Z-Drives for the Inland Waterways

Thrustmaster builds a complete line of Z-Drive azimuthing thrusters from 500 HP to 8,000 HP for the inland towboat industry specifically designed to endure the demanding conditions when operating in brown water. Using Z-drives on towboats results in substantially improved fuel efficiency, shorter trip times, decreased maintenance downtime and higher customer satisfaction when compared to traditional shaft and rudder installations.

Vastly improved maneuverability without rudders
A Z-drive replaces the propeller, shaft, stern tube, marine gear, rudder and steering gear all with a single unit. Z-Drive azimuthing thrusters provide maximum thrust in any direction, independent of vessel speed, offering superior pinpoint maneuverability under all conditions. Rudders are completely eliminated. Rudder drag no longer exists. Troublesome operations such as stopping while pushing a tow downstream are easy when piloting a towboat equipped with Z-Drives. It facilitates quick switching of barges and parallel parking. And all of this can be done with a lot less power. A 1,500 HP Z-drive boat can replace a 2,000 HP conventional towboat and a 3000 HP Z-drive boat can replace a 4,000 HP conventional towboat.

Safer, faster, using less fuel
Due to the greatly improved maneuverability with Z-drives, costly collisions can be avoided. There is no longer any need to slow down in turns and bends in the river. Trip times are reduced and require a lot less fuel. A study conducted by The Shearer Group, Inc. showed an average of 28% fuel savings and 11% trip time savings during a set of controlled experiments with unit tows when using Z-Drives instead of conventional shafts and rudders.


Simple and clean towboat design
Z-drives require little space. The complete Z-drives drop in from the top. The absence of long propeller shafts, shaft alleys, steering gears and rudders greatly reduces the required machinery space and weight, thus increasing the usable volume and payload of the vessel. The need for propeller shaft alignment is eliminated.

Towboats with Z-drives are not significantly more expensive than conventional towboats. The initial cost of the Z-Drives is significantly offset by reduced construction costs and installation man-hours. Shipyards have reported that the cost of building Z-drive boats is actually less than building conventional boats.

Robust and Reliable. Designed and built in America.
Thrustmaster knows and understands brown water applications. We have been building brown water propulsion equipment for more than 30 years. Thrustmaster Z-drives are designed based on conservative American standards observing ample safety margins. They are built to last even in the harshest operating environment. The units are built in our headquarters facility in Houston, Texas, using American materials, American components and American labor.

Each Z-drive is equipped with a husky stainless steel propeller running in a nozzle with stainless steel internals. The gears and transmission shafts are generously sized and are protected by a quick release coupling at the input shaft of the Z-drive. This quick release coupling acts as a mechanical fuse whenever the drive line is blocked, for instance when the propeller ingests a log, a tire or a rope. The mechanical fuse can be reset manually after the obstruction is removed out of the propeller.

Easy Maintenance
Routine maintenance is limited to periodic replacement of filter elements for the lubricating oil and the steering hydraulic fluid. Whenever major maintenance or repair is required, the complete Z-drive is lifted out of the vessel while the vessel is afloat. A replacement Z-drive can be dropped in and the boat is back to work within hours

Z-Drive Product Support Network

Support throughout the entire life of the product.
Thrustmaster offers comprehensive support throughout the entire product life-cycle. The focus is always on customer satisfaction, efficient operation of the Thrustmaster product, and on short repair and maintenance times.

In order to ensure optimum service with minimal response times, Thrustmaster has an extensive service network with service centers strategically located along the major rivers in the USA. Experienced service technicians are available to provide installation, commissioning, maintenance, repairs and upgrades on our propulsion and control products. Thrustmaster maintains a large inventory of spare parts at all times. Current parts inventory in our Houston plant is almost 30 million dollars.

Thrustmaster Services Include:
• 24/7 Service Response Hot line
• Propulsion System Trouble Shooting
• Mechanical, Hydraulic & Electrical Repairs
• Emergency Service Tiger Teams
• System Installation & Commissioning
• Technical Services & Field Engineering
• Upgrades & Modifications Equipment
• Efficiency Improvements
• Operational Training

Azimuth Thrusters

Product Lineup