Young Brothers rebuilds fleet for Hawaii service


Young Brothers began carrying cargo between the Hawaiian Islands long before they even became a state. Its new class of oceangoing tugboats will keep the critical service going strong well into the future.

Young Brothers is a Foss subsidiary based in Honolulu. The company has taken delivery of three new 6,000-hp tugs, with a fourth due in summer 2019. Conrad Shipyard of Morgan City, La., delivered Kapena Jack Young last August, followed by Kapena Raymond Alapai in November and Kapena George Panui in March 2019. Kapena Bob Purdy is the final boat in the series. Each is named for a former Young Brothers captain.

Damen Shipyards designed the 123-by-36.5-foot vessels based on its Stan Tug 3011 model. The Young Brothers tugs are the first in the U.S. built to a Damen “package.”

Young Brothers operates interisland cargo service to five of Hawaii’s main islands from its hub in Honolulu. Its tugs run almost every day on relatively short voyages averaging between six and 24 hours, primarily towing 340-by-90-foot deck barges. Kapena Jack Young was Young Brothers’ first newbuild tug since 1991. Several older tugs will be retired as the new vessels enter service.

“The new tugs reinforce our commitment to safety, environmental stewardship and customer service,” said Joe Boivin, company president, during Kapena Jack Young’s christening.

Markey supplied the versatile bow winches for the Kapena-class tugboats.

Damen’s Stan Tug 3011 was one of several designs Young Brothers considered for the new tugboat class. It has a forward pilothouse, raised forecastle and open aft deck for ocean towing. Due to Young Brothers’ modifications, the design carries the model number Stan 3711 because it is 23 feet (7 meters) longer than traditional 3011 tugs.

“The long deck of the Stan Tug 3711 is a result of lengthening the vessel primarily due to the minimum fuel storage capacity it needed to accommodate,” said Mark Honders, Damen’s design and license manager. “By lengthening it, we were also able to accommodate the double-drum Markey winch and the medium-speed GE engines, which otherwise would not have fit on a ‘standard’ Stan Tug 3011.”

Honders added that the tug needed to meet ABS and U.S. Coast Guard standards. “Designing a tug in accordance with our European standards is one thing, but designing that same tug in accordance with U.S. standards proved to be a real challenge,” he said.

Dan Cole, Foss Maritime’s project manager who oversaw construction, said the Damen “package” tugs represent a different method of tugboat construction. The shipyard supplied the engines and the structural steel, while Damen shipped other parts to the yard in cargo containers.

“It requires more effort to plan and track and issue all of the parts because you want to plan what gets containerized together so it arrives relatively in the order you need to use it,” Cole said in an interview. “There is more front-end planning.”

Each drum in the Markey towing winch is wrapped with 2,500 feet of 2.25-inch towing wire.

That all-in-one package is a selling point for Damen, which buys many of its components in bulk, stores them in distribution centers and ships them around the world for tug projects. Damen believes this standardization leads to better reliability and lower ownership costs.

Damen was open to discussions about incorporating different components into the design, but Cole said “they try to stick to what they bid as the package.” Young Brothers did insist on using Schuyler Cos. fendering to protect the hulls.

Johnny Conrad, chairman and CEO of Conrad Shipyard, acknowledged a learning curve around building the Damen package. The yard worked closely with Damen to work through any challenges that arose, and he said Conrad delivered high-quality tugs as a result.

“The biggest challenge was adapting to a different build strategy and the receipt, cataloging and storage of the materials received for this project,” he said. “We had a project manager specifically assigned to handle this task, and he was able to make sure all the material was properly received and made ready for installation in alignment with our build strategy.”

Propulsion on the Kapena class comes from twin GE 8L250 MDC Tier 4 engines generating 3,000 hp at 900 rpm. The mains turn 126-inch, four-blade props in nozzles through Reintjes reduction gears. Electrical power comes from three 118-kW Caterpillar C7.1 gensets. The vessels are capable of 13 knots light and can tow loaded barges at 8 knots in fair sea conditions.

Young Brothers was one of the first U.S. operators to announce a Tier 4 tugboat project. Back then, in mid-2016, there was limited data on the performance, benefits and potential drawbacks from different engine technologies. Young Brothers considered Caterpillar and GE mains before deciding the latter were a good fit when it came to power, performance and fuel burn.

Propulsion on the Kapena-class tugs comes from two 3,017-hp GE Tier 4 engines.

Young Brothers aims for “just-in-time” interisland service, which requires its tugs to work nearly nonstop. Any downtime affects schedules throughout the island chain. The company wanted reliable, fuel-efficient engines without having to source diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) or store it on board. GE engines do not require DEF to meet Tier 4 emissions rules.

“At the end of the day, relative to the two technologies, the DEF became a pretty big factor,” former Young Brothers President Glenn Hong told Professional Mariner in late 2016.

Young Brothers tugs typically have six crew working two four-hour watches for 30-day intervals. The company incorporated floating floors and insulated interior panels to reduce engine noise and vibration during those long hitches. “The decibel level in the inside of the tugs is almost half of what it was (on existing tugs),” said Michael MacDonald, Young Brothers’ director of marine operations. “This leads to a higher level of alertness within the crew, which leads to a safer environment.”

The main deck is laid out in typical European fashion with compact but well-appointed spaces. The mess and galley are located on the port side, while three double staterooms occupy the starboard side. Storage spaces are located forward and aft of the galley. Staterooms for the captain, mate and second officer are located on the forecastle deck. The tug has berthing for 10.

The engine room has three generators located aft of the main engines, all installed on resilient mounts. The forward space has a watermaker, laundry facilities, electronics and anchor chain lockers. Emergency steering units in the aft steering compartment are unusually striking, with a polished wooden ring and shiny brass center.

Kapena Raymond Alapai maneuvers a cargo barge into the Young Brothers terminal in Honolulu Harbor. The company primarily moves cargo from one Hawaiian island to another.

The pilothouse offers nearly 360-degree windows with limited obstructions from the stacks, which are alongside rather than aft of the house. Radars, navigation electronics and other displays are located within arm’s reach in a modern console. Furuno supplied the radar, AIS and echosounder, while Simrad developed the autopilot. There is also an aft-facing control panel to manage the towing winch.

Markey’s DD-TESD-34 stern winch is the centerpiece of the aft deck. Located just behind the house, each drum is spooled with 2,500 feet of 2.25-inch towing wire. Damen supplied the stern roller as part of its package, while Smith Berger Marine supplied the towing pins and hydraulic shark jaws on the back deck. The narrow foredeck has just enough space for a versatile Markey winch sandwiched between the house and the bow bulwark.

“With two anchors and the need for multiple bow lines in port- or starboard-side operations, the bow winch has the ability to run two warping heads, two anchor wildcats and a centerline synthetic line all in one wide, narrow piece of equipment forward of the deckhouse,” Cole said.

Conrad primarily built the tugs at its Morgan City shipyard, with final outfitting done in nearby Amelia, La. Cole had high praise for the shipyard and its work on the Damen-designed tugs. “We really like working with Conrad,” he said. “They are a very family-run company, and they take that seriously. They are very good about doing what they say and sticking to their word.”

As of late March, two of the new tugs were working in Hawaii and a third was sailing there from Louisiana through the Panama Canal. So far, MacDonald said, the vessels are every bit as efficient and reliable as he expected.

Highlights: Four-tug project worth nearly $80 million • First U.S. tugs built as Damen package • First Tier 4 tugs in Young Brothers’ fleet
By Professional Mariner Staff