TTB 2022: Lessons learned on building an advanced hybrid tug

Written by Heather Ervin
Set for delivery in 2022, tug has a bollard pull of 90 tons.

Set for delivery in 2022, tug has a bollard pull of 90 tons. (Credit: Master Boat Builders)

On March 30—Day 2 of Marine Log’s TTB 2022 conference for the tug, towboat and barge industry—Garrett Rice, president of Master Boat Builders Inc. based in Coden, Ala., will present on its advanced hybrid tug project, the Spartan.

Launched in November, the Spartan is the first of two vessels of this type ordered in December 2019, and is set for delivery to Seabulk Towing this year. Both tugs are purpose-built diesel-electric hybrid vessels commissioned to reduce future carbon emissions.

Designed by Robert Allan Ltd., the tug has an integrated hybrid propulsion system provided by Thompson Tractor, and includes two EPA Tier 4 certified Caterpillar 3512E main engines, two Berg MTA 628 azimuth thrusters, three Caterpillar generators and two ABB propulsion motors and associated variable frequency drives.

The audience will be invited to ask Rice questions immediately following his presentation.


  • Why the Spartan hybrid tug was the best fit for Seabulk and what other operators can glean;
  • The challenges the shipyard sees operators having in selecting the best new technology for tugs;
  • What options of hybrid tugs are available today and what the shipyard thinks is coming; and
  • Which applications it believes make the most sense for various types of propulsion systems going into these tugs.

View the complete agenda or register for TTB 2022.


Garrett Rice, President of Master Boat Builders.

A native of Mobile, Rice grew up in the family business that was founded by his father, Michael, and his grandfather. He began working with his father as a child and came into the business full-time in 2011 as a project manager and accountant.

Within a few years, he began to handle business development and took on the role of CFO. In 2020, he became president of Master Boat Builders and now oversees the day-to-day operations of the business.

Rice revels in the challenges presented by the shipbuilding industry, from engineering to planning and accounting to human resources.

More importantly, he values the legacy his father and grandfather have left him by growing a small mom-and-pop shop into a world-renowned workboat shipyard. As president, he serves on the boards of directors for the Offshore Marine Service Association and the Shipbuilders Council of America.

TTB 2022

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) is partnering with Marine Log on the event scheduled for March 29-30 at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile, Ala. TTB 2022 is the only event of its kind exclusively for the tug, towboat and barge industry, where it brings the blue and brown water sectors into one unique venue for two days of expert-led testimonies and education that will enable attendees to make better business decisions in the future.

The venue, located in Mobile Bay off the Spanish River, is not only close to museums, golf courses and the USS Alabama, it’s also close to industry shipyards, including Austal USA, Alabama Shipyard, Metal Shark Alabama, the Port of Mobile, and more. There are numerous other shipyards, terminals and industry suppliers close by.

In addition to two days of in-person discussions and dynamic Q&A sessions, the event will feature ample opportunities for networking.

As maritime recovers from COVID-19 and handles the challenges of finding and maintaining a quality workforce, the tug, towboat and barge industry is expected to experience continued growth and innovation under a new regulatory landscape and on the cusp of technological advances. The collaboration between Marine Log and the AWO enables both organizations to share resources and industry knowledge in support of the TTB industry at this critical juncture.

As ever, a focus of the program will be on lessons learned from hard-earned, real-life experience. In addition, the program will explore new ways to meet economic and environmental targets through advances in technology, finding new opportunities for the TTB market in offshore, and the latest trends in vessel design.


TTB 2022 guests will have the unique opportunity to visit Austal USA, one of the country’s premier military defense shipyards that specialize in the design, construction and support of military and commercial vessels.

Space will be limited to 80 guests, who will board two buses at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel and head to Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile for a guided tour. Each bus will start at a separate area of the shipyard—the main campus (Bus 1) and the West Campus (Bus 2).

Bus 1 will tour the outside of the Module Manufacturing Facility, where guests will go around the perimeter of the final assembly bays to see where the future USNS Cody (EPF 14), USS Augusta (LCS 34), and the Kingsville (LCS 36) are being erected.

Guests will also tour Austal USA’s vessel completion yard, where the future USS Canberra (LCS 30) and USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32) are berthed in preparation for sea trials and delivery.

Attendees on Bus 2 will start out at Austal USA’s ship repair facility, where Facility Director Harley Combs will demonstrate the improvements Austal USA has made to the facility and explain what repair capabilities are available to customers.

The buses will trade places so all tour participants can see both Austal USA campuses.

Austal USA’s main shipbuilding facility in Mobile is a 165-acre campus on the east bank of the Mobile River that includes four final assembly bays, a 700,000-square-foot Module Manufacturing Facility, two office buildings, an administration building housing the Navy’s program support staff, and a drive-through warehouse. Austal has also constructed a Vessel Completion Yard that serves as the final location for its ships prior to acceptance trials, delivery and sail away.

In 2020, Austal USA purchased 15 acres of waterfront property on the west side of the Mobile River and established a ship service and maintenance facility. The Austal USA West Campus includes a 20,000-ton Panamax-class floating drydock and 100,000 square feet of covered repair facilities.

Austal USA entered the steel shipbuilding market in 2021, breaking ground on the company’s steel manufacturing line positioning the company to start steel production in April 2022. The 117,000-square-foot manufacturing addition will house the latest state-of-the-art computerized and robotic steel processing equipment that has been specified to handle all of the current and future demands of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.


  • Currently, the growing list of event sponsors includes Sea Machines, ABB, and Navtek (platinum); Austal USA, Bergan Marine Systems, and Hiller Systems (gold);
  • Motor-Services Hugo Stamp Inc., Elkon, Karl Senner, Elliott Bay Design Group, MTU—A Rolls-Royce Solution, Schottel, Christie & Grey, Industrial Service Solutions, SSI, Steerprop, Great Lakes Power, Marine and Industrial Rigging and Testing Solutions, and Moxie Media (silver); and
  • Metal Shark Boats, Bristol Harbor Group, TowWorks, Louisiana CAT, Thompson Marine, JonRie, Panolin, MOPS, Phoenix, Tnemec, KVH, United Safety & Survivability Corporation, Conrad Shipyard, RA Mitchell, Coastal Marine Equipment Inc., Separator Spares & Equipment, RIX Industries, Vulkan Couplings, DMT Marine Equipment, Hockema Group Inc., Delgado Community College, and On Site Alignment (bronze).
  • American Equity Underwriters (AEU) will sponsor the cocktail reception at the closing of Day 1. W&O Supply is sponsoring lunch.

Registration for event is now open. The next Early Bird registration discount ends on February 25.

For questions on sponsorships, please contact David Harkey at

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