Crosby continues Gulf Coast fleet expansion


Crosby Tugs, a steadily expanding Louisiana towing company, has added a 10,500-hp offshore towing vessel to its roster, a move that brings the entire fleet up to 90 vessels, about half of which are inland towboats, plus a small collection of barges.

(Brian Gauvin photos)

New in recent months is the 110-foot Allison Crosby, a conventional model bow tug with Caterpillar power and a Markey double-drum towing winch at its business end. The tug is named after the daughter of company secretary-treasurer, Kurt Crosby.

“This is certainly one of my favorite boats ever,†said Jay Bergman, above, captain of the newest Crosby tug. “She’s laid out like a sailor’s boat. You can really do some distance towing with this boat.â€

Impressive as she is, Allison Crosby is by no means the largest vessel in the Crosby fleet. The company, family-owned and based in Golden Meadow, La., has several vessels in the 15,000-hp range carrying its name.

The newest tug, designed by Frank Basile of Entech & Associates, is intended for towing drilling rigs, barges and other heavy items in the Gulf of Mexico and to Mexico and Trinidad. She is also equipped for the anchor handling of offshore rigs.

Above, prominent at the aft end of each engine are the Reintjes reduction gear boxes. Below, deck hand Fletcher Miller gets comfortable with the business end of a Markey double-drum towing winch.

During a recent visit in April, Allison Crosby, along with two other Crosby tugs, had just come off a tow of the drilling rig Ensco 86 over 300 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. The company reported she made the tow at a speed of about 4 knots over three days.

While Crosby has been building new tugs and acquiring tugs over the past decade, the company fleet got a big boost in 2006 with acquisition of 14 large offshore tugs from Tidewater Inc., for a reported price of $44 million. In 1999, the company purchased three 9,000-hp vessels from another Louisiana company and introduced two newly-constructed 3,600-hp tugs and a new 6,000-hp tug. The Crosby fleet presently includes 28 tugs of 6,000 or more horsepower.

Also in the past year, the company introduced a new 2,000-hp inland towboat, Webb Crosby, built at the Eymard Shipyard in Harvey, La., and also designed by Entech & Associates. Allison Crosby was built at the Thoma-Sea shipyard in Houma, La.

Webb Crosby is a 72-foot, three-deck towboat with twin Cummins engines generating about 1,000 hp each. Shipyard managers said they initiated construction on this towboat on speculation, but sold it well before completion to Crosby Tugs.

Allison Crosby, according to her designer, is almost the same as the series of 100-footers built for Vane Brothers of Baltimore several years ago at the Thoma-Sea shipyard. “It’s the same boat without the upper house, but it’s got some heavier towing gear so as to be suitable for anchor handling,” said designer Frank Basile.

In addition to her double-drum winch, the tug also has stern rollers, pop-up towing pins and shark jaws. Engine power is from a pair of Caterpillar 3516-B engines with Reintjes 7:1 reduction gears, 98-inch nozzles from Custom Nozzle Fabricators and Bird-Johnson propellers. The complete package resulted in a tested bollard pull of 56 tons, according to the company. The company and designer were anticipating that the tug would be fully classed with ABS for ocean towing.

The senior captain on Allison Crosby is Jay Bergman, a California Maritime graduate who is currently on his eighth issue of his master’s license.

“This is certainly one of my favorite boats ever,” said Bergman as his tug was waiting for assignment at Sabine Pass, Texas. “She’s laid out like a sailor’s boat. You can really do some distance towing with this boat,” he added.

Bergman said he had the tug up to 16 knots at 1,500 rpm on a light run in calm weather, but he more often runs her at 1,250 rpm where she does 11 knots while burning about 1,500 gallons of fuel per day.

Alternate captains aboard the tug include Robert Harris and Marcus Voisin, while Geoff Fatchette sails as chief engineer.

Kurt Crosby reported that the company has done well through diversification over the years and staying away from the volatile offshore supply business. “Diversification is the key,” he said. “We have continued to do that, and to stay in different markets and that is what helps us tremendously.” The Crosby company, established in 1975, is owned by Kurt Crosby and his father, Vinton Crosby, who is president. The company employs a number of other family members and close associates.

“We are still very much a family business,” said Crosby. “We have a lot of family and friends who are excellent employees and we consider them all family.” The company employs close to 400 people in total.