Z-drive tug boosts Petchem’s pull in Port Canaveral

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The Grecian blue superstructure of Christine S., Petchem Inc.’s new azimuthing stern drive tug, lends an Aegean tone to the seaside palette of Port Canaveral, Fla. The Greek letter pi on the vessel’s stack confirms the nationality of the owners, Tony and Alex Savas.

The 80-foot boat is fitted with two 2,500-hp Cummins QSK60 Tier 3 mains and ZF 8000 Series z-drives — the first tugboat in the U.S. equipped with the huge drives. Christine S. boasts a bollard pull of 72.5 tons, a powerhouse in the small but surprisingly busy port.

“It’s crazy nice, that boat,” said Alex Savas. “Everyone in the port is fascinated by the boat and I get nothing but good comments. It’s the most powerful permanent tug in the port.”

The Savas brothers founded Petchem in 1983. In 1984, they landed a Navy contract and added submarine fendering to their fledgling fleet of two older conventional tugs. The original Christine S. was being utilized as a submarine personnel transfer vessel. In 2004, after securing a permit to compete with Seabulk Towing in Port Canaveral, the Savas brothers contracted with B&B Boat Builders of Bayou La Batre, Ala., to build the conventional tugs Elizabeth S. and Michael S. Both tugs were equipped for ship assist work with a forward H-bitt but no winch.

Capt. Rusty Vasbinder mans the helm of Christine S.

Responding to pressure for more horsepower and z-drive propulsion, Petchem sold Michael S. to Mohawk Northeast of Groton, Conn., last year and engaged Gulf Coast Steel, also of Bayou La Batre, to build a new Christine S. Farrell & Norton Naval Architects designed all three of the “S” boats.

The brothers chose to fit a JonRie Series 230 bow winch equipped with a wheelhouse foot pedal control on Christine S. The winch is wound with 450 feet of Samson 2.5-inch rope. The radio also can be operated utilizing a foot pedal. The winch and foot pedal controls are notable safety and efficiency features, according to Capt. Rusty Vasbinder.

“It’s a great winch and having the foot pedals is very handy because you have your hands full while maneuvering,” Vasbinder said. “After the deck hand gets a line up on a ship, he can then get out of the way. He isn’t in the bite of the line and can get away from it when it’s working.”

The engineer, Billy Golding, noted the smooth operation and response time of the ZF drives and roominess of the engine room. “And with the Cummins engines it is so clean and quiet,” he said. “At 5,000 hp at 1,900 rpm, these engines are so powerful for being so quiet.”

“It’s a sturdy and stable boat that is built very well,” Vasbinder said. “And the boat is fun to drive. It’s a blast.”


The tug is the first in the United States to feature ZF 8000 z-drives, shown before installation at Gulf Coast Steel.


The boat has a pair of Cummins QSK60 Tier 3 mains that provide a bollard pull of 72.5 tons.


On-deck muscle comes courtesy of a JonRie Series 230 bow winch wound with 450 feet of Samson 2.5-inch rope. 


AB Tom Kozielski, engineer Billy Golding and Vasbinder take a break in the galley of the new tug.


By Professional Mariner Staff