With fresh paint and new engines, tug begins long tow to Uruguay

Jun 19, 2012 08:42 PM
The 115-foot tug Ocean Tower and its loaded barge leaving New Orleans.

The 115-foot tug Ocean Tower and its loaded barge leaving New Orleans.

The 115-foot tug Ocean Tower was recently in New Orleans with a sparkling new paint job and a new power train. With a low sheer line, upper wheelhouse and a fresh coat of blue and white paint, the tug looked ready for a parade.

There was probably a parade coinciding with the tug’s visit somewhere in the city, but Ocean Tower was not in town to play. The vessel, owned by Dann Ocean Towing, of Tampa, Fla., was in New Orleans to make up a tow consisting of nine single-skinned hopper barges, two spud barges and two crawl cranes destined for Montevideo, Uruguay, on the Río de la Plata, some 6,000 miles away.

“The tow is for Kios, a company that operates ship-docking tugs in the Port of Montevideo that is beginning barge operations on the Río Plata,” said Stephen Dann, vice president of Dann Ocean Towing.

His father, Rodney Dann Jr., is president of the company. Dann Ocean Towing was founded in 1960, but the family’s maritime roots stretch back five generations.
“It’s about 70 or 80 days round trip,” said Dann. “If I get lucky, maybe I’ll get a tow back instead of 6,000 miles of light boat back.”

AB Derek Smale, AB Steve Webb, Capt. Don “Yogi” Rogers and  Chief Engineer Ashlee Hurm.

While the deck barge was being loaded, Capt. Don (Yogi) Rogers was in the wheelhouse of Ocean Tower, on standby. Four of Zito Fleeting’s fleet towboats were holding the 328-foot deck barge in position at the company fleet downriver from the Huey P. Long Bridge. Bisso Marine’s gigantic derrick barges — Cappy Bisso with a 700-ton capacity crane and Lili Bisso with a 600-ton capacity crane — were loading the cargo.

Thirty-five years a captain, 20 of them with Dann Ocean, Yogi, as he prefers to be called, has a shipping-out history that could be used as the lyrics for a sailor’s version of Hank Snow’s famous cowboy song, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

Yogi’s destination list runs to the East, West and Gulf coasts of America, Hawaii, Canada, South America, Central America, Japan, China, Haiti, Trinidad, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and more.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but I’m working on it,” he said. “It will probably take two months to get down there. The weather is my biggest concern. Then I’m concerned about pirates.”

Weather was his concern on a round trip in 2004 to Yokohama, Japan, towing three landing craft going over, and a tow of empty containers for Crowley coming back. “We had decent weather on the way there, but the way back was another story. We got dragged backwards by the wind and thrown off course towing those empty containers.”

On another trip, pirates were on Yogi’s mind. The job was towing a dead ship from San Francisco to Brownsville, Texas, when, off the coast of El Salvador, the tug was approached by a speedboat manned by men in black with face masks. “It turned out to be the Salvadoran Navy, but it was pretty intimidating before we discovered that.”

Dann Ocean Towing fulfills contracts as diverse as marine construction, dredging, petroleum transport and oilfield support, and, according to Dann, the jobs can range in time from one hour to whatever. In the company’s fleet of 12 U.S.-flagged tugs, three identical vessels are equipped to conduct the long ocean tows. The triplets are Colonel, Allie B and Ocean Tower.

Ocean Tower was built in 1978 at Quality Equipment, now Quality Shipyards, a Tidewater-owned shipyard in Houma, La. Dann Ocean Towing bought the boat in March 2006. The company decided to rebuild the tug, but it was post-Katrina on the Gulf and most of the yards were struggling to get shipyard workers. First Bollinger Quick Repair, on the Harvey Canal, did the steelwork. Then the boat was transferred to C&G Boat Works in Mobile, Ala., for finishing.

“We bought it from Tidewater and did an extensive rebuild,” said Dann. “A lot of work went into the boat. The boat was stripped down, rewired, completely sandblasted, all new joiner work. And the upper wheelhouse was added, the towing winch rebuilt. She came out of the yard in August 2008.”

In 2011, the company decided to repower the tug and chose Lyon Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., to do the work. “This was not just dropping a couple of new engines into the boat to up the horsepower,” said Dann. “The hull was good, but we wanted to upgrade the boat to Tier II. We wanted to get the boat up to speed on that for dredging work. The Corps is requiring Tier II now. And the warranty surveyors are looking for more and more horsepower to meet minimum bollard pull requirements. We estimated the pull at around 60 tons.”

The propulsion plant consists of two MTU 16V 4,000 M53R Tier II main engines generating 4,080 hp at 1,600 rpm. The reduction gears are Reintjes WAF 1173 units with an operating ratio of 7.429:1.

The repower consisted of exchanging the two EMD 12 645 E6 mains with MTU 16V 4,000 M53R Tier II units. Each of the new diesels is rated at 2,040 hp at 1,600 rpm. The old EMDs turned at 900 rpm.

“MTU did a remarkable job with these engines, providing high horsepower in a smaller, lighter package,” said Chief Engineer Ashlee Hurm. “Most engineers would refer to diesel engines as diesel engines, but I refer to MTUs as the smartphone of diesel engines.”

The engines are soft mounted, using MTU designed and manufactured rubber isolators set in a bed of Chockfast epoxy resin. MTU designs its isolators based on analytical studies and testing for each of the engine models. Although the isolators can be mounted on steel, the company recommends using an epoxy base because it improves the installation and alignment process.

The old Reintjes WAV 1850 5:1 reduction gears were replaced by Reintjes WAF 1173 7.429:1 gears. The switch was made because the higher rpm engines demanded a higher gear ratio.

“We had to modify almost everything in the engine room to accommodate the new machinery,” said Hurm. “To accommodate the larger bull gear, we had to cut two holes in the skin of the tug and fabricate bubbles out of three-fourth-inch plate underneath the gear boxes, and they had to be chamfered to reduce drag.”

Hurm explained that they had the Kort nozzles flared out on the stern end, similar to the forward end, to increase the water flow while backing the tug.

“We cut them half way down and flared the aft out to match the front end,” he said.

The old Kaplin four-blade stainless steel 108-by-108-inch props were replaced with Kaplin skewed five-blade stainless steel 108-by-97-inch ones. The engine controls were changed from pneumatic to electric Kobelt controls.

It took four days to load, secure and trim the barge, and do the paper work. Stacked on the barge, the cargo looked like an 8,000-ton, 60-foot-high, three-layer cake with a couple of cranes as decoration. Just the kind of wall an ocean wind likes to get hold of.

On Jan. 20, a blustery Friday morning, the crew of Ocean Tower — Hurm and ABs Derek Smale and Steve Webb — made up the tow. They shackled the three-inch chain bridle and 60-foot chain pendant — or pigtail if you like — running from the barge to 2,200 feet of two-inch towing cable wound on the tug’s Intercon DD200 towing winch. The towing cable was laid over a Texas bar spanning the tug’s stern.

The 98-foot LA Carriers tug Karen Koby put a line up onto the stern of the tow to assist Ocean Tower through the busy traffic in the Port of New Orleans.

At noon, Ocean Tower passed in front of the French Quarter with the tow on a short line, rounded Algiers Point and disappeared from view. A journey of 6,000 miles begins with one mile.

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