Going to great lengths
Like most Southern Towing vessels, the Tommy Parrish works many miles up and down the Mississippi River. “I know a lot of people, ourselves included, call this river the ‘Mighty’ Mississippi,’ and it’s a good word for it,” says Ditto. “The currents here are swifter, the channels are tighter, the fog can come in thicker and the traffic is heavier than other rivers. We deal with extreme weather conditions, too. We’ve pushed tows in Baton Rouge in broiling heat and humidity, and through snow in West Virginia. We never take risks when we know bad weather’s on the way and we always have to be prepared.”
The Tommy Parrish is capable of pushing barges up to 35 times its gross weight. Repowered with twin mtu 12V 4000 engines, it makes the job look easy. The engines are matched to ZF Marine Z-Drives, an innovative propulsion system adapted from ocean-going articulating tug-barge workboats. Ditto says, “This is the smoothest, most powerful and easiest to maneuver towboat I’ve ever been in,” he says. “I love the engines and the Z-drive system, which gives me 360 degrees of rudder control. Comparing these MTUs to 2-Cycle engines is like comparing a modern V8 to an old four-cylinder engine—these engines are quieter, more powerful, more fuel efficient and better for the environment.”
Bigger and better
The company’s newest vessel, the Captain H.R. Kirtley, is the latest example of Southern Towing’s design philosophy. The 120-foot Kirtley boasts crew accommodations to rival a luxury motorhome and twin 1,600 horsepower mtu 12V 4000 Tier 2 engines with ZF Marine Z-Drives.
Tommy McCoin, chief engineer of Southern Towing says, “Believe it or not, larger boats are easier to maneuver when they’re equipped with Z-Drives, so our newer, higher-horsepower boats like this one (the Kirtley) can push more cargo further on less fuel than two smaller towboats. The fuel savings alone is huge and makes Southern Towing’s prices more attractive to our customers.”
Steiner Shipyard has enjoyed rapid growth recently in orders for workboats like the Kirtley. “The ‘brown-water boat’ business, has been very busy,” owner Russell Steiner says, “Towboats that incorporate modern diesel engines and Z-drive systems are especially popular. Southern Towing is a great customer, and working with them is a pleasure. Our job here is to make sure that whatever engines and drive systems are specified by the customer, we produce a successful boat. Kirtley is a perfect example of that.”
The investment in the mtu Series 4000 engines that power the Tommy Parrish and the Kirtley represents Southern Towing’s belief that the future of the inland waterways transportation business belongs to companies that move beyond the legacy engines of the past. Equipped with cutting-edge mtu Series 4000 engines, Southern Towing’s fleet is efficient and mighty enough to work the Mississippi for years to come.