First of Z-Tech® 6000 ship-handling tugs delivered to Panama Canal Authority

March 13, 2007


The first three of a series of new Z-Tech® 6000 Class ship-handling tugs have reported for duty with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). The first tug arrived in Panama in late January 2007, the second and third in February. Designed by Robert Allan Ltd., of Vancouver, Canada, these new high-performance tugs are based on the standard successful Z-Tech® 6000 Class design, but were specifically adapted to the operational needs of ACP for the busiest ship channel in the world. The total fleet of eight new tugs is being built by Cheoy Lee Shipyards Ltd. of Hong Kong, at their Hin Lee Shipyard facility in China. The next series of tugs are currently building, with deliveries starting in the third quarter of 2007.



The Z-Tech® design combines the best performance features of an Azimuthing Stern Drive (ASD) tug with those of a Z-drive tractor tug. The Z-Tech® has a large skeg forward, providing a high indirect steering force, and enabling directionally stable operation in both ahead and the astern tractor modes. The working deck forward is relatively low and flat, creating a safer working space, yet still leaving sufficient room to install/withdraw the Z-drive units from aft of the house. For seagoing operations or for line towing, the Z-Tech® with its high, rounded stern works stern-first in tractor mode. A single control station serves both harbour ship-handling duties (facing forward over the working deck), and transiting or towing voyages (facing “astern”).

Although after their delivery voyages the new ACP Z-Tech®s will operate in the relatively benign conditions of the canal, their maiden voyages involved a complete transit of the open Pacific from China to Panama under their own power. The delivery voyages were undertaken by crews from Redwise in the Netherlands, who experienced the full brunt of a series of the same Pacific storms that battered the west coast of North America in December. The tugs came through this ordeal with flying colours, as, it should be noted, did the crews!


The ACP Z-Tech® 6000 includes a number of unique features, specifically suited to the operations in the Panama Canal. These include:


  • A wider beam (11.65 metres) in order to ensure a higher clearance angle (minimum 35/) when working under the flare of ships
  • The height of the wheelhouse is lower than other tugs of this Class, again to ensure better tug-ship clearance
  • Two independent winches forward, which reflects the operational process within the canal, where tugs put up two lines to the stern of an attended ship (thus creating a short bridle) when running through the various restricted areas of the canal. The skeg of the tug then acts as an extended rudder to the attended ship, providing much enhanced manoeuvrability at slow speeds
  • A “day boat” accommodation arrangement, again suited to the nature of the canal operations. A feature of this configuration is a complete “breezeway” across the deckhouse, isolating the exhaust casing/engine room entry from the crew accommodation spaces. This provides much better noise control in the latter.


Particulars of the ACP Z-Tech® 6000 tugs are as follows:


Length Overall
Beam, moulded
Depth, hull moulded
Draft, maximum
Bollard pull
Fuel capacity
Potable water capacity
– 27.40 metres
– 11.65 metres
– 5.00 metres
– 5.33 metres
– 60 tonnes (minimum)
– 12.5 knots (minimum)
– 111 m³
– 12.2 m³
– LR 100 A1 Tug, LMC, UMS



The propulsion plant comprises a pair of Wärtsilä 9L20 engines, each rated 1,800 kW at 1,000 rpm, driving LIPS Model LCT FS250-S/BN-K Z-Drives with 2,400 mm diameter fixed pitch propellers. Fire-fighting capability is provided by a single FFS Model SFP 250X350HD fire pump with a capacity of 1,136 m³/hr, driven by an independent diesel engine. The General Arrangement of the ACP Z-Tech® 6000 is shown on the following figure.

For more information on the Z-Tech® Series of ship-handling tugs, please contact us.