MTU Powers Fleet of Inland Waterway Towboats

Posted by Eric Haun
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Installing new MTU engines has improved Southern Towing’s fuel consumption and maneuverability.

Industry-leading Ironmen diesel engines power four new builds and two repowers in Southern Towing’s inland waterway fleet

MTU, the specialist for propulsion and power systems for ships and commercial marine equipment, has been selected by Memphis-based Southern Towing Company to power six inland waterway towboats. Four new and two existing vessels will be outfitted with a total of twelve Series 4000 Ironmen engines in 8- and 12-cylinder configurations. Engines from the Rolls-Royce Power Systems subsidiary MTU were selected.

“Southern Towing’s investment in the Series 4000 represents our belief that the competitive edge in the inland waterways transportation business belongs to companies that move beyond the legacy engines of the past to the higher-powered, more fuel-efficient engines of the future,” said Tommy McCoin, chief engineer, Southern Towing.

Powered by twin MTU 8V 4000 engines designed to run at a constant 1,800 rpm, the first two new vessels to be put into service with MTU’s Series 4000 were 100-foot Z-drive sister towboats named the Paula Fortier and Theresa Echols. Soon to follow were two 120-foot Z-drive towboats christened Capt. Tommy Parrish and Capt. H.R. Kirtley, both powered by twin MTU 12V 4000 M53 engines, rated to produce 1,851 bhp at 1,800 rpm. The Series 4000 engines are matched to ZF Marine Z-Drive steering systems.

“The Series 4000 engine offers Southern Towing’s fleet superior fuel economy, emissions regulation compliance and industry-leading reliability,” said Ryan Szubinski, commercial marine sales manager, MTU America. “We constantly strive to adapt to ever-changing customer needs and federal standards while providing the best solutions for the shifting inland waterway transportation industry.”

Two repower projects, each utilizing the MTU 12V 4000 M53 engine, are still on the horizon. The new engines will increase overall fuel efficiency and decrease emissions for two existing push boats.

Stewart and Stevenson, MTU’s regional distributor, sold the engines to Southern Towing.

“Southern Towing has a reputation for being an innovative, early adopting company and their selection of the Series 4000 reaffirms that position,” said Chad Lemoine, senior sales representative at Stewart and Stevenson.

Many of the 10,000 towboats on the 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in the U.S. were built between the 1950s and 1980s and are operating with legacy engines. With its engine upgrades, Southern Towing now operates one of the most fuel-efficient inland barge fleets on the Mississippi River System and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. With the help of the Series 4000, Southern Towing’s boats not only push more cargo further using less fuel, but they also have improved maneuverability.

MTU’s distributor network, including Stewart and Stevenson, spans the massive Mississippi River System and acts as a unique support structure for MTU customers. Other distributors along the river system include W.W. Williams, Western Branch Diesel, United Engines, Inland Power Group, Interstate Power Systems and Penn Power Group.


  • MTU 8V series 4000 engines are designed to run at a constant 1,800 rpm.

    MTU 8V series 4000 engines are designed to run at a constant 1,800 rpm.

  • Built between 1950 and 1980, Southern Towing how has one of the most fuel-efficient fleets on the Mississippi.

    Built between 1950 and 1980, Southern Towing how has one of the most fuel-efficient fleets on the Mississippi.

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