The Newtown Pentacle

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Tugboat, baby, tugboat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found me riding north, and home to Astoria, on the NYC Ferry. The commuter boat passed by the Ruth M. Reinauer tug as it transited southwards beneath the Manhattan Bridge and down the East River. Ruth M. Reinauer is a relatively new tugboat by NY Harbor standards, where it’s not uncommon to spot tugs which have been in service since the Vietnam War, having been launched in 2009.

Rated at 4,720 horsepower, the Ruth M. is the first of a new class of Tug for Reinauer. Check out this page at for all of her technical specs and so on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ruth M. Reinauer was towing an articulated fuel barge, which was fairly empty (an assumption based on how high it was riding in the water). As is often mentioned, whether a tug is pulling, pushing, or has barges riding “on the hip” it’s called “towing.”

That barge that the Ruth M. is towing was also built pretty recently, 2008 in fact, and it’s called the RTC 102. RTC 102 is a smidge over 413 feet long, has a capacity of 100,000 gross tons of liquid cargo, and weighs some 6,545 gross tons when unloaded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the general heading which the Ruth M. Reinauer was on, and were I a betting narrator, I’d say that it was heading to the Kill Van Kull between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey for a fill up. Might be going further afield, as Port Elizabeth Newark and the Arthur Kill are found beyond the KVK.

Petroleum enters NYC – mostly – by either pipeline, ship, or barge. The latter methodology involves towing fuel barges like the RTC 102 to a shoreline tank farm somewhere along the coast. The fuel is pumped from barge to shore whereupon it’s loaded into trucks for delivery to gas stations, or other end customers (heating oil etc.). That single barge is the equivalent of thirty eight heavy trucks which would otherwise need to cross through the City using arterial and local streets.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Mitch, I live in Guttenberg, NJ. Thanks for clarifying what this barge is transporting. Just curious to know why multiple barges sometimes park parallel to the River Road shore line? I also saw them one time parked almost perpendicular to the same shoreline (is that because of rough currents?). Are they resting or just waiting for clearance further down into Bayonne? I see some anchored there for days. Is there the maritime equivilent of air traffic control for this stretch of NY/NJ harbor? Really appreciate any clarification.

    David Wilder

    April 19, 2020 at 12:21 am

    • Not sure, but I’d speculate that the barges are awaiting tugs which will take them to a rock. There’s a few of points which you’ll notice a quantity of barges and sometimes tugs anchored fairly far from land. They’re likely waiting to sync up with some tank farm’s schedule. As far as air traffic control, yes, there is a system. Anything I’d say would be inferior to the Coast Guard’s own website describing the operation. There are also websites which track shipping through the harbor – vesseltracker I think – using the public data generated by the system. Good questions!

      Mitch Waxman

      April 19, 2020 at 12:36 am

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