Muscular Seaway Guardian has big shoes to fill

Professional Mariner|American Tugboat Review 2020

Muscular Seaway Guardian has big shoes to fill
SEAWAY GUARDIAN | Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., Washington, D.C.
Brian Gauvin

Tugboat watchers along the Saint Lawrence Seaway between Massena, N.Y., and Lake Ontario will witness a changing of the guard during the 2020 shipping season.

The 118-foot Seaway Guardian — a massive, muscular and well-equipped icebreaking tug — will replace the venerable 61-year-old Robinson Bay. The new vessel will perform icebreaking and barge handling duties in addition to tending aids to navigation on the United States’ 100-mile section of the 2,300-mile marine highway.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) opened its 62nd navigation season April 1. The Seaway consists of 15 locks: 13 on the Canadian side of the border, and the Eisenhower and Snell Locks on the U.S. side.

The SLSDC chose Robert Allan Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, to adapt its proven TundRA 3600 ice-class tug design for work on the St. Lawrence. Gulf Island Shipyards of Houma, La., built the vessel.

“Representatives from Robert Allan Ltd. recommended the TundRA 3600-class tug primarily because its hull provided the greatest flexibility in design to meet our requirements,” said Capt. Michael Howard, SLSDC’s executive officer.

Officials from the SLSDC and Robert Allan Ltd. toured Ocean Tundra, a TundRA 3600 ship-assist and tethered-escort tug operating for Ocean Group in Quebec. Seaway Guardian’s primary mission differs from the Canadian boat, but the tour gave SLSDC officials a better understanding of the size, layout and capabilities of the TundRA 3600 series.

Howard, as Robinson Bay’s captain, has headed out each spring and fall for the past seven years to commission and decommission buoys as the Seaway opens and closes the shipping season. “The tug’s primary mission is retrieving and deploying (navigation) aids in fall and spring,” he said. “This can be accomplished using the vessel by itself or by pushing the corporation’s buoy barge.”

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American Tugboat Review 2020