Innovation and Diversity

in Marine Design

Our Commitments

Robert Allan Ltd. has, over many years, earned a worldwide reputation for the design of working vessels of the highest quality. That reputation is based on a legacy of innovative and creative professional design work that has endured for decades. Specifically, it reflects a constant commitment to enhancing and improving the designs we produce, and providing leading edge solutions to challenging new maritime problems.

In today’s world, it is essential to maintain vigilance over every aspect of our work in order to provide the leadership in ship design which our clients have come to expect. This is accomplished through a combination of a constantly improving ISO9001:2008 Quality Management system and our commitment to on-going Research and Development into ways to improve and enhance the performance of vessels built to our designs. We strive to find better and more innovative ways to perform our design work, to establish the highest design standards, and in particular, to enhance the safety, capabilities and operational effectiveness of all the vessels we design.

The following sub-sections describe these processes in more detail.

Quality Assurance Program

Robert Allan Ltd. has been ISO 9001 certified since 2007. Our Quality Management system is audited annually by Lloyd’s Register, and is the subject of continuous improvement through internal reviews and input from management and staff . Feedback from our client users is an extremely important aspect of this effort to constantly improve both the services we offer and the accuracy and efficiency of how our work is produced. We actively seek feedback on how our designs serve the needs of our clients and the crews who live and work aboard them. Please use our RAdius feedback page.

Design Standards

Internal design standards have been developed for virtually every aspect of our work. In addition to the obvious requirements of Flag State rules, Classification Society rules and the various International Standards Associations, Robert Allan Ltd. has established formal standards and procedures for the majority of our design tasks to ensure that vessels built to our designs are consistently and truly fit for purpose. Internal teams regularly meet to review the processes we use for the detailed design of many ship components, and develop a sound engineering basis for all future design work. In many instances we have obtained the equivalent of “type approvals” from Classification Societies for these standards. We also routinely work closely with many of the major Classification Societies to review their design standards and any proposed changes to the rules which will affect the types of vessels which we design.

Research & Development

Robert Allan Ltd. has for many years conducted extensive independent research and development work in an effort to constantly improve the performance of the vessels we design. A major focus of these R&D efforts since about 1995 has been on the performance and behaviour of high-performance tanker escort tugs. The innovations developed by this company in this field have established the RAstar, ART, and TRAktor class tugs as the world benchmark for tanker escort tugs.

With the development of a very significant capability in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) within our office, considerable efforts have been focused on the use of this extremely powerful analytical tool to truly ensure that claims of optimized performance are not just empty boasts, but are soundly based on detailed and rigorous CFD analysis. Almost every aspect of ship performance can be analyzed in CFD, with associated optimization ensuring fuel savings and reduced power requirements.



Energy efficiency has always been a focus of the design efforts at Robert Allan Ltd. In recent years however, the worldwide demand for lower fuel consumption and lower emissions in all vessel types has renewed our focus in this area. Internal analytical tools such as RAptures enable a thorough review of the many options available for work boat propulsion and power management today, whether mechanical, electric, hybrid or alternative fuel systems such as on the LNG-fuelled RANGLer tug design are chosen. Internal R&D efforts are focused on increasing the energy efficiency of every aspect of the vessels we design.


Innovative and unusual vessel designs have been a hallmark of Robert Allan Ltd. from the very beginning. The ability to understand and interpret the needs of our clients, especially for unusual service requirements, and to then create functional and cost-effective design solutions underpins our success in over eight decades of service to the marine industry. In those years the company has had many “firsts” to its credit, including:

Log barges

The first designs for self-loading and self-unloading log barges were developed by Robert Allan Ltd. in the early 1960s, and the majority of barges of this type, up to 20,000 tonnes DWT, were designed by this office. The first adaptation of this technology by European operators was also a Robert Allan Ltd. design.


Self-unloading bulk cargo barges

The face of the construction industry in coastal B.C. was dramatically changed in the 1960s with the introduction of the first self-unloading bulk cargo barges, all designed by Robert Allan Ltd. for a wide range of construction products and raw materials.

First ultra shallow-draft river tugs

Robert Allan Ltd. was a pioneer in the design of efficient tug-barge transportation projects for the Mackenzie River system in Canada’s far north. In anticipation of a major pipeline project, many dozens of tugs and barges and other service vessels were built for this remote area. The culmination of this work was a fleet of four quadruple-screw, 4500 bhp pusher tugs with an operating draft of just one metre, the first vessels for the Northland delivered by sea from the west coast. These tugs and barges are still actively serving the entire Mackenzie River system as well as the northern coast of Arctic Canada.


First Arctic OSVs

In 1974, Robert Allan Ltd. designed a class of four Arctic Class 2 icebreaking Offshore Supply Vessels, the first vessels ever built to the then new Canadian Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations (CASPPR). With an operating draft of just 4.25 metres, these 7000 bhp ice-breaking OSVs had a unique tunnel stern configuration, and are still operating more than 40 years later.


The Z-Tech® design

The Red Dot Award-winning Z-Tech® tug design was designed by Robert Allan Ltd. in the mid 1990’s to address the unique needs of PSA Marine of Singapore for a new standard in ship-assist technology. It was the first tug ever to win this most prestigious award. This unique tug design offers all the positive attributes of both ASD and Tractor tugs to support the growing demands of that major port. The Z-Tech® concept has proven to be extremely popular in SE Asia, the Middle East, the USA, and in the Panama Canal.

Z-Tech 27-60 Indee

The RAstar escort tug concept

After extensive research and testing, Robert Allan Ltd. developed the unique, sponsoned hull form of the RAstar and TRAktor class tugs. These tugs have since become the international benchmark for tanker escort tug performance. The RAstar series were the first Z-drive tugs to successfully prove the ability of well-designed ASD type tugs to provide safe and effective tanker escort service.

RAstar 3400 Svitzer Waterston

The RAVE tug design

The tradition of forward-thinking, innovative designs from Robert Allan Ltd. continues today with the introduction in 2013 of the RAVE concept for ship-handling and escort tugs, and the CARROUSEL-RAVE concept in 2015. Featuring the first fore-aft axial arrangement of VSP drives in a tug, the RAVE has been demonstrated by extensive model-testing and CFD analysis to out-perform any traditional tractor concepts in both direct and indirect operations.


The RAmora

The first published concept for a remotely-operated tugboat was presented by Robert Allan Ltd late in 2015, attracting significant worldwide interest.


Use of Kort nozzles

Robert Allan Ltd. was granted a license by Bureau Kort in 1962 as the only licensed designer of Kort nozzles in North America. Under this agreement, Robert Allan Ltd. designed the first and subsequently hundreds of nozzles for tugs on B.C.’s west coast and the US Pacific Northwest, proving the advantages of nozzles for virtually all tug operations.

To see the results of our commitments above, see Designs. For more about us, see The Company and News.