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Tug Technology & Business

Tug Technology & Business

UAE operators expand tug fleets

Thu 10 Aug 2017 by Clive Woodbridge

UAE operators expand tug fleets
This satellite image shows the position of tugs operating in the Middle East on 12 July (credit:

A number of orders have been placed recently for new tugs to meet the evolving requirements of port and shipyard clients in the United Arab Emirates

Considerable investment is being made to expand port facilities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the present time. This in turn is creating a requirement for additional tugs, more powerful than their predecessors, to accommodate the increase in trade flows and larger vessel types this infrastructure development will bring. To a large extent, port expansion within the UAE is focussed around Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but some of the smaller emirates are also expanding their facilities.

One such is Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), where Saqr Port has signed a contract for the Damen Group to deliver an ASD 2913 tug. The vessel will be built a short distance away at Albwardy Damen in Sharjah (until recently known as Damen Shipyards Sharjah) and will be delivered in time for when a new bulk terminal at Saqr Port opens in mid-2018. The ASD 2913 will complement the seven tugs currently at Saqr Port and provide the additional power needed to receive Capesize vessels.

Saqr Port is the Middle East’s leading bulk handing port and serves RAK’s fast-growing quarry industry. Each year 55 million tonnes of bulk materials are exported through the port to countries around the Arabian Gulf and RAK Ports is currently adding a series of new deepwater berths designed to achieve greater economy of scale by accommodating larger vessel types.

Damen’s regional sales team worked closely with Saqr Port to identify the class of tug that would be most suitable to meet its requirements once the new bulk terminal is operational. It was determined that the priority was for a tug that was both compact and powerful to handle the large bulk carriers that will call at the new terminal and yet work safely and effectively within the confines of the harbour.

Furthermore, the proximity of the Hajar Mountains and the fact that Saqr Port can experience sudden and very strong winds as a result required a powerful tug that offers a high degree of manoeuvrability in demanding weather conditions. The ASD 2913 was selected after a lengthy review that concluded it possessed all the necessary attributes, including having 80 tonnes of bollard pull within a 29m hull, as well as a high freeboard and a raised quarterdeck to ensure safe operations in rough seas.

Albwardy Damen is building the largest Rotor Tug built to date for Kotug

This order highlights the fact that Albwardy Damen is now a leading builder of tugs, not just for Middle East clients, but further afield as well. Alongside this latest order, Albwardy Damen is also currently building three large RotorTugs tugs and some smaller ASD type units. One of the RotorTugs will be the largest Rotor Tug built to date anywhere in the world. It is being built for Kotug to a Damen design and is destined for a contract in Australia. The other two RotorTugs are being built to a non-Damen design.

Abu Dhabi expansion

Also expanding rapidly is Abu Dhabi Ports (ADP). New terminals are being developed at Khalifa Port, which is one of the fastest growing container handling facilities in the Middle East. This includes a new terminal that will be operated by Cosco Shipping Ports.

Harbour towage services at ADP facilities are provided by Safeen, a subsidiary company that currently owns and operates a fleet of 11 tugs and 14 other marine services craft. Three new 75 tonnes bollard pull ASD tugs were taken into the Safeen fleet in 2016 to handle the latest generation container ships of 18,000 teu capacity now calling at Khalifa Port. The company also charters in tugs from third parties to accommodate demand from shipping company customers, as required.

Safeen is planning a further fleet expansion and modernisation in the near future. As Safeen chief marine services officer Maktoum Al Houqani told Tug Technology & Business: “We are currently evaluating technical proposals to acquire four new tugs to meet additional demand from the market and also Abu Dhabi Ports’ next phase of expansion at Khalifa Port. It is Safeen’s aim to provide the most efficient and environment friendly solutions to the ever changing demands of the marine industry.”

Safeen is setting itself demanding performance targets, in relation especially to safety and efficiency. “Our customers expect a world class service to be provided to them at all times and in the most competitive and efficient manner possible,” Mr Al Houqani said. “We aim to achieve this by acquiring modern marine units and by using information technology to smooth processes and improve operational efficiency.”

"Using information technology to smooth processes and improve operational efficiency"

Currently Safeen operates only within Abu Dhabi. However, ADP has recently signed a deal to operate and develop the port of Fujairah on the east coast of the UAE. This is likely to create opportunities for Safeen to provide marine services, including harbour towage, to terminals under ADP management in Fujairah in the future.

Mr Al Houqani concludes, “Our mandate is to be the preferred marine services provider to clients within the UAE and in pursuing this mission we are evaluating many options to take on additional roles and responsibilities.”

Dubai growth

The biggest container port in the Middle East is Jebel Ali in Dubai, where P&O Maritime, part of the DP World group, is the leading harbour towage service provider. The company has a fleet of some 16 tugs, with bollard pull ratings up to 60 tonnes. As well as Jebel Ali, and Port Rashid in Dubai, the company also provides towage services within the Middle East at Yemen LNG and the port of Sokhna, Egypt.

Drydocks World Dubai is another UAE-based company that is investing in its tug fleet. The shipyard has recently completed building an innovative new tug, in conjunction with Wärtsilä, that will provide berthing and manoeuvring services to vessels entering the drydocks. The tug will be able to use LNG and diesel for fuel and will offer Drydocks World greater levels of power and manoeuvrability than its existing tugs.

Drydocks World plans to carry out trials to evaluate the performance of this dual-fuel tug over the next few months. The company indicates that it may build additional tugs of this type, both for its own use and also for third party operators, if the design proves as successful as expected.

Sirapinar - 22m long, with bollard pulls of 46.9 tonnes ahead and 44.8 tonnes astern

In addition to the new LNG-powered tug, Drydocks World has recently purchased three additional tugs from Sanmar in Turkey. The 22m long Sirapinar completed sea trials in January 2017 when it met or exceeded all performance expectations, with bollard pulls of 46.9 tonnes ahead and 44.8 tonnes astern.

Drydocks World was so pleased with the performance of the tug that it subsequently ordered a pair of smaller line-handling ASD tugs from Sanmar. These were delivered in the first half of 2017. Goksu II is a Robert Allan design RAscal 1500 type ASD tug. Measuring 14.95m long by 8.3m wide with a draught of 3m, the agile tug has a bollard pull of 16 tonnes and a free running speed of 9.5 knots. The second tug, which measures 18.7m by 9.2m, is named Yenicay V, and is bigger and more powerful, with a bollard pull of 32 tonnes.

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