The BRAtt project – A concept whose time has come!!

May 5, 2010


The towing industry has been saying for several years that it is heading for a crisis in terms of manning, with many experienced mariners due to retire in the next few years and a dearth of new entrants into the tug working environment. Added to that fact is the growth in the number of large new vessels entering the market, requiring ever more powerful and sophisticated tugs to manage them in port. One of the major obstacles to new personnel entries is the typical licensing requirement in most jurisdictions which is largely time-based rather than qualifications or capability-based. In essence the current licensing requirements seem to say “spend enough time onboard and you must learn how to drive the boat”. There is no question that a certain degree of onboard experience is an essential requirement for any ship’s officer, but with the advent of new technologies, especially in the context of harbour ship-handling, the ability to efficiently handle the new generation of very powerful Z-drive and VSP tugs is far more critical than knowing how to use a sextant or to chip paint!

This challenge has been met in the BRAtt training vessel project.

For a number of years the Principals of Robert Allan Ltd. and Burchett Marine Inc. have been discussing the potential for designing and building a lower-cost, “driveable” scale model tug to use as a training vessel. This boat would have to be:

  • Large enough to be very realistic and fully safe in all training operations
  • Large enough to have real time response actions
  • Powerful enough to perform some “real work” where the situation warrants
  • Fully Class certifiable if required
  • Small enough to be road-deliverable

The concept resulting from these deliberations is the BRAtt, the BURCHETT-ROBERT ALLAN training tug.

The benefits of the BRAtt as a training vessel are:

  • The vessel has a much lower cost than a full size tug
  • Working assets are not taken out of revenue-producing service due to operator training
  • The risk to full-size tug assets during training is eliminated
  • The cost of training operations is much reduced, due to use of a lower cost vessel and no additional crew are involved while one person trains. Potential Masters can be trained much faster and more effectively with an intensive skills-based process
  • If some yarding or harbour towing work is available, cost recovery is possible using the BRAtt as an active tug
  • This platform can also be used to demonstrate emerging power source technologies in the marine sector, e.g.:
    • hybrid systems
    • fuel cell technology



Due to the rapidly changing market demands for low vessel emissions, four versions of the BRAtt are under development to allow our Clients the opportunity to choose the propulsion system best suited to their needs:

  • A diesel driven BRAtt: the most economical choice, with conventional propulsion components
  • A hybrid BRAtt: today’s alternative of integrated technologies with emission reductions optimized
  • An all-electric BRAtt: an emissions free vessel for the perfect environmental solution
  • A fuel-cell driven BRAtt: tomorrow’s technology available today

The BRAtt has been designed fundamentally as a training tool, but as soon as the idea was floated amongst the towing industry we had potential Clients lining up saying that this would actually also be a very cost-effective operating tug in small ports and in specialized operations such as dry-docking, line-handling, boom deployment, etc., where a small but still quite powerful tug would be far handier than trying to do those jobs with a full-size 20–30 metre tug.

The design development began early in 2009, but progressed in earnest through the fall of the year, with the challenging objective of having the prototype vessel in service for demonstration at ITS 2010 in May in Vancouver. Robert Allan Ltd. has undertaken to manage and build this first vessel in order to have the vessel available for several months as a demonstration platform.

Construction is actively underway at the moment at Adrenalin Marine in Delta, BC.

(IMPORTANT NOTE TO TUG OWNERS: Unique training tug opportunity available…be the first in the world to own a BRAtt…contact Rob Allan ( immediately!!!)



The BRAtt will be an ultra-compact but fully operational training vessel, configured as a Z-drive tugboat… this is NOT a scale model, but will have all the functional characteristics of a full-size tug. It has Z-drive propulsion, a fully operational ship-handling winch, and all the necessary accoutrements of a fully functional harbour tug…simply scaled down. Moulded dimensions are 7.80 metres length x 4.32 metres beam, with an overall draft of 1.44 metres. The tug will be of all-welded aluminum construction. This material was selected for reasons of portability and also for low maintenance, as the nature of training operations leads one to anticipate frequent impacts and some minor damage. The Z-drives are Olympic model HD3, a very simple and rugged Z-drive unit developed in BC for the logging industry log-dozer/yarding tugs many years ago, but not well known outside of this area. The engines are Cummins model QSB5.9-230 HD, rated 168 bkW at 2,600 rpm, driving through a ZF Model 280-1 gearbox with a slip-clutch feature. This package is expected to develop 3,630 kgs of Bollard Pull. The entire tug is heavily fendered with a Shibata cylindrical fender system for maximum resilience. An advanced Techsol machinery and systems control, alarm and monitoring system is installed, and will ultimately enable the real-time playback and monitoring of trainee actions. All the major equipment suppliers for the BRAtt are being exceedingly cooperative in their approach to this project, recognizing that there is a significant market for this type of craft in the current situation, and that this is also a distinct opportunity for a select group of well-recognized marine industry suppliers to showcase their products to the international marketplace during ITS 2010. We are very pleased that many Canadian, including local BC companies, are included in this group.

Ultimately we are confident that the BRAtt concept will find significant acceptance in the worlds of both tug operators and training institutes. The objective is to build and sell these tugs worldwide. Fully outfitted versions will be built in Canada or the USA, depending on the locale of the buyer. Full “kit boat” options will be available for sale to operators in Europe, the Middle East, and in Asia, and we anticipate setting up a network of licensed builders who will achieve our quality standards to provide completed tugs to local markets in these areas. We also anticipate that others, lacking imagination, may attempt to emulate the concept, as has been done with many of our compact tug designs, but there can only be one BRAtt!!!

Any enquiries related to the design and development of the BRAtt project should be addressed to:

Robert G. Allan, P. Eng.
Executive Chairman of the Board

Robert Allan Ltd.
Phone: +1604-736-9466
Fax: +1-604-736-9483