“Blount Boats delivers icebreaking buoy tender” –Marine Log

Marine Log reports,

Delivered earlier this year by the Blount Boats shipyard in Warren, R.I., an icebreaking buoy tender ordered in July 2020, the M/V Eddie Somers, is now in service with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Homeported at Somers Cove Marina port at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, Md., the 94 x 27 foot vessel will replace the M/V J. Milliard Tawes after nearly 50 years’ service.

There is a better description of the vessel in a 2020 post reporting the construction contract award.

I found this particularly interesting,

Under a cooperative agreement with Virginia and the U.S. Coast Guard, the M/V Somers will also provide this service to Tangier Island in Virginia when requested. During heavy ice seasons, all food, fuel, medicine, and emergency transport going to and from the islands are supplied by the vessel.

Frequently there is talk of the Coast Guard shedding missions. Domestic icebreaking is perhaps one of those that might be considered. Here is a state taking responsibility for at least some elements of domestic icebreaking and at least shallow water buoy tending. Domestic icebreaking might be seen as a Federal subsidy for areas that experience icing.

The Coast Guard, as the agent of domestic icebreaking, makes the most sense when it can be done by vessels that have other missions when icebreaking is not required. Federal funding of domestic icebreaking makes the most sense when it facilitates interstate and international commerce. Like this particular vessel, Coast Guard vessels frequently combine both domestic icebreaking and buoytending capabilities as in the 225 foot buoy tenders and USCGC Mackinaw.

Looking at this vessel, it looks a lot like our proposed Waterways Commerce Cutters. Makes me wonder if an icebreaking capability for at least some of them might be a good idea, if that is not already in the plan?

Thanks to a reader for bringing this to my attention. 


Robert Allan designed Icebreaking Tug Selene

A recent article from Baird Maritime reminded me once again, of a type of vessel I think the Coast Guard should seriously consider, a replacement for the 65 foot icebreaking tugs. Reportedly the Coast Guard hoped to decommission the 65 foot tugs, but Congress would not allow it. Their breaking ice dams for flood prevention and domestic icebreaking was considered too important.

This particular design seems to offer some additional advantages I have not seen in previous designs. Designed to operate in the Baltic in ice up to 0.8 meters thick (that is 0.3 meters more than the 140 WTGBs), it is substantially larger than the 65 footers at 31.5 meters or about 103 feet. The report indicates seaworthiness was a major consideration.

The Congressional contingent from the Great Lakes area have repeatedly expressed concerns about Great Lakes Icebreaking (and here). They want another icebreaker comparable to the Mackinaw, but a few more icebreaking tugs might actually be a better response.

In addition to icebreaking, these could provide a ready response to pollution incidents (this one can transport a standard 20 foot container). Given fire monitors these vessels could function as fireboats.

Of course this tug isn’t the only option, nor is it the only icebreaking tug design out there. I had intended to talk about this earlier, so I have some old news to reference.

When you look at these options keep in mind what we have now.

  • The nine 140 foot WTGBs entered service August 1979 to August 1988 so they are 33 to almost 43 years old and have only 2500 HP, speed 14.7 knots. We have done life extension work on them, but maybe its time to look for their replacements too.
  • The eleven 65 foot WYTLs entered service July 1961 to May 1967 so they are 55 to almost 61 years old and have only 400 to 475 HP, speed 10 knots.

In addition to the tug above, Robert Allen has designed a number of tugs including an icebreaking/buoy tending tug built in the US for the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Check out this Marine Log report.

Gulf Island Fabrication to Build TundRA 3600 for Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation

MarineLink reported that MedMarine (a Turkish shipbuilder) is building some icebreaking tugs for Danish company, Svitzer. (They also have an office in Florida.) The design designated “TundRA 3000″ is by Canadian designer Robert Allan Ltd.

Photo: Med Marine

Photo: Med Marine

TundRA 3000 design has following design particulars:

  • Length overall: 30m
  • Beam of hull: 12.6m
  • Extreme beam (including fenders): 13.2m
  • Depth moulded: 5.7m
  • Maximum draft: 5.6m
  • Gross tonnage: <500GT
  • Minimum bollard pull: 60ton
  • Power: Approx 3900 kW (5300 HP)

Breaking ice on the Kennebec River. USCG Photo

At the small end we have this 56 foot long icebreaking tug with 750 HP, almost twice that of our 65 foot tugs.

My point is not that any particular design is the answer, but that there are much better and more effective designs out there compared to vessels we are currently using. Crew size and operating costs are likely to the same or perhaps less. There is new technology that is more economical, offers better maneuverability, and lower emissions. Additionally they could be more generally useful than the tugs we have. They might have buoy tending capabilities, fire fighting monitors, or provide ready oil pollution incidence response.

65 Foot Tugs

The Coast Guard Cutter Bridle breaks ice on the Penobscot River in Maine March 17, 2015. Operation renewable energy for Northeast Winters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Marc Moore)

Below is a news release about a routine operation that occurs every year. Keeping harbors open for delivery of heating oil and breaking up ice dams to prevent flooding is seasonal. It is routine, but it is also important.

What I wanted to point out is, that these useful little ships are getting very old and there is no replacement in sight. Replacement with something more capable would be easy and inexpensive.

The Coast Guard commissioned 15 of these 65 foot harbor tugs between 1961 and 1967, during the same period we were also building 378s, 210s, and 82s. Four have been decommissioned, but eleven continue to serve. All are based in the NE, from Baltimore North.

These little vessels are easy to overlook, but they still do important work. They are 54 to 61 years old. They have at most 500 HP. It is pass time to replace them with something better. Here is an example of a 56 foot, 750 HP potential replacement, and with only a little effort, we could probably do better that.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast

 Coast Guard to break ice along Penobscot, Connecticut, and Hudson Rivers in support of Operation RENEW 

IMMEDIATE OPPORTUNITY AVAILABLE: The Coast Guard Cutters Bridle, Shackle, and Tackle, are scheduled to break ice along the Bangor, Maine, waterfront on the Penobscot River, Thursday, at 26 Front Street, Bangor, Maine. News media must RSVP with D1PublicAffairs@uscg.mil if interested in getting underway for icebreaking operations.

BOSTON — The Coast Guard ice breaking season is underway as winter’s cold temperatures are impacting ports, waterways, and harbors in the Northeast. 

Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters (RENEW) is the Coast Guard’s region-wide effort to ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy, and emergency resources they need throughout the winter. 

Of the heating oil used in the country, more than 85 percent is consumed in the Northeast, and 90 percent of that is delivered on a Coast Guard maintained waterway by ship. 

The Coast Guard’s domestic icebreaking operations are intended to facilitate navigation within reasonable demands of commerce and minimize waterways closures during the winter, while enabling commercial vessels to transit through ice-covered critical channels. 

Coast Guard crews are also replacing aids to navigation with special ice buoys designed to ride underneath ice and remain on location.  

A coordinated effort with the maritime industry ensures the vital ports of the Northeast remain open year-round. 

COVID-19: The following safety protocols must be followed by all personnel who intend to come aboard any unit for icebreaking:

  • Masks must be worn throughout the event by all attendees
  • Visitors must provide a negative COVID-19 test that is less than 48 hours old (at home test/rapid test/PCR test)
  • Visitors must also provide proof of full vaccination status