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Tug Technology & Business

Tug Technology & Business

Orders continue to prove elusive

Mon 25 Apr 2016 by Barry Luthwaite

Orders continue to prove elusive
Chiel de Leeuw, sales manager at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem, and Otilija Buch, head of procurement for Svitzer, sign the contract for four ATD Tug 2412 units as part of Svitzerís ongoing fleet renewal programme

Tug builders are still finding it difficult to attract new business, as a result of the global trading slump. As ports handle less dry bulk and container traffic, in particular, they have less need for, or financial scope to invest in, additional tugs. Some ports are struggling to make ends meet and there is evidence of a trend towards the leasing of tugs by port authorities, as opposed to outright purchase, to address the financial consequences of the downturn and the uncertain, volatile trading picture.

There are, though, a number of tug owners that are gradually taking up the option of newbuildings. This is partly to counter competition from offshore vessels that are seeking business outside their normal sphere following the collapse of the offshore market.

The world’s largest tug operator, Svitzer, has returned to Sanmar in Turkey for two more RAstar 2800 terminal tugs for service in Australia. The duo will serve the Ichthys offshore field located 220km off the coast of Western Australia, 820km south west of Darwin. The currently popular bollard pull strength of 80 tonnes has been specified and the new units will be delivered in 2017 under a ten-year towage contract.

This order supplements six azimuth stern drive (ASD) tugs previously ordered by Svitzer from a booming Sanmar shipyard. For good measure, Svitzer added to its spending with an order at Damen Song Cam Shipyard in Vietnam, for four 65 tonnes bollard pull tractor tugs of the ATD Tug 2412 design, taking advantage of Damen’s available stock of hulls.

Demonstrating the advantages to be gained from building vessels for stock, Damen was able to hand over the first two vessels, Svitzer Maimon and Svitzer Beata, just one month after the contract was signed. Svitzer has these first two tugs lined up for port towage operations at its Dominican Republic joint venture with Remolcadores Dominicanos. The remaining two tugs will follow in August.

Damen Shipyards’ build-for-stock policy sees dozens of its popular ASD hulls manufactured ‘en bloc,’ enabling customers to take delivery after a short outfitting time. Two 70 tonnes bollard pull ASD Tug 2411 types were contracted with the Dutch shipbuilder for Chilean owner SAAM and the lead time was only three months after contract signing. Construction in this case will be undertaken by Song Thu Corp, Vietnam, which is closely associated with Damen Shipyards Group. Deliveries will take place in early summer this year.

German owner Bugsier Reederei is expanding its fleet with newbuildings to cope with demands placed on its towage operations by the largest container ships using German ports. The deepening of the river Elbe means that 20,000 teu vessels can now call at Hamburg, although not fully loaded. Each requires the attention of three or four tugs for berthing operations. To handle such demands, a new 80 tonnes bollard pull vessel has been contracted at Turkey’s Dentaş Gemi Inşaa shipyard for delivery to Bugsier in November 2016.

Alongside orders for standard harbour tugs, there is still demand for highly specialist tug designs. Most notably, perhaps, Russia continues to invest in its ice-class tug fleets, even if finance is sometimes hard to obtain on international markets. The Russian yard Craneship, part of the Odessa-based Tranship group, has been selected to build a single ice-breaking tug for Atomflot. The vessel will be able to penetrate ice up to 1m thick and is to serve the Arctic port of Sabetta in the Yamal Peninsula. Delivery is anticipated for September 2017.

While demand for new tugs is constrained, existing tug builders are also facing more competition from new entrants to this market. Seagulf Shipyard is planning to invest US$40 million to expand shipyards in Sri Lanka for the construction of small vessels, including tugs. Seagulf is supporting the development of workboat construction capacity in yards in the ports of Trincomalee and Galle as well as its existing yard at Modera. Seagulf will team up with a Malaysian partner and plans to build a comprehensive shipbuilding and repair facility in Galle with a focus on small vessel types.




region/builder shipowner type no design bollard pull delivery
South Africa            
Southern African Shipyards Transnet harbour tug 1   100 2018
Southern African Shipyards Transnet harbour tug 1   70 2017
The Netherlands            
Damen Shipyards Serco harbour tug 1   80 2017
Russian Federation            
Craneship Atomflot harbour tug 1 Project T40105   2017
Dentaş Gemi Inşaa Bugsier Reederei harbour tug 1   80 2016
Sanmar Svitzer harbour tug 2 RAstar 2800 80 2017
Far East            
Damen Song Cam Shipyard Svitzer tractor 4 Damen ATD Tug 2412  65 2016
Song Thu Corp SAAM harbour tug 2 Damen ASD Tug 2411 70 2016
Middle East            
Port Said Shipyard Suez Canal Authority harbour tug 4     2018
North America            
Bay Shipbuilding Co undisclosed US owner ATB 2     2017
Horizon Shipbuilding McAllister Towing & Transportation harbour tug 2     2017

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