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Hawaii & Washington

Jul 2, 2014 02:50 PM

Hyak adapts a familiar ocean-towing design for boats chartered to Crowley

Washington, the second of two ocean-towing tugs built for Hyak Maritime at JT Marine. The first, Hawaii, was delivered last year. Both are chartered to Crowley.

Washington, the second of two ocean-towing tugs built for Hyak Maritime at JT Marine. The first, Hawaii, was delivered last year. Both are chartered to Crowley.

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Tugboat watchers familiar with the brilliant blue-and-yellow profile of Western Towboat’s Titan class ocean tugs plying the West Coast will do a double take at the silhouette of Hyak Maritime’s two new tugs, Hawaii and Washington. Both tugs have almost the same profile as the Western Towboat tugs, but they are on long-term charter to Crowley Maritime and carry that company’s distinctive bright red stacks.

The 120-foot Hawaii was delivered last year, and Washington finished sea trials on the Columbia River in April at the JT Marine shipyard in Vancouver, Wash.

The Seattle-based Western Towboat vessels are employed on a weekly scheduled run, towing freight and rail barges between Seattle and Southeast Alaska. “The Hyak tugs are working projects requiring various types of towing in support of offshore construction, pipe laying, offshore installations and towing the (Crowley) 455 series barges,” said John Ara, VP Crowley Solutions.

Illustrating the changing times, Washington sits next to Sea Prince, a 50-year-old conventional tug that was state of the art in its day.

“I’m going down the states to name them until I run out of states,” said Robert Dorn, co-owner with Gordon Smith of Hyak Maritime, a company they formed in 2012. The partners have options for two more boats, which, if built, will be named Montana and Alaska. Dorn expects to be building more of them to begin replacing an aging U.S. coastal and ocean towing fleet. “There is a hole out there for tugs with safe modern equipment,” he said.

The Hyak partners are well versed regarding ocean towing vessels. Dorn was CEO at Sea Coast Towing, and was a partner with Smith at Sirius Maritime, both ocean towing companies based in Seattle. Both companies were acquired by K-Sea Transportation in 2005 and 2007, respectively, before K-Sea was, in turn, bought by Kirby Corp. in 2011.

“We surveyed all of the U.S. ocean towing company’s equipment in 2011,” said Dorn. He explains that the industry has done a very good job of modernizing its barge fleet, and that there is a good representation of new assist and escort tugs. “But few companies besides Western Towboat are building line haul boats,” he said.

“In the U.S. flag fleet, the 4,000- to 6,000-hp ocean and coastal towing fleet is the single oldest class of boats, at 35 to 40 years old. They need replacing, especially in light of the new environmental, technological and crew-comfort issues.”

Not surprisingly, the Hyak boats are based on Western Towboat’s Titan class of tugs. “Ric and Bob Shrewsbury at Western are tugboat men that know how to build the right boats for performance and longevity,” said Dorn. “And their engineer Ed McEvoy is a genius. I joke that we’ve gotten $50 million of free R&D from them. They’re the top tug guys in my book.”

Washington is equipped with a JonRie Series 200 hawser winch that will carry 600 feet of synthetic line. For safety, all of the winch operations can be controlled from the pilothouse.

The Titan-class Western Towboat tugs were co-designed by Jensen Maritime and Western Towboat, and they have been improving on the design tug by tug, as they are built at Western’s shipyard on Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal. Dorn and Smith obtained the licensing from both companies to use the Titan design. “We continued with using the Titan classification for these boats as a homage to the Shrewsburys and McEvoy,” said Dorn.

Jensen Maritime, a Crowley company, is also designing the Hyak boats with Tullio Celano, a professional engineer, serving as Hyak’s representative and technical advisor, primarily reworking items from the original design and providing production support.

There are some visual and mechanical differences between the two fleets. Most notable of the differences from a visual perspective, aside from color, is the pronounced rakish slant of the stainless steel stacks on the Hyak boats. As for machinery, the Hyak tugs have a pair of GE 8L250 mains turning Schottel 1515 FP z-drives, as opposed to Caterpillar C175s in the Western boats.

Dorn considers the Alaska run that Western performs month in and month out, in all weather, as difficult a coastal towing voyage as there is on the planet. The yellow and blue tugs are turning 420-by-105-foot rail and freight barges between Seattle and the demanding port of Whittier, Alaska, on a weekly schedule, crossing the nasty Gulf of Alaska at 10 knots and mooring the barges without assist tugs. To that end, the Hyak tugs had to be designed for towing in the open ocean and for pushing barges on inside waters.

According to Dorn, the Western Towboat design is the perfect combination of power, speed, efficiency and maneuverability for coastal towing.

The essential elements of the 4,000- to 6,000-hp tugs, comprising the bulk of the U.S. coastal barge fleet, meet the present and long-term requirements of the sector, but they are inefficient and costly to run and maintain.

“But the new propulsion efficiencies required and installed in the Hyak vessels mean that the fuel, maintenance, repair and operating costs will be substantially lower,” said Dorn. The boats are also much safer and a lot more comfortable for crews than those in the aging fleet.

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