There’s definitely going to be a lot of tractor tugs in Tampa,” said Jim Brantner Jr., port captain for Marine Towing of Tampa (MTT), which, this spring, expanded its own fleet of tugs to include five z-drive tractor tugs.
This fifth MTT tug was built by the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in Maine and delivered to Tampa, on Florida’s West Coast, in early summer. Named Liberty, it is a sister ship to two other recently built MTT tugs, with 5,000 horsepower developed by Caterpillar diesels and Rolls-Royce z-drives. The tug is designed to produce 65 to 70 tons of forward bollard pull.
In the last year or two, the company disposed of its only two conventionally propelled tugs, returning one to its owner after a charter and selling the other to a Miami operator.
Meanwhile Seabulk Towing, MTT’s primary competitor in this expanding port, has assigned a pair of newly built 5,000-hp tugs to Tampa, supplementing its fleet of four tractors already based there.
The port of Tampa handles close to 50 million tons of cargo in a year, twice that of any other Florida port, and nearly as much tonnage as Miami, Port Everglades and Jacksonville combined, according to the Tampa Port Authority. The port is a destination for a diverse array of shipping interests, including a growing lineup of container vessels attracted to its newly developed container port with three new gantry cranes. In fiscal year 2006 the container port handled 24,273 TEUs, down slightly from the previous year, according to the Port Authority. About 3,600 ships call at Tampa in a typical year.
MTT’s new tug, Liberty, has few improvements over its most immediate predecessor, Freedom, also built at the Washburn & Doughty shipyard in Maine. The main difference between the two tugs is a change in navigation electronics in the wheelhouse. The newest tug has Nobeltec radars with navigational overlays integrated with radar displays showing radar information, navigational charts with GPS positioning information, and AIS targets and information, according to Brantner, who, as is traditional for this company, is serving as the newest tug’s captain for a few months.
“There are no noteworthy changes other than that change in the electronics,” he said. “We are trying to keep these tugs as identical as possible so it will be easier to handle maintenance and spare parts and the like.”
All of the tug’s major equipment items, the Cat 3516B engines, the Rolls-Royce/Aquamaster z-drives, the John Deere auxiliary power generators and the Markey hawser winch, are identical.
“We would never change that winch,” said Brantner. “That’s a great winch with full render-recovery features and we like it just the way it is.”
Marine Towing of Tampa’s fleet now includes three of these recently built 5,000-hp z-drive tugs built in Maine, and a pair of identical SDMs (Ship Docking Modules) that are tractor-style tugs with z-drives mounted fore and aft. Seabulk Towing also has one of the four SDM tugs that it owns based in Tampa.
“We usually use one of the SDMs up on the bow of a ship, since she can fold in against the side and apply full sideways power, while we put an azimuthing stern-drive tug at the ship’s stern for more effective backing and steering,” said Brantner.
The new tug Liberty, like its sister ships, has a set of H-bitts and a Timberland electric capstan on its stern. The tug has tankage for 29,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 3,000 gallons of potable water.
Marine Towing of Tampa reports that it earns virtually all of its revenue from ship-docking work on Tampa Bay and nearby Port Manatee. The company is principally owned by members of the Steinbrenner family, including George Steinbrenner and Steve Swindal.