DISCOVER Magazine #7

Pushy Cat power through the ages

Published in category: Harbour & Terminal

Coen_Boudesteijn_Former_Product_Director_Tugs_and_Workboats_DamenCoen Boudesteijn
Former Product Director Tugs
and Workboats Damen

When Chairman Kommer Damen’s father Jan and his uncle Marinus established a small shipyard 90 years ago on November 14th 1927, they initially focused on building and outfitting small workboats between 5 and 13 metres in length.

It all started with ‘Yno 1’ – a flat bottom, round bilge boat of 4.8 metre in length, with a 1.7 metre beam. Built for inland navigation barge skipper Anthonie Vogel, this was essentially a rowing boat fitted with an inboard diesel. The first boat was a success and the number of boats increased every year. In 1939, yard number 100 was built as a sailing yacht for the family Jongepier in Dordrecht.

In addition to rowing boats and a few yachts, many flat bottom launches and inspection boats for private owners, bumboat traders, contractors, as well as local and national governments, were built between 1927-1968. The boats were built with craftsmanship and passion, with dedication for the products and for the customer. Events, like the contract signing and deliveries, took place with the building team together with the customer over a cup of coffee and a glass of local liquor ‘Keizerbitter’!

Kommer Damen took over the business in 1970 and a new company, Damen Shipyards BV, was born.

Damen Pushy Cat 42 & series production

Mr Damen immediately saw the huge potential of series production and building for stock. The idea for a robust, versatile workboat suited to this new type of production started to emerge and the iconic Damen Pushy Cat 42 was the result. A local shipbroker who specialised in the dredging industry, A.A. Boogaard, played an important role in the early days, supporting Mr Damen’s idea for standard series production of Pushy Cats. At the annual trade fair Europoort 69 in Amsterdam, the Pushy Cat was officially launched to a global audience.


This 12 metre multipurpose, heavy-duty design was able to operate in all weather conditions in harbours, estuaries and unprotected coastal waters. The Damen Pushy Cat 42 was a compact, tough vessel, with a 2.5-tonne bollard pull and 240 horsepower engine.

This perhaps doesn’t sound so impressive compared to today’s powerful vessels, but at that time it represented a lot of onboard power. The design is also believed to be the world’s first workboat to feature a push bow with a rubber fender.

Built every 5 days

The Damen Pushy Cat 42 was a big hit straight away. Dredging companies worldwide were interested because of its functionality, but also because Damen was able to provide very short delivery times, made possible by Mr Damen’s implementation of series production.

In the 70s, Damen then developed a number of variants like the Pushy Cats 46, with a 360 horsepower engine and 5-tonne bollard pull. New versions – the 42+ and 46+ – were developed with accommodation. By 1974, Damen could finish a Pushy Cat every 5 days. This small vessel’s success eventually meant that it was necessary to open a much larger facility in Gorinchem, Damen’s present headquarters.

Caterpillar engines

During the early days – and as it does now – Damen worked closely with its suppliers to ensure that the Damen ‘Standard’ could be developed. In the case of the Pushy Cat, this close relationship is particularly evident, because the name Pushy Cat is inspired by the fact that the vessel always used to have Caterpillar engines.

Coen Boudesteijn, the former Product Director Tugs and Workboats, who recently retired after 40 years with the company, comments: “When I started in the drawing office, the Pushy Cat 42 and the Stan Tug 1 were the best sellers, and they both totally embody the vision of Kommer Damen. He was personally involved in every detail of these designs. He listened carefully to customers and all this feedback has been integrated into each new generation.”

Listening to customers

Although over 9 decades Damen has evolved into an international shipbuilding group, it maintains a very close relationship with its clients in the towage, dredging and marine construction industries, he adds. “In that way the company continually reacts to feedback from its customers and progressively refines established designs and introduces new vessels to meet the operators’ demands. This is especially true for the Damen Pushy Cat and Stan Tug range in which almost every vessel has been replaced or modernised several times.” For example, the Pushy Cat 42 is the original version of the still popular Pushy Cats 1004 and 1305. The modern Pushy Cat Series started around 1985.

During the evolution of the vessels, besides improvements in safety, excellent manoeuvring, quick handling, user friendly and maintenance friendly layouts get full attention. “Damen addressed hull design, including full-scale testing and calculations for structural strength, fatigue, natural frequencies, stability and wave profile and last but not least, optimisation of the propulsion system; noise levels, fuel efficiency and speed and bollard pull performance,” Coen emphasises.

Unprecedented beauty

“The Pushy Cat 42 hull is an ‘unprecedented beauty’, a true traditional round bilge, flat bottom workboat with a wide aft deck with a dominant towing bitt and a short wheelhouse.”

The modern Pushy Cats 1004 and 1305 have the shape of the Pushy Cat 42 to ensure the optimal water flow towards the propeller and rudder. The single chine hull allows for more interior space and developable hull plating leads to more efficient construction.

Tough conditions

The hull is built on a frame spacing of 600 millimetres with 8 millimetres thick bottom plates. A 15 milimetre sheer strake and extra knees in the deck-hull connection make the Pushy Cats very solid and resistant to the toughest working conditions. The Pushy Cat has an easy entrance to the free decks in the sides, with railings and a bulwark, making it easy for pilots and crew transfers to step safely from one vessel to another. Robust, double bollards on fore and aft and a single middle bollard; the solid rubber
D-fendering in the sides and stern, and the heavy push bow with a 380 milimetre cylindrical rubber fender, give the Pushy Cat her sturdy, tough appearance.

The engine is a modern, electronic turbocharged Volvo with unit injectors (type D9), and it has a Twin Disc gearbox with an output of 221 kW at 1800 rpm. This modern diesel engine has a high torque between 1000 and 1800 rpm, with a maximum of 1500 Nm.


Closed cooling system

Thanks to the Damen standard closed cooling system, navigating in extremely shallow water is enabled, and the cooling liquid protects the engine from corrosion and from freezing during winter conditions.

The proven Damen standard propulsion train includes manganese bronze propellers and has the tried and tested standard propeller shaft installation with a grease-lubricated bronze fore bearing and a water lubricated rubber aft bearing, with a stainless steel 316L propeller shaft for long lifetime.

The fore deck accommodates sound anchoring equipment with an electrical winch and free deck area for the push bow. The engine room hatch and an emergency hatch, ventilation facilities and towing bitt are situated on the aft deck, and are all designed for optimal convenience, safety and easy accessibility. The wheelhouse and on deck steelwork with rounded-off corners make it easier to apply high quality epoxy painting and – benefitting the client – easy cleaning. Additionally, the Pushy Cat has standard hoisting eyes to allow efficient transhipment onto another vessel.

The Pushy Cat 1305 gives a great performance, is powerful, fast and in combination with the standard bow thruster, it provides outstanding manoeuvrability. The latest Pushy Cat has a modern engine room alarm system installed for engine and gearbox control, bilge water sensor surveillance, watertight door alarm and fire detection.

Efficient layout

All displays are visible from the helmsman’s seat in an efficient layout with control and instrument panels positioned with ergonomics in mind. VHF, compass and searchlight are all standard.

All over the world

The wheelhouse is flexibly mounted, has a very low noise level and has seating for three; a sofa and a helmsman seat. The tug master has an excellent view all around through large windows. In the deck cabin below storage space with shelves and cupboards is provided. As an option the Pushy Cat can be equipped with extra seating for six on the aft deck and a kitchen unit, a toilet and two bunks below deck. Rescue and safety equipment are included in the standard. In addition to vests and buoys there are also extinguishers and a fire-extinguishing pump with hoses and nozzles.

Much attention has been paid to the joinery of the modern Pushy Cats and the fresh, grey/blue colour scheme and the finishing with hard plastic and aluminium materials provides robust and maintenance-friendly panelling.

The range of standard options, such as extra coupling winches, life rafts, radar, echo sounder and additional accommodation are all available from stock, just like the finished Pushy Cats themselves and all the standard components.

Coen smiles and summarises: “The Damen Pushy Cat Series can be seen all over the world today. But on the River Merwede, near Damen HQ, the modern Pushy proves that her sailing characteristics are undisputed. She has excellent course stability and on the river you can see again and again what the modern Pushy Cat is all about, as she moves smoothly in the waves of the large pushers. When manoeuvring she is in her element as the 60 degree rudder angle turns the Pushy Cat around on her axis.”

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