Thomas M. Gattle combines a traditional design with innovation


Terral RiverService, of Lake Providence, La., has placed its 14th towboat in operation along the Mississippi River and tributaries with the addition of the 2,800-hp Thomas M. Gattle.

The twin-screw vessel is the seventh towboat constructed for the firm by NewSouth Marine Construction Inc., of Greenville, Miss., and is the third in a series of nearly identical vessels, all designed by NewSouth’s president, Tim Hovas.

The NewSouth-Terral relationship goes back to the very beginning of the shipyard, which delivered its first new towboat, Marguerite L. Terral, to Terral RiverService in 2002. The companies have worked together since then to modify and improve subsequent deliveries, based upon suggestions from vessel crews and Terral management. Seven of the 10 towboats constructed by NewSouth have been for Terral RiverService.

The 100-by-32-by-10-foot vessel is powered by a pair of Caterpillar 3512 electronic diesels, linked to 84-by-63-inch, four-blade stainless steel Sound propellers on 8-inch shafts through Twin Disc MGX5600 (6:1) reduction gears. Onboard power requirements are provided by two John Deere powered 99-kW generators. The engines were provided by Thompson Power Systems of Greenwood, Miss., and the generators came from Engines Inc.

The hull and push knees are protected from impact by Schuyler rubber fenders.

Thomas M. Gattle has a larger pilothouse than the other boats in the 2,800 hp/3,000 hp trio. The helm has a very efficient design, with all controls and electronics within easy reach of the pilot. The elevating pilothouse provides a 28-foot height of eye in its raised position. The boat’s profile is distinguishable from the others because of the unusual design and arrangement of the twin radar masts and searchlights which can be raised or lowered independently. It is very unusual to see an elevating pilothouse with the searchlights above the roofline and yet capable of being retracted enough to clear low bridges.

Hovas brings many years of towboat construction and design experience to the table when he undertakes a project. Before the formation of NewSouth 10 years ago, he had been in the marine construction business for 30 years in various capacities at other shipyards in Greenville, Miss., which at one time was dubbed the “Million Dollar Mile” in reference to the many yards that lined the shores of Lake Ferguson in the 1970s and ’80s before the downturn in inland marine construction activities.

His hull designs maintain the lines used by a majority of the boats constructed by the many yards. They often shared mutual or overlapping ownership and designers through family or partnership relations, resulting in very similar vessels. Hovas, however, added a reverse chine into the bow, which he credits with an improved water flow to the propellers and rudders to provide better fuel efficiency and less cavitation.

Fuel capacity is 35,000 gallons and potable water capacity is 20,000 gallons with reservoirs for 1,000 gallons of lube oil. Tanks and void areas are protected with Royal Coatings Easy Kote asphalt coatings.

The engines and generators are cooled with treated water circulated through Fernstrum Gridcoolers recessed within the hull, and bilge discharges are treated with a BilgeVAP system by SkimOil Inc. Head discharges are handled through a sanitation treatment unit from Seahorse Manufacturing. The fire alarm system is from M&I Electronics and the remote-controlled CO2 fire suppression system was provided by FPS of New Orleans. Deck equipment includes a pair of Patterson 40-ton deck winches and a Schoellhorn-Albrecht capstan.

The twin steering rudders and four flanking rudders are independently controlled with an electronic-over-hydraulic follow-up steering system from Skipper Engineered Products, a division of Donovan Marine of New Orleans, which also provided the electric, non-follow-up reserve steering system.

Attractive and quiet quarters are provided for a crew of six with single staterooms for the captain and pilot and double occupancy staterooms for the balance of the crew. The compact but efficient and attractive galley is equipped with a large stainless steel refrigerator/freezer, four-burner electric range and oven, trash compacter, ice machine and double-bowl stainless steel sink mounted in a quartz countertop.

The pilothouse is equipped with an abundance of communications and navigation equipment, including two Furuno FR8062 digital radars, two Furuno FCV620 color depth sounders, Furuno FA-150 AIS transponder/receiver, and a Furuno satellite compass, two Standard Horizon Quantum GX5500S VHF radios, a DeHart rate-of-swing indicator and a Davis wind-speed and weather-reporting unit, all supplied by Gemini Marine Electronics of Paducah, Ky. The electronic charting system is Rose Point’s Coastal Explorer. The Xenon searchlights are from Carlisle & Finch and the twin trumpet air horn is from Kahlenberg.

The boat is named in honor of the president of Terral RiverService, a family-owned diverse enterprise that until recent years was best known for moving grain and rock along the Red River and Ouachita River in Louisiana. The company’s roots stretch back to 1946, when Thomas M. Gattle’s late father-in-law, John C. Terral, founded a small farm supply business in Lake Providence, La. It expanded into the barging business to support its growth as it evolved into a network of several larger businesses that included a bulk seed company and a farm supply company.

Through various acquisitions and expansions into new markets and services, the company now operates grain, fertilizer and aggregate distribution terminals in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. It also handles coal and rubber chips and has expanded into stevedoring services along with barge cleaning and repair services. Its vessels now regularly operate along the Atchafalaya, Red, lower Mississippi and Ohio rivers and along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

By Professional Mariner Staff