By Peter Marsh
When Sause Brothers launched the first two 128-foot by 35-foot Mikiona-class tugs in 2006 and 2007, they attracted attention as a 21st century version of the traditional straight shaft boat, designed by Sause engineers to combine a classic American hull shape with the first pair of German MTU 4000 diesels to be installed on a West Coast tug. They were also one of the first operators to install Rapp Hydema towboat winches, and completed the specification with their own twin-vane rudders and 16-inch, four-pin system – both in the company’s own shipyard in Coos Bay, Southern Oregon Marine (SOMAR).
The Mikiona and Cochise went straight to work hauling petroleum products between the large Chevron refinery in Richmond, California and San Pedro Bay, exceeding the major oil company vetting requirements including the SIRE and TMSA programs. Both boats have continued to operate successfully on that route, towing Sause 440-foot by 105-foot Bay-class oil barges. A decade later, when the demand for fuel in Southern California had risen sufficiently, company president Dale Sause, the third generation of the family had no hesitation in using the same plans/lines and specification for two more tugs to work on the Chevron contract.
Sause Brothers, a family-owned company, began serving the Pacific Rim in 1938, with a fleet composed of older tugs they had acquired over the years. The best of these vessels were eventually re-built/re-powered and many are still in service towing lumber and bulk cargoes on the Northwest coast and break-bulk to Hawaii from a loading dock in Rainier, Oregon on the Columbia River.
The company’s policy of self-sufficiency in maintenance and repair was extended to design with the Mikiona class, which was originally conceived in the early 2000’s to meet the requirement for new vessels and equipment to tow petroleum cargoes for the highly-regulated Southern California market. Sause Brothers operates under the American Waterway Operators Responsible Carrier Program, International Safety Management Code (ISM) and International Safety Organization (ISO) certifications, and is expanding in response to customer demand,” said vice president Caitlin Sause.
The plans were drawn up by Sause’s own naval architect, Jack Wilskey, in partnership with port engineer Mark Babcock (now a company vice-president) with the goal of producing a long-distance tug that combined the best features of traditional hull shapes with the best of modern engineering. While the Mikiona class was entering its second decade and only minor changes were needed to fit the latest versions of propulsion and navigation gear and comply with new regulations, there had been major changes in the corporate ownership for MTU and Rapp.
Detroit Diesel had sold the engine maker to Rolls Royce in 2006, and Rapp had been purchased by MacGregor (part of Cargotec) in 2017. In addition, the original Mikiona builder, the J.M. Martinac Shipyard in Tacoma, Washington had closed in 2014. (More recently, Nautican, Canadian supplier of the nozzles declared bankruptcy in January 2020.) However, MTU and Rapp were still maintaining the highest standards in quality and reliability, and had improved their products with additional computer-power to meet the latest standards. So the only major decision for Dale Sause was the builder, and he had no hesitation in selecting Kurt Redd, owner of Diversified Marine of Portland, who has built 16 new ASD tugs for Brusco, Harley and Shaver since 1998. The yard’s first straight-shaft tug was Sause’s Apache, with a loaded draft of 17.5 feet, launched in June, 2019. The second, Geronimo, is due to be delivered late spring.
The last decade has seen a dramatic change in diesel engine technology: the Tier 3 MTU’s for the Apache, were the 4000 M53R model, with far fewer emissions and an increase in continuous output to 2,000 bhp. This marine engine has been a standard issue of high-speed ferries since it was introduced in 1997, when it was the first large diesel engine to be supplied with the latest technology – the common-rail fuel injection system. But Dale Sause departed from conventional wisdom when he began installing MTUs in re-powers in the late 1990’s when the towing industry was rapidly modernizing to meet the demands of the Oil Pollution Act and the EPA for oil-barge towing on the West Coast.
He chose this German engine after visiting the production facilities of six different manufacturers around 2000, where he was impressed by the high standards at MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH. The 4000 model is available from 8-V (800 bhp continuous) to 20-V (3,000 bhp continuous). Sause installed the first pair of the V-16 engines in a repower in 2003. His crews and engineers were sufficiently impressed with their performance and condition after running for 4,000-6,000 hours annually, that in 2005 he specified a pair of Tier 2 MTU 16V-4000’s for the Mikiona boats. These were supplied with a conservative rating of 1,875 hp at 1,800 rpm – about half the maximum power rating, which ensured a far longer time-between-overhaul of up to 30,000 hours. Note that this is longer than MTU’s high-speed catamaran installations.
Their fuel efficiency, low noise and vibration, impressed even the old hands. The Sause re-powers and new builds that have been fitted with MTU 4000’s now number around a dozen, plus another five with MTU 2000’s. Foss is now installing MTUs in its latest design, under construction at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders. “In my opinion, they have the highest durability of any 1,800 RPM engine currently manufactured,” Dale stated. “On long tows, Sause Bros.’ captains sometimes operate their vessels for weeks at a time without shutting down the engines. What’s more, these long trips can involve towing cargoes that weigh up to 25,000 tons into hurricane-force winds and seas as high as 40 feet,” he explains. “During severe winter storms, you have to be up against the throttle for long periods of time, so you need an engine that’s very reliable.”
In 2008, MTU launched the “Ironmen” version of the engine – a robust and cost-effective variant developed specifically for work boats with low fuel consumption and long maintenance intervals that increased the company’s growing presence in this sector. Knut Müller, Head of the Marine and Government Business Division at MTU, said: “Even today, 24 years after it was first launched on the market, the advanced design Series 4000 diesel engine and the new gas version for marine applications are the leading technologies in the marketplace. Over 40,000 units are in service, making it the best-selling engine in our range with power outputs extending from 746 to 4,300 kW.”
The reduction gear on the Mikiona class is also a proven German product – the Reintjes WAF873, at a ratio of 7.455:1. The 9.5” stainless steel drive shafts turn two, three- bladed, 104-inch by 108-inch, right and left-hand custom high-efficiency stainless props from Sound Propeller. The nozzles were again Nauticans with pre-swirl stators. The fuel is cleaned by an Alfa Laval centrifugal separator, and bilge water is treated by a Boss oily water separator.
Electric power is provided by two John Deere PowerTech 4045 AFM 85 99-kW Magna Plus generator sets. The panels, switchboxes and wiring were supplied by Timberline Controls & Marine of Washougal, Washington.
The hydraulic systems are operated by a 266-hp John Deere PowerTech 6058 AFM 85 on the centerline turning a Veljan hydraulic pump, with a 60-hp Teco electric motor for back-up. The steering power pack is located under the engine room ladder with a pair of Teco electric motors powering Fluidyne pumps on an IMI hydraulic control unit. Electrical power is provided by two 99-kW John Deere PowerTech 4045 gensets.
The new tugs have the same standard Rapp package: a TOW-22031 towing winch gearbox with four hydraulic motors designed to handle more than 56 tons of pull tension on the barrel layer. The main drum holds up to 2,600 feet of 2.25-inch steel wire rope, and the brake handling capacity is about 120 tons on the barrel layer. On the bow, the Rapp TOW-4002-BB hawser has 13 tons of pull tension and a 60-ton brake at the barrel layer. It can hold up to 300 feet of 2-inch soft line. A 266-hp John Deere engine supplies hydraulic power to the winches with a 60-hp electric motor as backup.
Both the winches have been updated with the Pentagon touch-screen system in the wheelhouse. This is operated via a touchscreen with tension and wire length readouts, auto-tension capability, and automated haul-in and pay-out settings, as well as capacity for logging data, according to Rapp USA president Johann Sigurjonsson.
Sause’s modern Bay-class barge fleet built by Gunderson Marine in Portland also has technical upgrades for safety and fuel efficiency through the use of Nautican Hydralift skegs that have been tank-tested to increase directional stability and reduce hull resistance and maximum bollard pull to about 65 tons. “It isn’t any one thing that makes a tug and barge efficient, it is a total of a lot of small things,” Dale explains.
“The entire propulsion system is geared toward moving a loaded barge at a speed of around 9-10 knots,” Babcock added. This efficiency has enabled Sause to limit the tugs’ fuel capacity to only 126,000 gallons, with 1,650 gallons of lube oil, and 10,500 gallons of water, which also lowers the tug’s loaded displacement for a long haul. Other features to ease the crew’s workload include the four steering stations on the upper deck: in the center of the wheelhouse, on the port and starboard wings, and on the upper aft deck with a view down to the tow winch. There is also an upper steering station fabricated in aluminum and standing 40 feet above the waterline.
The Geronimo certainly looks traditional with its well-proportioned superstructure, surrounded by a belt of Schuyler rubber fendering with extensive protection for the bow down to the waterline. The accommodation is laid out to ensure crew comfort on long passages with three heads and two showers available.
The house has berths for a maximum of nine in three double staterooms on the main deck. The two officers’ staterooms are located on the upper deck behind the wheelhouse. The wheelhouse is equipped with a suite of the latest Furuno electronics that includes 2117 and 1518 X-7 band radars with Automatic Clutter Elimination (ACE), FMD-3100 ECDIS, satellite speed log GS-100, KVH satellite communications system, and 90-day Voyage Data Recorder supplied by Quality Marine of Vancouver, Washington. The helm chair is by NorSap.
To reduce noise and vibration, the floors are assembled from lightweight galvanized steel panels, filled with rock wool, that slot together. They are installed above the main deck to create an air space underfoot to reduce engine room noise. The staterooms are assembled from large insulated wall panels engineered to reduce noise from the engine room, where the MTU’s are already known to be extremely quiet. The galley is well-equipped with ample refrigerated storage for fresh food. The result is a more pleasant working environment, which results in better sleep and increased crew performance and safety, Babcock explained.