We can expect 2018 to be a strong year again for tug construction and contract awards as owners react to rising demands for more powerful tugboats. There will be further requirements for tugs with higher bollard pulls as mega-sized container ships are delivered. There will also be demand for more tugs as new liquefied natural gas import terminals are opened.
This will all lead to tug owners renewing and expanding their fleets well into 2018. In reaction to this bullish trend, shipyards intend to continue to build fleets of tugs speculatively, in anticipation of the opportunities to sell them to hungry owners.
According to BRL Shipping Consultants, there are at least 211 tugs, of more than 20 m in length, on order worldwide, after more than 60 were ordered this year. More details of this orderbook and 2017 contracts information will in the next issue of Tug Technology & Business, which will be published next week.
As these figures are up to 31 October, the orderbook has grown from there. Also, several tug orders go unreported as some yards and owners do not disclose contracts.
At the Europort exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, last week, tug builders explained how they were keeping their yards full into 2018. For example, Uzmar senior contract and project manager Ural Kavaklioğlu told Tug Technology & Business that the Turkish shipyard intends to build at least 20 tugs on spec using new variants of Robert Allan designs. He has a positive outlook for the tug construction sector and expects tugs of between 60 and 90 tonnes bollard pull will be in demand.
Rival builder Sanmar is also building its own Robert Allan variants on spec in anticipation that tug owners will be lining up to purchase them. That has been the case in 2017. Spanish shipyards are also doing well from rising tug demand. Astilleros Armon is building fleets of tugs, with an orderbook of more than 25 vessels, including some for the Panama Canal, according to commercial director Ricardo Garcia. Gondán Shipyard is also busy as it won a contract to build an icebreaking tug for the Port of Luleĺ in Sweden in October.
Damen Shipyards is a leading builder of tugs on spec and it transfers them from yards around the world on heavy lift ships to meet market demand. At Europort, Damen signed contracts to provide four tugs to Smit Lamnalco and mooring vessels for Multraship Towage & Salvage.
As more of these mega-sized container ships are ordered, with CMA CGM the latest to unveil building plans, there will be greater need for powerful and high-performance tugs, which I expect will continue to drive this bullish industry well into 2018.