Naval tug gets heavy lift at Port of Tacoma en route to Japan

In perfect unison, two shipboard cranes slowly lifted a 410-ton Navy tugboat from the water onto the Palembang Tuesday at the Port of Tacoma. An intricate web of lashing will secure the 90-foot tug to a specially-built metal cradle for the 4,800-mile journey to a U.S. military base in Japan.

The tug was built in Tacoma by J. M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corporation. It is the fifth in a series of six tugboats the company is building for the U.S. Navy. The tug is named Puyallup in honor of the Northwest-based Puyallup Tribe of Indians. Its sister tugs, including the Seminole and Menominee, also are named for Native American tribes.

“The Navy has a long history of naming tugboats after Native American tribes,” said Jonathan Platt, vice president for J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corporation. Among the best known are the ocean-going 205-foot fleet tugs of the Navajo class used in World War II. “Our company has 88 years of experience in building a variety of vessels, and during that time we have employed many tribal members as part of our workforce. On this project, Native Americans from 11 tribes accounted for 15 percent of our workforce.”

In total, about 80 people built the Puyallup over 11 months.

Like its sister boats, the 3,600-horsepower tractor tug is equipped with propellers that can swivel in any direction to maneuver ships in tight quarters. The tug will provide harbor assist service for Navy ships at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.