Penn’s New CoHo is Second in a Growing Fleet of Finfish

Penn Maritime, never at a loss for new tugs and barges, took delivery of the 116-foot ATB tug, Coho, in December. She is the second in a series of five identical tugs, each to be matched to a dedicated 414-foot barge utilizing the JAK-400 coupling system.

Capt. Mike O’Brien spent a good bit of time in Houma, La., and New Orleans in December and January, outfitting Coho for service, while waiting for her barge to be delivered. The barge, Penn No. 92, built at Corn Island Shipyard in Indiana was delayed by ice on the upper Mississippi while making its way south. The wait did not dampen O’Brien’s enthusiasm for his new command.

O’Brien and his crew were well prepared when the time for departure finally arrived. “Our maiden voyage was from New Orleans to Port Hawkesbury on Cape Breton Island in eastern Canada, a trip of roughly 2,350 miles. The unit performed flawlessly and made the transit in 10 underway days.”

This series of 4,000-hp tugs for Penn were designed by Frank Basile of Entech & Associates of Houma and are being built by Thoma-Sea Boat Builders, also located in the Louisiana city that has blossomed into a major oil field supply and shipbuilding center. Skipjack, first in the series, was delivered and matched with her barge in 2008.

Discussing the origin of the design for these new tugs, Basile reminisced about how he has been working with Penn Maritime, off and on, for more than 35 years. He said that this newest tug design is a progression of a series of 114-foot tugs he designed and built for several local offshore oil companies in the 1970s. Basile, who is now nearing retirement age, said that at the time, he owned a small shipyard.

Back then, he recalled, Penn Maritime and the Morania Oil Tanker Corporation were working together, as if they were one company. In March of 2000, Morania officially merged into Penn Maritime with offices in Stamford, Conn., Staten Island, N.Y., and Slidell, La.

“The two companies were essentially the same, intertwined with family,” said Bill Oppenheimer, now manager of engineering and construction for Penn.

In 1976, Basile contracted to design and build Morania No. 20 based on the 114-foot tugs with a few changes. The new boat was a bit longer than its predecessor and designed to accommodate EMD 16-645 mains coupled to 5:1 reduction gears and Troost propellers. In 1978, Basile contracted to build a sister vessel for the company, Morania 22, which was delivered in 1980.

Penn MaritimeÕs new ATB tug, Coho, pushes a new 414-foot asphalt barge, Penn No. 92, through the Cape Cod Canal in Massachusetts shortly after her delivery.

“It was about that time that I met Mr. Bill Oppenheimer,” said Basile. “Over the years we stayed in touch, such as when drawings of the vessels were needed and other matters relating to tugboats in general. In 2007, he called and asked if I had a design that would be applicable for ATB service to couple to an 80,000 to 100,000-barrel barge. We were fortunate enough to have had a recent tug, Chesapeake, that had recently been delivered to Vane Brothers and was operating successfully.

“Using those hull lines as a platform, we rearranged the forward fuel tanks and changed the forward shape and structure to accommodate the JAK pin system. A new superstructure was designed using stability data from the Chesapeake files, which would assure a stable, sea-kindly, vessel. The superstructure, main deck and the 01 deck are steel. The 02, 03, 04 tower and the pilot-house are aluminum. A design parameter that was required was that the vessel had to be under 500 gross tons ITC and under 200 GT Regulatory,” said Basile.

“Another departure from most ATB tugs was the incorporation of NautiCan nozzles with directional vanes, and the triple rudder design,” he added. “The sea trials and operational use proves that this combination exceeds the maneuverability and towing speed of conventional open wheel ATB tugs.”

Oppenheimer said that the general hull size and design, in this case, seems to work perfectly with the new barges being built at Corn Island Shipyard.

Choosing Cummins engines for the new vessels turned out to be a simple decision, he said. “It wasn’t complicated. It was simply a matter of availability. We were looking for four-cycle engines that were fuel efficient at a time when there were not many engines available.”

Coho is powered by a pair of 2,000-hp, 60-liter, V-16 Cummins QSK-60 engines, turning up to 1,800 rpm. Reintjes gears are shafted to 104-inch skewed propellers in NautiCan nozzles with shutter rudders. Coho’s electrical power is provided by three 99-kW John Deere generator sets.

The fuel efficiency and clean burning performance of the mains impressed Capt. O’Brien on the trip from Louisiana to Canada. Most impressive, he said, was the absolute lack of visible exhaust and fuel consumption, about 25 percent less than other equivalent sized engines.

With an eye level of 51-feet, it is a bit of a workout climbing to the elevated wheelhouse, but once there, the view is outstanding. All the equipment and screens in the wheelhouse are readily at hand. These include two sets of engine gauges and multiple sets of EMI engine controls, with overhead chart and data displays. Steering controls are by RexRoth, while Furuno supplied the radar and radios.

Every electronic item is packed into the single elevated pilothouse, including Furuno navigation electronics with chart display visible on overhead.

Coho is rigged primarily for pushing and does not have a towing winch. However, she has a huge H-bitt, built by Thoma-Sea, and a capstan, manufactured by JonRie InterTech, on the stern. Also on the stern is a towing hawser and chain. Despite the push bias, the wheelhouse is equipped with a full set of aft controls for those occasions when the vessel may be called upon to tow.

Beacon Finland’s JAK-ATB pin and socket system has a guide and socket plate that lock, according to the draft of the barge, with receptacles in each wing of the barge’s notch. They are pneumatically actuated, electrically controlled, cylinder units with 16-inch pushpins at the bow of the tug, port and starboard. They are controlled using a remote control box on the bridge or a local control box in the coupler compartment in the bow.

Again O’Brien took notice, explaining that, “We found ourselves in storm conditions off the New Jersey coast, with winds gusting above 60 knots and seas to 10 feet, and the vessel never missed a beat. It really proved to be a trip of extremes. We were in gale force winds twice, got into seas of 11 to 13 feet off the Florida Keys. The temperature was 85Á and then we found ourselves a week later in what seemed like sub-zero temperatures off of Nova Scotia and actually had to go through 30 nautical miles of first year sea ice off of Cape Canso, Nova Scotia.

Coho and others in the class are powered by twin Cummins QSK-60 V-16 diesel engines generating about 2,000 hp each at 1,800 rpm.

“The JAK-400 pins were exceptionally quiet and also performed flawlessly. The simplicity and physical strength of the JAK system seems to be perfectly suited to conditions on a workboat.” These newest Penn vessels are actually the second wave of ATBs in the Penn fleet to be outfitted with the JAK coupler system Ñ two others being Tarpon and Dolphin, converted to JAK in 2006. The company also has five ATB units with Intercon couplers as well as several with Bludworth systems.

Capt. O’Brien also had high praise for the new tug’s steering system. “The NautiCan nozzle and rudder system provides a huge amount of rudder power for close in maneuvering. She is an exceptionally nice handling unit and, as for a light tug, the Coho is probably the best handling boat I have ever been on,’ he said after the tug’s maiden voyage.

While Coho and her sisterships do not have towing winches, an emergency towline and associated gear are laid out on deck for use in an unexpected breakaway.

Skipjack, delivered last year, was the first in the series of tugs, all to be named after finfish. The three remaining tugs, Yellowfin, Bluefin and Mako are scheduled to join the fleet, along with their barges, later this year. The 14,000-ton, 90,000-barrel barges are heated cargo carriers, designed to transport black oil products like asphalt, Penn MaritimeÕs mainstay cargo. The company, in fact, describes itself as the largest U.S. transporter of heated asphalt products.

With the addition of Coho, Penn Maritime has 15 tugs and 18 barges. All of the barges are double hulled except for one, which is double bottomed.

By Professional Mariner Staff