By Peter Marsh
When Foss Maritime announced in 2018 that it had chosen Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island, Washington to build four 100-foot Tier 4 tugs, with an option for six more, it represented the single largest order of its type for a NW yard in more than 20 years, and a major upgrade in Foss’ ship-handling fleet on the West Coast. The naval architects Jensen Maritime, MTU engine supplier Pacific Power Group, and winch manufacturer Markey are all based in Seattle, demonstrating Washington state’s leading position in this rapidly-evolving sector of commercial boatbuilding in North America.
The first keel was laid in a ceremony on February 25, 2020, the Jamie Ann was delivered early in March and is now in service in San Francisco Bay. The new class is called the ASD-90 Valor – 90 being the high bollard pull in tons and Valor the original hull type developed by Jensen for Baydelta Maritime in San Francisco Bay, who operate four standard Valor-class tugs. Nichols has built six of these with standard Caterpillar diesel propulsion, which have proved successful in a variety of roles including tanker escort in all weathers, and container ship docking. The seventh Valor delivered in 2019 is a hybrid diesel-electric version with total power output of 6,600 hp.
A similar high bollard pull of 90 tons was specified for the new version of the design to handle the largest container ships and provide a margin of safety during escorts and emergency maneuvers. Jay Edgar, vice president of engineering services with Jensen’s parent company Crowley Maritime Corp. explained that Jensen’s approach has been to use a proven hull and incorporate Foss’ requirements into it using computer modeling to ensure a seamless process. The ASD-90 Valor is built with ABS’ Loadline certification, ABS A1 notations for towing and escorting, and UWILD (Underwater Inspection in Lieu of Drydocking). It also meets US Coast Guard’s Subchapter M standards.
“We are building these vessels to satisfy the requirements of the State of California – requirements we believe will soon be required in the rest of the country and the world,” said Janic Trepanier, naval architect and Foss’ project manager. “In addition to providing flexibility in operations, the tugs were designed with some of the most advanced safety features in the industry. They also feature a large fuel capacity for long trips,” she added.
Foss selected a complete MTU Tier 4 propulsion system supplied by Pacific Power Group of Kent, Washington consisting of two Rolls-Royce MTU series 16v4000M65L that can produce a maximum of 6,866 hp (5120 kW) at 1,800 rpm. Carbon fiber drive shafts connect these engines to Kongsberg US255 azimuth thrusters. (Kongsberg acquired this ASD manufacturer when it purchased Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine a year ago.)
More tug companies are specifying MTU engines recently because of the fast load-acceptance, longer interval between overhauls, and high torque levels that make towing vessels agile and safe while providing durability proven in years of use in high-load applications. Pacific Power also supplied two MTU selective catalytic reduction SCR) exhaust-treatment chambers to reduce particulates and nitrogen oxide emissions to near zero. These modular SCR units are mounted directly over the exhaust ports on the fidley deck. The large stainless-steel tank or tanks that carry the corrosive diesel-exhaust fluid (DEF) needed for this process are the second large structure that must be accommodated in a Tier 4 installation. On the Jamie Ann, a single large tank fills the entire bow compartment and was pre-fabricated by WCT Marine in Astoria, Oregon.
“It took a lot of design work from our team to get the right SCR configuration,” said Doug Schwedland, PPG’s vice president of the marine division. “This complete system integration will give Foss extremely efficient and environmentally compliant tugs.” The controls feature advanced condition-based digital monitoring for the main engines and the Z-drives.
Also in the spacious engine room of the Jamie Ann are two John Deere 6068AFM85 generator sets, generating 120 kW at 150 kVA. These provide power for the electric deck gear. On the bow is a Markey DEPCF-52R 75 hp electric hawser winch with a drum capacity of up to 750 feet of 10-inch soft-line. The control system has the Markey Render-Recover feature on the local and wheelhouse controls at up to full rated line-speeds and line-tension. This Class II model includes variable frequency drive, automatic levelwind with open spooling ratio and jog wheel and starboard side warping head, high capacity band brake, multi-disc clutch, and line tension display.
The aft tow winch is a Markey Model TESS-34AS with drum capacity of 2,600 feet of 2.25-inch diameter wire rope on the port side and automatic levelwind. The starboard side drum section has a warping head with a capacity of 600 feet of 2-inch diameter HMPE line. This is supplied with all the same safety features of the bow winch.
The third and fourth tugs will be fitted with a different model aft: a Markey DEPC-32 electric escort winch with a drum capacity of 250 feet of 6.5-inch Spectra line and a rated pull of 11,350 pounds at 50 feet per minute. It also has a total brake capacity of 214,000 pounds and with both local and remote controls.
The tug has a full range of equipment for emergency towing and fire fighting, including 900 gpm fire pumps and monitors, and anchoring gear. Nichols Brothers upgraded the accommodation on Jamie Ann to improve wheelhouse visibility, winch operations and crew safety on deck. Crew comfort has been increased by installing sound abatement in the engine room and deckhouse. The tug has four two-person staterooms for a minimum crew of six seafarers.
“The new tugs are designed to upgrade our fleet and improve the company’s ability to provide timely harbor and port services to a variety of customers. “By offering lower maintenance down time, greater operating efficiencies and lower emissions, these new tugs help expand our nearshore and offshore capabilities,” said John Parrott, president and CEO of Foss Maritime.
The first tug was deployed to Foss Harbor Services in San Francisco Bay to provide tanker escort and assists for Foss Maritime’s oil and gas customers. The sister tugs are to be named Sarah Averick, Leisa Florence and Rachael Allen and are scheduled for delivery later this year, at a rate of one per quarter.
“These new vessels will not just expand our fleet, but will add new vitality with the latest innovative technology…These new vessels will not only enhance our own fleet, but will set the standard for our entire industry,” said Parrott.
“Nichols Brothers Boat Builders is excited that Foss Maritime has chosen our shipyard to build their new tugs in this important program,” said Tor Hovig, NBBB Vice President of Sales and Customer Relations. “This is the first contract we have had with Foss, and it allows us the opportunity to work with one of the most respected players in the US tug and workboat industry. With the series of vessels included in this program, we look forward to working with Foss for a long time ahead,” added Hovig.
Foss is a Saltchuk Marine group affiliate, with a variety of engines and propulsion systems. There are more than 40 tugs in the Foss fleet from 78 to 155 feet in length working from southern California to Alaska, and another five based in Hawaii. Overall, 20 are ASD’s including the world’s first two diesel-electric hybrids, and eight are Voith cycloidal drive tractors. In addition, Foss has nine traditional and shallow-draft tugs to provide services in Alaska for its Cook Inlet Tug & Barge subsidiary.
Foss has been operating its first EPA Tier 4 equipped tug in the Bay Area since 2016 when the company chartered the 110-foot Caden Foss. It was also designed by Jensen and delivered in 2016 with Caterpillar 3516e diesels each producing 3,386 hp at 1,800 rpm.