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Alabama-built boat to map the mouth of the Mississippi River

Alabama's Silver Ships built Tobin for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (contributed)

Posted on August 22, 2022

Alabama-based Silver Ships Inc. recently delivered a 49-foot marine surveying vessel that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will use to hydrographically map the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Christened the Tobin, it is the largest marine surveying vessel of its series and will work out of the USACE Venice Sub Office in Venice, Louisiana.

Silver Ships custom designed Tobin for its important mission. It is the latest expansion of the Endeavor series of workboats that Silver Ships builds at its facility in Theodore.

USACE researchers will use the mission-specific boat to accurately and effectively obtain and document data on the rapidly changing waters in the Mississippi River. Tobin is equipped to handle challenging river terrain, an important capability for its mission of helping keeping waterways unobstructed for larger vessels.

“Tobin will join a fleet of vessels operating out of the USACE Venice Sub Office that works year-round to provide river condition data to vessel operators,” says Jason Powers, director of Business Development for Silver Ships. “This data is essential to the safe and efficient transportation of goods up and down the Mississippi River.”

Alabama’s Silver Ships built Tobin for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (contributed)

The vessel’s name honors the late Thomas G. Tobin, who worked for the USACE New Orleans District for more than 30 years as an engineer and programmer. Tobin developed systems that automated the processing and mapping of daily navigation condition surveys. He was a part of the Engineering Division Channel Improvement team and achieved success with automated design functions that ensure smooth operations of the Mississippi River. Tobin succumbed to cancer in February 2016 at the age of 54.

The vessel has twin Caterpillar C18 Tier 3 engines, each producing 800 horsepower, producing speeds that will help prevent research delays. That’s important, considering the frequent changes in Mississippi River conditions. Electrical features include an echo sounder, air conditioning and other equipment and are provided by a Caterpillar C2.2 Tier 3 Genset.

“Thompson CAT is proud to partner with Silver Ships for their power needs,” says Richard Tremayne, Thompson Marine’s business manager. “Together, our engineering teams have designed and built significant boats like Tobin over many years. High-performance power installations are always fun puzzles to solve with talented companies like the Silver Ships team.”

Alabama’s Silver Ships built Tobin for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (contributed)

With a top speed of 28 knots, the surveying vessel allows researchers to acquire data quickly and prevent inconsistencies caused by changes in the river bottom. Additionally, Tobin is equipped with state-of-the-art technology including the EchoTrac E-20 survey system, which is the key component that allows the vessel to take survey measurements. The E-20 uses a single-beam transducer that charts river depths and monitors water changes that could be potentially hazardous to marine navigation.


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