Ocean Group of Quebec introduces third tractor tug

Ocean Group (Groupe Océan), the Quebec-based company that dominates tug services on the St. Lawrence River, has added a third z-drive tractor tug to its fleet of 18 tugs, this one working in Quebec City while two others are handling the unceasing flow of container ships in Montreal.

The newest addition to the fleet is the 5,000 hp Ocean K. Rusby, delivered at the end of 2005 by Irving Shipbuilding. The 30-meter tug is part of a series of tugs originally designed by the Robert Allan firm of Canada, with most others being operated by Atlantic Towing in St. John and Halifax.

The tug is powered by a pair of Caterpillar 3516BHD diesels, each developing 2,500 hp at 1,600 rpm. These drive Rolls-Royce Aquamaster z-drives with controllable pitch 2,400 mm propellers. The new tug is rated for FiFi-1 firefighting capability with Caterpillar auxiliary power and a Ridderinkhof towing winch.

Ocean Group, founded by former commercial diver Gordon Bain in 1988, currently provides tug services in Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivieres, Contrecoeur, Sorel-Tracy, Becancour and, since June 2005, Hamilton, Oshawa and Toronto, all three on Lake Ontario.

Two other z-drive tractor tugs in the Ocean Group fleet are Ocean Intrepid and Ocean Jupiter, both also Robert Allan designs, built at the company’s own shipyard in Isle-aux-Coudres, Quebec, which recently went through a bankruptcy phase.

The big news with this company, aside from the arrival of its third tractor tug, is its recent expansion into Lake Ontario. The new division, known as Ocean Ontario Towing, is based in the port of Hamilton. Three Ocean Group tugs are now based there, including the ex-U.S. Navy cycloidal-drive tug, Escorte, which, despite its age, constitutes a fourth tractor-style tug in the company fleet.

Ocean Group keeps its original two tractor tugs, plus several others, in the busy port of Montreal, where it has been operating almost exclusively since acquiring the McAllister Towing & Salvage company there in the mid-1990s.

Montreal, located about 1,000 miles up the St. Lawrence from the open ocean, handled about 24 million tons of cargo in 2005, almost half of which was container business. Port officials said they expect about a 3 percent growth in cargo traffic in 2006. Shipping business in Montreal translates into a volume of about 2,300 tug jobs annually for Ocean Group, according to a company report.

Although slightly smaller in traffic and cargo volume, the Port of Quebec has been turning in steady increases in shipping statistics with about 22 million tons of cargo moving through the port last year. With much of its cargo being bulk goods, the port also played host to as many as 94,000 passengers aboard visiting cruise ships in 2005, according to the Port of Quebec Port Authority.

The new tug Ocean K. Rusby is now the premier tug operating in Quebec, which is about 150 miles closer to the ocean than Montreal. For winter operations on the normally ice-choked river, the tug is fitted with an “ice stop” on the forward end of its long skeg. This is designed to prevent the hull from riding up onto areas of sheet ice. The aft end of the skeg/keel is fitted with a pair of “ice knives” designed to divert large pieces of ice away from the propellers and nozzles.


Ocean Group’s three z-drive tractors are all given names that begin with the prefix “Ocean.” This particular tug is then named for the company’s senior salvage officer, Keith Rusby, according to company officials.

By Professional Mariner Staff