Caterpillar offers marine engines for a wide range of industries, from recreational boating to governmental fleets.
When the average person thinks about Caterpillar, they conjure visions of rugged yellow iron digging through rough terrain or lifting mounds of dirt. What they likely don’t envision is a tugboat pushing through the powerful Pacific Ocean, transporting cargo to remote villages in Alaska. But did you know that Caterpillar has been powering marine vessels—from cargo, dredge, tug and fishing boats to ferries, cruise ships and even luxury yachts—since the 1930s? It’s true!
What do Anchorage, Juneau and Valdez have in common? They’re all ports in Alaska—ports where the Malolo has been towing goods for more than three decades. Being a little tugboat in the vast seas near Alaska isn’t always easy. The weather is unpredictable and the stakes are high. Out on the water, conditions can turn on a dime—but the Malolo and her crew are always up for the challenge.
“We bought this tug in 1981 to expand our freight business back and forth to Alaska,” says Gordon Taylor, vice president of marine operations for Dunlap Towing Company, headquartered in La Conner, Washington. “Dunlap Towing crews have been operating tugboats in the Puget Sound region since 1925 and in the waters of Alaska since 1978. And to this day, we are working in western Alaska about 300 to 310 days a year, supplying all the western villages of Alaska and then bringing seafood products back to the Seattle area.”
Expectations are high and many people depend on the Malolo to arrive on time. But with Alaska’s extreme weather conditions, it’s a constant battle with nature. In a place where the sun sets around November and doesn’t rise again until early February, you need to have the utmost confidence in your vessel and your crew.
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“We’re dealing with all the bad weather this time of the year, too,” Taylor notes. “With the icy conditions and the cold, there is a lot of wind and it is always freezing. Every day at daylight we go out and literally beat ice off the boat. We use shovels, bats and axes—whatever we have on hand to get rid of the ice to reduce weight on the vessel.”
The Malolo was originally powered by two Cat D399 engines. “They ran from ’81 to the winter of 1985, when Caterpillar approached us to do an engine repower with what was, at the time, their new 3500 engine platform,” Taylor states. “We installed two 3516D engines; that worked pretty well for us. We kind of needed the extra horsepower. And 33 years later, those same engines are still powering Malolo today.”
For over 35 years, the Cat 3500 engine platform has been the industry gold standard for heavy-duty diesel and gas engines worldwide. With more than 190,000 engines in the field and over three billion operating hours in mining, rail, electric power, oil and gas, and marine applications, the 3500 exemplifies Caterpillar’s longstanding commitment to technical innovation and the success of its customers, like Dunlap Towing Company.
Snowfall, heavy rain and icy winds are no joke for this tug and her five-headed crew. If the weather is bad during loading of cargo and the waves come crashing high, the captain and his crew have no other option than to leave the harbor and go to sea. “In this part of the world, nature can be your best friend or your worst enemy,” Taylor explains. “But it’s all part of the job. You either have what it takes or you don’t. Our Malolo has had a pretty long history—and there is no stopping her.”
About Caterpillar Marine
Caterpillar Marine, with headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, groups all the marketing and service activities for Cat and MaK marine diesel, dual fuel, and gas power and propulsion systems within Caterpillar Inc. The organization provides premier power solutions in the medium- and high-speed segments, with outputs from 93 to 16,800 kilowatts in main propulsion and 10 to 16,100 kilowatts in marine generator sets, as well as a comprehensive portfolio of propulsion solutions.
In addition, the sales and service network includes more than 2,100 dealer locations worldwide dedicated to support customers in ocean-going, commercial marine and pleasure craft wherever they are. iBi
To learn more, visit cat.com/marine.