ALP Maritime Services is shaking up the long distance towage market with its fleet of ultra-heavy towing tugs, under construction in Japan. The first of four tugs in the newbuilding series, ALP Striker, is already in operation. The other three are scheduled to enter service over the rest of this year.
According to ALP Maritime chief executive Paul Mulder, these are Ulstein-designed anchor handling, salvage and towing vessels with bollard pulls of more than 300 tonnes. They were designed to reduce the number required for huge load towage to two tugs, compared with conventional methods involving three tugs.
The second in the series, ALP Defender, should be delivered to the Danish owner by Niigata Shipyard in April, Mr Mulder told Tug Technology & Business. “The third unit should be ready in May or June, but we can delay delivery by another two months,” he said. “The fourth vessel could be ready in September.” This could also be delayed by a few months, he added.
In January, Niigata Shipyard named the third SX-157 design, 90m vessel ALP Sweeper. The fourth tug is due to be named ALP Keeper later this year. These 4,250 tonnes deadweight tugs have maximum speeds of 19 knots, deck cargo space of 550m2 and dynamic positioning systems rated as DP2. They have a design draught of 7m and a maximum operating draught of 8.5m.
The new tugs were classed by DNV GL with notations:
- DNV+ 1A1
- Iceclass 1B
- Fifi II
- ballast water management notation BWM-T
- clean design
Ulstein designed ALP’s vessels with an X-Bow hull, while Caterpillar provided the engines and Berg the propulsion, Mr Mulder explained. He commented: “We wanted the Ulstein X-Bow because we can see that the behaviour of the ship was different and good for towing. The X-Bow reduces the energy needed for the tug’s propulsion, which means more power can be used for towing.”
This is important for using these tugs for towing large structures over long distances across multiple oceans, such as towing floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) ships from South Korea to West Africa or the North Sea.
Mr Mulder explained how tugs with higher bollard pulls and more power could make these towage projects safer and more efficient. “When towing over huge distances, there would usually be three tugs. But we wanted to have 300 tonnes of bollard pull on our new tugs so we could do this with just two tugs, instead of three, while keeping it safe and efficient.”
A recent FPSO project that ALP Maritime was involved in was towing and hook-up of the Armada Kraken in the UK North Sea. Enquest is leasing the FPSO from Bumi Armada for its Kraken heavy oil project in the UK sector. It was built and completed by Keppel Offshore & Marine in Singapore and mobilised to Rotterdam for final inspections, arriving in January this year. It was then positioned on the Kraken field in February.
Mr Mulder was fairly positive about the short-term towage market, but was worried that there were not many projects planned for beyond 2018 because of the depressed oil market over the last few years. “Long distance towing is a niche market with only a few players. It is difficult to keep the fleet busy, but the day rates are reasonable compared with the spot market rates,” he explained.
Mr Mulder added: “There are some projects in 2017 and 2018 that will keep our market quite balanced, but it will be challenging for the second half of 2018 and 2019.” He said the sector was heavily dependent on offshore oil and gas developments as around 70 per cent of long distance towage projects are from this sector.
ALP Maritime operates a fleet of six other DP2 anchor handling and salvage tugs:
- ALP Guard and ALP Centre - 2009-built, 298 tonnes bollard pull
- ALP Winger and ALP Forward – 2007-built, 219 tonnes bollard pull
- ALP Ippon - 2006-built, 207 tonnes bollard pull
- ALP Ace – 2006-built, 192 tonnes bollard pull