Moran’s latest Tier 4 tug ‘designed to dock ships’


Modern tugboats are increasingly designed and outfitted to perform multiple jobs, from barge shifting to ship escorting and docking to rescue towing. Moran’s newest vessel focuses on what it does best: Escorting and docking big ships.

Judy Moran, named for the wife of senior vice president Ned Moran, is a sibling to Benson George Moran now working in Port Arthur, Texas. Both have EPA Tier 4-compliant engines and the same 93-by-38-foot hull form. Both also were designed and built in East Boothbay, Maine, by Washburn & Doughty. Judy is the 40th tractor tug delivered to Moran from the yard.

At 6,772 hp, Judy Moran is the most powerful tugboat in the company’s already stout Norfolk fleet made up entirely of tractor tugs. It entered service Sept. 4, 2018, and has been a welcome addition in the busy port, Capt. David Clark said.

“What it does well is what it is designed to do, and that is dock ships,” said Clark, a 10-year captain with Moran Towing.

Twin Caterpillar 3516E Tier 4 engines provide propulsion on the 93-foot tugboat.

Hampton Roads in southeast Virginia has a thriving coal export trade and a robust container business along with hosting the largest naval base in the world. Container tonnage has risen amid steady investment at the Port of Virginia terminals. Meanwhile, total ship calls fell by 94 — to 1,194 overall — in the nine months between July 2018 and March 2019.

One obvious explanation for that decline is the rise of the so-called “ultra-large container vessels” regularly calling the Port of Virginia as part of an East Coast route. These massive ships capable of transiting through the new, larger Panama Canal locks are a big reason why Moran assigned Judy to the region.

“With all of the new boats we have built, we’re really building them for the big containerships and LNG projects,” said Ken Flowers, a Moran Towing vice president and general manager of the Norfolk office. “We are using this type of boat … in tethered escort mode for the containerships here.”

Moran’s tugboats meet the inbound containerships at Old Point Comfort, which separates the Chesapeake Bay from Hampton Roads. Although it varies by the vessel, weather conditions and pilot preference, Judy Moran and other high-horsepower tugs normally take position at the transom of these megaships to help slow and turn them while approaching the terminal.


Judy Moran typically runs a four-person crew, right. Pictured from left are AB Shane Richardson, chief engineer Josh Wiggins, mate Matt Fogg and Capt. David Culbertson. At right, Wiggins monitors the engine control panel aboard the tug.

“We get a line on the center lead aft of the ultra-large containerships and have the capability to perform a powered indirect maneuver to help steer it,” Clark said, noting that Judy Moran “does great” in this maneuver.

The current design of Judy Moran is a distant cousin to the 92-by-32-foot tugs Moran started building at Washburn & Doughty in the 1990s. Moran’s desire for additional horsepower and escort capability necessitated lengthening the hull by 1 foot and the beam by 6 feet in 2011. Meeting Tier 4 emissions rules led to Washburn & Doughty raising the main deck by 12 inches to free up space in the engine room for the high-speed Caterpillar engines and urea-based aftertreatment system. The change in depth also improved indirect towing performance.

Propulsion on Judy Moran comes from twin 3,386-hp Cat 3516E engines. Schottel z-drives with 110-inch stainless-steel props in nozzles provide thrust. Although Benson George was outfitted with Rolls-Royce drives, Moran has long installed Schottel units on its ship-assist tugboats. Taken together, Judy delivers 84 metric tons of bollard pull. Judy, like sister tug Benson George, is an ABS-classed escort tug.

Capt. David Culbertson stands in the Furuno-equipped wheelhouse.

Electrical power comes from twin John Deere 4045 gensets each generating 99 kW. Firefighting equipment consists of an Elkhart Brass Copperhead monitor driven by an electric Aurora 75-hp pump. The vessel also has a deluge system and an FM-200 fire suppression system supplied by Ansul in the engine room.

The Markey 75-hp DEPCF-52 electric hawser winch spooled with Samson Saturn-12 10-inch line occupies much of the foredeck. The hawser is equipped with Markey’s trademarked render/recover system designed to maintain constant line tension. That feature comes in handy when working big ships.

“It’s an easy way to keep control of the line without taking your hands off the controls,” Clark said.

The wide bow on Judy Moran is designed to disperse force along the hull of a ship. As such, the fendering is an integral component. Viking supplied the soft loop fendering, while Morse Rubber provided the cylindrical and D-fendering. Captains consider the fendering soft and forgiving when lining up alongside a ship.


Judy Moran is equipped with a 75-hp Markey DEPCF-52 hawser winch. At right, chief engineer Josh Wiggins monitors the tow line while working a coal ship at Lambert’s Point in Norfolk, Va.

The wheelhouse design and layout on Judy Moran looks like earlier iterations of Moran’s 93-foot tugboats. That is no accident: The company has standardized layouts, systems and components across its newbuilds based on ergonomics studies, allowing crews to safely transition between tugboats. The console features Furuno navigation electronics, while a separate display shows footage from cameras installed throughout the vessel.

Crew spaces are designed with comfort in mind. There are four staterooms, meaning each person in the standard four-person crew gets their own space, with berthing for six people. The captain and engineer’s staterooms are located on the main deck alongside the mess and galley. The two additional staterooms are located forward of the engine room on the lower deck. Poured floors, extensive use of interior insulation and engines installed atop resilient mounts reduce vibration and noise throughout the boat.

Moran’s total fleet of tractor tugs now stands at 46, 35 of which are classed ABS Escort. Moran’s tractor fleet, which is already the largest in the U.S., will soon be joined by additional vessels from a recent shipyard order at Washburn & Doughty for a new series of tugs. The order has the potential to be the largest in Moran’s history.

Highlights: Moran’s second Tier 4 tugboat • Built to handle LNG tankers and neo-Panamax ships • W&D’s 40th delivery for Moran
By Professional Mariner Staff