Pittsburgh Gets 2 Tugs, First Built in 30 Years
Morgantown Dominion Post
5 July 2013
PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh-based marine services company has built
two new tugboats, a reminder that the old business of pushing
barges along rivers continues even in modern times.
Campbell Transportation christened the Renee Lynn and the Alice
Jean at a riverside ceremony last week. The 65-foot-long,
24-foot-wide boats are the first new major vessels built in
Pittsburgh in 30 years, the company said.
The Port of Pittsburgh ranked 21st in the nation in terms of total
tonnage in 2011, which means it handled more traffic than ports in
Philadelphia, Tampa, Fla., or Seattle, according to the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers.
Technically, the river tugs that push barges are called towboats,
while those that push ships in harbors are called tugboats. But
the general public calls them all tugboats.
Peter Stephaich, Campbell’s CEO, said the boats will probably be
in service for 50 years. He said his company has a long-term view
of the business, and a big part of that is pushing coal barges
along the rivers. The recession caused a drop in river tonnage,
but it’s picking up again.
The boats were built from scratch and cost about $3 million each,
Stephaich said. Pittsburgh was a major center for shipbuilding
from the 1800s until after World War II, but the last shipyard
closed down in the early 1980s, and production shifted to the Gulf
The Port of Pittsburgh Commission oversees about 200 miles of
waterways stretching from the Ohio border to West Virginia. The
system moves about 30 million to 40 million tons of products per
year along the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, said
executive director James Mc-Carville.
“We ’re pleased when we see boating building return to
Pittsburgh,” Mc-Carville said.
But, he said, serious maintenance issues exist with the locks and
dams that service the port’s river system and can lead to
transportation delays and scheduling problems. The port and river
marine companies have been lobbying Congress to spend more money
for such repairs, but federal budget problems have made the task
“We are creating problems faster than we are solving them,” he
McCarville said area businesses such as U.S. Steel have invested
heavily in factory upgrades, and the boom in shale gas drilling is
also leading to new business such as hauling pipe. He called that
“very encouraging for long-term development along the waterways.”
One 50-year veteran of the local river business said the details
on tugs and barges have changed but not the basic principles.
“In that period of time, there were lots of ups and downs,” said
Richard Bacsi, who works out of Pittsburgh for Trinity Marine