The following is the text of a news release from Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs:
(U.S. NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) — With only five U.S. Navy Natick-class tugboats left in the fleet, the three that call GTMO home have more than their weight to pull here.
“The tugboats we have here are designated as YTB, which stands for yard tug big. They where all built in the early to mid ’70s,” said Martin Bryant, project manager for Port and Harbor Services.
The boats are 108 feet long and have a 10-cylinder diesel engine generating 2,000 horsepower at the shaft. Although the boats are owned by the Navy, they are operated and maintained by civilian contractors. The boats are piloted by a captain and three crewmen. Some of the boats captains are retired Navy chiefs, operating out of the oldest building on GTMO, built in 1913.
“These tugs can move anything from a nuclear-powered submarine to a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. They are capable of producing 2,000 shaft horsepower,” Bryant said. “They have a 12-foot-diameter propeller, which is very large for a boat that size. They are designed to push and pull.”
Chief Petty Officer Roy Whisenant, port operations, said the tugboats are responsible for the incoming and outgoing vessel traffic here.
In addition to the three tugboats, there is also a Mike 8 pusher boat here, which is a landing craft with the ramp removed and replaced with a large bumper on the front.
“Our service craft, the tugs, the ferries and other boats are maintained and operated by the port services contractor, which right now is MCM, and Capt. Marty is the project manager along with Capt. Mike, who is the operations manager right now,” Whisenant said.
Tugboats here at GTMO can be used for a wide variety of operations other than pushing or pulling large ships and barges.
“Our tugs are used to transfer boat pilots, bringing ships, tankers and barges in and out of the bay, they can be used for rescue such as stranded vessels by towing them back to the harbor,“ said Michael Spiker, marine operations manager.
The veteran tugboat captains make moving these large ships and barges look very easy, but that comes from years of experience.
“We get a few Navy ships in here but not as many as we would like to see. We always enjoy bringing in the Navy ships here in Guantanamo Bay. It kind of brings back old memories,” Bryant said.
Bryant has been around tugboats since 1978 when he qualified as a tug master in the Navy. He retired from the Navy in 1995 and returned to GTMO in 1998 as a contracted tugboat captain.
So the next time you are wondering when the shelves at the Navy Exchange are going to get restocked, remember the hard-working tugboat captains, crewmen and support staff who help bring the supply barge to GTMO.
— Story by Sgt. 1st Class Daryl T. Madrid