Texas tug operator builds fleet to handle bigger ships

Professional Mariner|American Tugboat Review 2020

Texas tug operator builds fleet to handle bigger ships
MAZU | Suderman & Young Towing Co., Houston
Brian Gauvin

Mazu Capt. Nick Payne stood by while mate Brandon Conner approached the containership Molly Schulte midway between Bayport Channel and Barbours Cut in the Houston Ship Channel.

Conner, who was training in real-time on the new tugboat, maneuvered to the stern. Ordinary seaman Richard Fernandez attached the heaving line to the hawser and got the line on the ship centerline aft.

With Mazu tethered to Molly Schulte, Conner steered to starboard out of the ship’s wake. Mazu ran with the cargo ship on its way to the Barbours Cut Container Terminal.

Jobs like this one are common in the Houston Ship Channel, and as ships get bigger, tugboats that work them are getting more powerful and more capable. Mazu, the third Z-Tech 30-80 tugboat in the Suderman & Young Towing Co. fleet, is but one example.

Gulf Island Shipyards of Jennings, La., built the 98.5-by42.6-foot tugboat based on an updated Z-Tech design from Robert Allan Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia. Two earlier tugs in the series, Ted C. Litton and Apollo, joined Suderman & Young’s 22-tug fleet earlier in 2019. Mazu is the company’s 13th z-drive tug. The vessels work in the Texas ports of Houston, Galveston, Texas City, Freeport and Corpus Christi.

“As our customers’ ships have increased in size, we continue to meet their needs by servicing them with larger, more powerful tugs,” Suderman & Young President Kirk Jackson said. “Specifically, increasing demand to escort and assist VLCCs (very large crude carriers) and larger container vessels was a big driver.”

Suderman & Young is a longtime Robert Allan Ltd. customer. The Houston-based towing company welcomed the 4,300- hp z-drive tugboat Jess Newton in 2001. Six years later, the 6,300-hp Z-Tech 30-75 tugboat Thor joined the company’s fleet. Suderman has five Z-Tech 24-60 tugs.

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American Tugboat Review 2020