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Tugboat Annie’s Green Machines

A Norwegian-American Woman’s Legacy To Our Green Future

7023_22030751626_2Founded in 1889, the story of Foss Maritime based out of Seattle, Washington, is a quintessential example of the American Dream: Thea Foss, a young Norwegian immigrant and her husband, Andrew, turned one rowboat into what eventually became a world class fleet of tugboats. It started in Tacoma, Washington when Thea Foss bought a used rowboat, hoping to rent it out to help with the family’s finances. After painting it pristine white with green trim (nice foresight!), she sold the rowboat at a profit and used the money to buy several more boats. By 1904, the company boasted 10 launches, a shipyard, a 60-passenger oil powered boat, and a small rescue craft to help disabled vessels.

In the waters of the Port of Long Beach, California, the world’s first hybrid tug, the Carolyn Dorothy has been quietly hard at work since January 2009. Built by Foss Maritime in cooperation with the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles as an innovative approach to reducing air pollution. The vessel was designed to retain the power and maneuverability of her conventional Dolphin class sister “tractor” tugs, while dramatically reducing emissions, maintenance costs, noise and fuel consumption. It can maneuver the thrusts from the propellers in any direction – sideways, crossways, even in circles. That’s extremely important when moving through narrow channels.

The hybrid technology used to develop Foss’ Green Assist™ Hybrid Tug aka the ‘Green Dolphin’ line, is environmentally responsible – without sacrificing horse power or maneuverability. With its efficient combination of batteries, generators and main engines, the Hybrid Tug is both powerful and green:

Reduces nitrogen oxide, particulate emissions, sulfur dioxide, and carbon emissions without sacrificing power or maneuverability.

Extreme noise reduction improves the quality of life on the vessel, on shore, and underwater.
Extremely flexible technology, allowing it to be used to convert existing tugs of all types to hybrid.
Improves fuel economy by reducing idling and increasing engine efficiency.

Unlike other tugs, the ‘Green Dolphin’ hybrid tug relies on batteries and an active power management system to minimize engine use. When the engines are used, they will run at power levels that maximize efficiency, reversing the trend of harbor tugs to spend approximately 60% of their time at less efficient low power levels. Main engine emissions reductions from using the hybrid tug is in the order of 44% for particle emissions and nitrous oxide. Fuel consumption is decreased by 20-30% with a commensurate reduction in sulfur dioxide and carbon emissions.

Foss is switching their entire fleet to ultra-low sulfur diesel including those vessels not located in California. They have completed an energy audit on their vessels and are developing an energy management plan to reduce fuel and energy consumption. Their harbor tugs use a vacuum truck service for their oily waste removal instead of an oily water separator in order to minimize their waste stream.

Foss Maritime won the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Technology Award for development of its low emission ‘Green Dolphin’ hybrid tug, the first time a maritime operating company has ever received the federal government’s prestigious honor. Foss was the first maritime operating company accepted into EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership and on May 11, the Association of Washington (state) Business announced Foss won an Environmental Excellence Award in the Green Enterprising Technologies category for the Carolyn Dorothy.

Gary Faber, President and COO of Foss said, “At Foss, we have a ‘zero trace’ corporate goal. The Carolyn Dorothy and our hybrid technology is an important part of that strategy. Think of all the world’s ports – and all the harbor tugs working in them. What an opportunity we have to bring cleaner air and greater fuel efficiency.”

thea02Thea died in 1927, a day before her 70th birthday. Members of the Foss family, including Thea’s three sons, continued to operate Foss Maritime for many decades. The city of Tacoma named the Thea Foss Waterway after this pioneer. She is said to be the inspiration for the character “Tugboat Annie”, first appearing in a series of stories in the Saturday Evening Post, then evolving into 3 motion pictures (1933 – 1945), and a TV series in 1957. And in 2006, the documentary film about her amazing life, “Finding Thea” premiered.

Today, Foss Maritime is a legacy to Thea and Andrew’s hard work, determination and vision. The green and white colors she painted the first rowboat are still used on the company’s powerful state-of the art tugs, which can now be seen in waters throughout the world.

121 years ago, unaware of the environmental legacy her actions would ultimately produce, a young woman started painting her rowboat white and – green.

….. as the green future unfolds.

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6 Responses to “Tugboat Annie’s Green Machines”

  1. Lissof Says:

    Excellent article Linda.

    With the recognition received perhaps it will start a trend where all intra-harbor and marine vessels such as ferries, cranes, repair, tug and oil-skimmers (plural) would receive a Hybrid PowerPlant retrofit at the next overhaul period. Or when the replacement vessel is ordered.

    This should not be exclusive to our coastal Waterways but should apply to all of our inland waterways; the Great Lakes and associated harbors, marinas & canals; the Mississippi, Sacramento & Columbia River waterways and the many others I have not mentioned.

    With further emphasis, it would be nice to see mandated GreenEnergy sourced (Solar, Wind, Wave/Tidal, Geo-Thermal or Hydro-Electric) shore power for all marine vessels docked in our harbors.

    Is it possible, YES. Let’s get started today.!!!!!

  2. Linda Says:

    Hi LIssof …. Yes! It is possible and what a plan ! 😀

  3. Charlize - Postalgold Says:

    Ahhhh a really really inspiring article Linda, not only for the fact that this is a woman who is responsible for this legacy, but that she had the foresight to predict that green would play an important role in the significance of environmental issues today. It is possible, though it is not people like me you have to convice – it is the people with the control and power who need to understand that money is no good without an earth to live on.
    .-= Charlize – Postalgold´s last blog ..Postalgold Job Vacancies =-.

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Charlize …. You are absolutely correct! However, IF we all could band together and continue to spread the word, the moola folks should come alive! 😀

  5. Matthew Smith Says:

    that’s great. i think these boats could really use the new standards, they always look like they are putting out a lot of pollutants.

  6. Linda Says:

    Hi Matthew … I agree! If other companies could be as green forward thinking as this one, darn! it could be done in one year !! 😀

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