PORTLAND — The Maine Port Authority has awarded the parent company of Portland Tugboat LLC a contract to design a new type of cargo vessel for shipping between Portland and New York.

McAllister Towing & Transportation was selected to design a containerized articulated tug-barge with the help of a $150,000 federal grant awarded to the authority last year, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, announced last week.

The design is expected to be completed over the summer and then be submitted for approval to the U.S. Maritime Administration by Sept. 25.

An ATB is a type of seagoing tug that is mechanically coupled to the stern of a barge. The tug pushes the barge, rather than towing it with a cable, making the tug-barge combination easier to operate and better able to handle rough seas.

An ATB for container shipping could cost less than half the price of a traditional container ship and would use fewer crew, according to the statement by Pingree.

Coastal container ships have not called at Portland since May 2012, when American Feeder Lines, a New York-based shipping company, stopped its Portland service.

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