Shaver Transportation – tugs with both power and finesse

For nearly a century and a half, Shaver Transportation has been a leader in the tug and barge business on the Columbia Snake River System in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

  • Gunvor Hatling Midtbø
    Vice President, Communications

For Shaver Transportation, a focus on the environment and safety has encouraged the company to both upgrade existing vessels and invest in new state-of-the art tugs to fulfil its ship assist, inland grain and commodity transportation, and harbour services. KONGSBERG technology has become Shaver’s choice for high levels of reliability, power and performance in challenging environments. 

In the 1980s, Shaver commissioned construction of the tractor tug Portland, which featured the latest innovation in propulsion – z-drive technology – the first of its kind on the West Coast. KONGSBERG recently supplied a tailored solution to upgrade the 40-year-old ship assist vessel with a bollard pull of more than 50 tons, from UML to US205 thrusters – an investment in the propulsion system which has reinvigorated the Portland for decades of operation. 

Tug Portland is now upgraded with US 205P18 FP z-drives with 2.20m propeller diameters and utilising the same engine power.

The project was special construction-wise and a lot of tailormade work needed to be done. Before the project kicked off, we had many discussions with Shaver how to make sure all went well during the pandemic. The engineering and project teams in both KONGSBERG and Shaver did extremely good work despite the challenges and travel restrictions we had. I would like to thank Shaver and our project teams for the professional and dedicated work we have done in cooperation,” says Jussi Miettinen, Contract Team Manager at Kongsberg Maritime Finland.

In the 1990s Shaver built multiple tugs with sophisticated electric winches, cranes and z-drive technology. The company then had a significant growth period and expanded its grain fleet. With the environment and safety top-of-mind, Shaver upgraded the fleet by repowering twelve boats, and designed two state-of-the-art tractor tugs, including the Samantha S in 2019.


Built with custom-designed technology, the Samantha S is capable of fighting fires, thanks to fire monitors and pumps, as well as towing and escorting the largest vessels in the most adverse conditions. The powerhouse has a striking square bow which allows the tug to come up flat against the transom of ocean-going ships in the Columbia River and more than 100 tons of bollard pull thanks to a pair of GE medium-speed diesel engines producing 8,448 hp at 900 rpm. The tug features a pair of KONGSBERG 305-4100 with four-bladed 118-inch-diameter propellers. The tug’s engines also meet EPA Tier 4 emissions standards without after-treatment by using advanced exhaust gas recirculation. 

Shaver Transportation President Steve Shaver says: “When we wanted to design a new tug, we started asking questions of our customers and team and we came up with an 80 ton, 80ft first concept. With a lot of work with Jensen Maritime and Diversified Marine and use of a simulator, we went up to a 112ft boat with the power and length to handle big ships in narrow waterways. We wanted to design a versatile tug that would work for us well into the future. That is the best ship-assist boat around, a wonderful tug which has proved it can do everything we designed it for, including everyday ship work and the ability to move loaded grain barges.”

Brad Korpela, Shaver’s Port Captain, explains: “Our fleet is operating in hundreds of miles of river with a lot of debris, currents, shallow water and narrow areas to navigate. Every vessel has to be hardy as well as nimble. For an escort boat on the Columbia River, the typical approach was not possible. From a handling perspective, the KONGSBERG equipment gives us fine-feel control and, as well as having the required horsepower, the finesse work is nice. You can have a boat that is capable of large bollard pull but with the KONGSBERG z-drive, it is nimble too. With this propulsion system, you can do some beautiful, agile work with a lot of power. Everything in the 112ft package is efficient, from the steering and remote controls to the multiple winches for hard wiring to the stern of large ships for escort.”

Technology at the forefront

Steve says with continued investment in state-of-the-art technology upgrades and new additions to the fleet, Shaver Transportation is well-placed for the sixth generation of the Shaver family to continue the company’s development. “The ships we have here are about as large as they can get. But we don’t have a requirement for tanker escorts yet and I think that might change. If it does, we are ready for that. We want our region to be a safe place for ships. We also have to be cognisant of emissions regulations as we plan for the future. What starts in California comes our way.

“We have aimed to maintain our family culture at the company, but some things have changed for the better, such as safety becoming a much bigger focus. We have developed our fleet by going on past experiences and have had good support from Kongsberg. With technology like this it needs to work but it also needs ongoing support for years to come.”

Samantha S

  • Owner/operator: Shaver Transportation 
  • Builder: Diversified Marine  
  • Designer: Jensen Maritime Consultants    
  • Dimensions: 112x45x19
  • Engines: Tier 4 GE 12V250, 4,216 hp
  • Bollard pull: ~100 tons
  • Z-drives:  Kongsberg US 305 with 4-blade propellers
  • Auxiliary generators: John Deere 6090A
Shaver website