Signet Magic


Signet Maritime is a strong force in the tugboat world of late. It seems that not a year goes by without two or three new boats joining its fleet of 31 tugs spread along the Gulf Coast and in Dubai.

The Houston-based company has collaborated with Robert Allan Ltd. on eight ASD tugboats in the past five years. Currently Signet has three of the eight under construction, two at the Patti Marine Enterprises yard in Pensacola, Fla., and the third, Signet Magic, at Signet Shipbuilding & Repair in Pascagoula, Miss.

The unfinished pilothouse.

Signet bought Colle Towing’s marine operations and shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., in 2010, complete with tugs (three of them ASDs) and with a new post-Katrina office building and a full-service yard equipped with a new 600-ton Travelift.

Since then the company has built Signet Weatherly, a 105-foot, 4,720-hp Robert Allan-designed ASD, and enjoyed a good stream of repair work. Signet Magic, the yard’s second new build, will be delivered in August and will be deployed at Signet’s International Operations Center at Ingleside, on Corpus Christi Bay, Texas.

“Robert Allan designs involve extensive complex structure with plenty of framework,” said Allen Cox, manager of new construction at the Pascagoula yard. Besides muscularity, the 80-by-36-foot AZ (Advanced Z-drive) 24/60 class (RApport class) tug, with a draft of 13.2 feet, is specifically designed to work in a tight harbor, and according to Joe Dahl, the general manager for Signet Shipbuilding & Repair, Ingleside fits that description.

“The RApport class of tugs is a new class at Robert Allan Ltd. which we created to define our smaller harbor tugs,” said Robert Allan, “in particular to congregate and rationalize our original ‘compact’ tug designs into a more logical grouping than they were previously.”

The designation denotes a compact, powerful and agile ASD tug developed by the Vancouver naval architectural firm specifically for berthing and unberthing large modern container and cargo ships in harbor and port operations.


“The Signet Magic is a highly maneuverable boat with good power for tough spots,” said Dahl. “This is a quick-moving harbor assist tug with a lot of power to work in tight spots.”

The propulsion consists of two Caterpillar 3516C Tier 3 mains turning Rolls-Royce US 205 z-drives with four-blade, 95-inch nibral propellers in Kort nozzles. The expected bollard pull is 60 metric tons and the speed is 12.5 knots.

The deep blue color of a Rolls-Royce z-drive upper gear housing is becoming as noticeable in the shipyards as the strong yellow of a Caterpillar diesel. On the day I visited the Pascagoula yard, the shipyard crew were lifting the upper gear for the portside z-drive by crane up onto Magic’s stern deck. The sky was as blue as the paint on the gear housing, a perfect day for such a significant event.Also prominent at a shipyard building a Robert Allan tug is the rugged and deep black color of a Markey hawser winch. “Joe Dahl came to us with a Robert Allan design and asked how best to outfit it,” said Markey President Blaine Dempke. “The result was a Markey 50-hp DEPCF-48 main workhorse hawser winch on the bow with Markey Render/Recover and a Tension Display System.” The hawser winch will have 500 feet of 9-inch Samson Saturn-12 line.

The tug’s skeg will provide extra stability for a small powerful docking tug that will be called on to exert great force. It will have a bollard pull of 60 metric tons.

A crane lifts one of the Rolls-Royce US 205 z-drives as workers guide it into position through the deck of Signet Magic.

The Seattle-based winch maker also shipped a 20-hp DEPC-32 stern winch to the yard that will be used primarily for tie-up work and short tows with 250 feet of 6.5-inch Spectra line on the drum.

The fendering on a modern tug, especially one working in tight places and under the flair of ships, has taken on a more sophisticated look in the past few decades. Schuyler Rubber’s Broussard, La., facility supplied the 32-inch cylindrical fender, chained through 40 feet of Magic’s bow bulwarks. The bow side-shell and stern are covered with W-fender, and the lower bow and stem are covered with laminated fendering.

“D-type fendering has been supplied for submarine handling along the bow, above and below waterline,” said Greg Armfield, who works at Schuyler’s main office in Woodinville, Wash. Dahl explained that the D-type submarine fendering offers more protection than a steel bilge keel, as well as a good roll-suppression device, while the tug is working close to rigs.

For firefighting, Signet Magic has a 1,000-gpm Akron Brass 3678 remote-operated monitor, being fed water through an AMPCO ZCH pump powered by a Baldor electric motor.

Signet Magic is the third tug in the company fleet to meet the EPA’s Tier 3 marine emission regulations for propulsion and for electrical generation.

Signet Maritime has developed a Turnkey Project Management division that has become the company’s key element in its marketing strategy. The work has involved a variety of assignments from rig moves to rig-tow rescues. “We design each tow plan to incorporate every aspect, from entrance to departure and anything else that has to be done on a project” said Dahl. “We do it all.”    

By Professional Mariner Staff