 5,000-hp and 6,600-hp z-drive tugs, with the larger models generally being assigned to LNG work.

Shipyards involved with Moran’s new boat construction are Washburn & Doughty in East Boothbay, Maine, and C&G Boat Works in Mobile, Ala. The two latest tugs introduced from these yards are Loretta B. Moran, 6,600 hp, from the W&D yard, and Capt. Jimmy T. Moran, 5,100 hp, from the C&G yard.

Capt. Jimmy T. Moran has joined other Moran tugs in New Orleans, where the company has established a base with acquisition of River Parishes Co. several years ago. (Mike Posey photo)

The 98-foot Loretta B. Moran, delivered earlier this year, is sister to Catherine C. Moran, which was delivered in late 2009. Both tugs are providing tug services for Sempra Energy’s new Cameron LNG terminal, located near Hackberry, La.

Both Loretta B. Moran and Catherine C. Moran measure 98 feet in length with 16 feet of draft. They are classed ABS as escort vessels with FiFi-1 capability.

The tugs are powered by two EMD 12-710-G7C main engines each rated at 3,300 hp at 900 rpm. The propulsion units are Rolls-Royce model US 255 z-drives. They are equipped with 9-foot diameter stainless steel propellers. The propeller nozzles are lined with stainless steel. Bollard pull is 83.5 tons ahead and 78 tons astern.

Meanwhile, the C&G-built 86-foot Capt. Jimmy T. Moran has joined other company tugs in New Orleans where Moran has established a base with the acquisition of River Parishes Co. several years ago.

In addition to the steady flow of new z-drive tractor tugs, Moran has also continued to build its fleet of articulated tug-barges (ATBs) for oil transportation.

Moran’s newest ATB tug is the 5,100-hp Lois Ann L. Moran, also built at the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in Maine. Here she undergoes bollard pull testing at the shipyard. (Greg Walsh photo)

Introduced towards the end of 2009 was the 121-foot Lois Ann L. Moran, a twin-screw tug outfitted with the Intercon articulated coupler system and matched with a new 425-foot oil barge recently constructed at Bay Shipbuilding, in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. The Washburn & Doughty shipyard has a fourth in this series of ATBs for Moran already under construction.

Lois Ann L. Moran was the first real survivor of the devastating fire that destroyed the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in July of 2008.

Salvaged from the black and crumbled remains of the fire, the tug’s newly plated hull was charred and paintless, but, fortunately, not totally distorted by heat and flame. Some exterior plating had to be replaced, and both of her engines had to be removed and sent back to the manufacturer for refurbishment. Many smaller items of equipment were destroyed, but shipyard workers were able to continue construction on the vessel even while a new 50,000-square-foot building was constructed around her.

Rejuvenated and newly painted, hull no. 94 was launched down a railway one year and 12 days after the fire. She was turned over to her new crew this past October and went to work for Moran shortly after.

This tug, like a half-dozen other ATBs in the Moran fleet, is designed to fit snugly into the deep notch in the stern of a 425-foot oil barge, and to stay there almost permanently. Once in position, she is held in place by pins that project out from her sides to engage with receptacles in the sides of the notch. There is no other point of contact between tug and barge. This mechanical means of attachment allows the tug to have independent pitching motion while underway, but restricts her to rolling in sync with the barge.

Moran’s newest ATB tug is powered by a pair of 12-cylinder 710-G7C engines, each rated at 2,550 hp at 800 rpm. These are the same engines as are installed in Moran’s new 6,600-hp tractor tugs, but turned down to reduced power at lower rpm. The engines are linked to Lufkin 4:1 reverse/reduction gears, each turning 10-inch steel shafts and 115-inch, five-blade Rolls-Royce stainless propellers.

Because of an ABS requirement, the new ATB tug underwent bollard pull testing at the shipyard where it was built.

Although bollard pull testing is actually a rather undramatic event, the sight of a 121-foot tug with elevated pilothouse with 58-foot height of eye, pulling away at full strength on a 600-foot length of blue, synthetic hawser, at times heeling at dramatic angles, did create a momentary distraction among many of the shipyard workers and others who were on hand to view the event.

Robert Hill, naval architect, said that the test actually presented an unfair view of this particular tug’s pulling power since its propellers are designed to achieve maximum power and efficiency when the vessel is moving at speeds of about 10 knots, not in the static or zero-speed scenario required, by definition, for a bollard pull test.

Ned Moran, senior vice president of the 150-year-old company, cautioned that a tug designed to push barges would never produce the same kind of bollard pull as one of the more publicized tractor-style tugs that are designed to produce surges of power in static or near-static conditions.

Lois Ann L. Moran, for example, turned in a static bollard pull strength of roughly 55 tons, while one of the new tractor-style tugs, Catherine C. Moran, tested a few days later, produced about 80 tons of strength on the same bollard.

As if all this new building activity was not enough, Moran has also been engaged in construction of four new tugs in Spain for assignment to a newly opened LNG importation terminal in Mexico. All four tugs have been delivered to work.

These 105-foot tugs are actually models of RAstar 3200-class tugs designed by Robert Allan Ltd., of Vancouver, B.C. They are built by Union Naval Valencia of Valencia, Spain, and were delivered to Servicios Maritimos de Baja California of Mexico. This is a joint venture between Moran and Grupo Boluda of Spain. These tugs are designed for work at the Costa Azul LNG terminal in exposed waters on the northwest coast of Mexico. The first tugs tested out at 82.5 tons bollard pull with a free running speed of 14.5 knots.

A dominant feature of the new Mexican tugs is the massively designed waterfall-style double-drum winch provided by Markey Machinery of Seattle. Propulsion power comes from a pair of 16v4000 MTU diesels with Lufkin reduction gears and carbon fiber shafts leading to Rolls-Royce z-drive units.

The blooming of LNG projects in recent years has played conveniently into Moran’s expanding sphere of territories where its tugboats are involved in conventional ship-assist work. The most recent LNG importation terminals have been approved and constructed on the Gulf Coast where Moran has established bases in Texas and Louisiana. Meanwhile, Moran’s traditional presence on the East Coast, including long-term involvement at two LNG terminals, would seemingly have the company well positioned for work at future offshore or land-based LNG terminals.

To be sure, there are plenty of competitors eager to submit bids and proposals for projects currently being planned, but Moran’s experience in the LNG field, combined with its large fleet of LNG-capable tugs and its proven ability to partner with other tug companies, would seemingly make it an attractive provider to those doing the hiring at future terminals for LNG and other commodities.

By Professional Mariner Staff