2018 has been a huge year for innovations in tug design and propulsion. Tug owners have demonstrated to the maritime and port sectors some new ways to deliver improved towage and escort performance while also lowering emissions.
Tug Technology & Business highlighted advances made in 2018 on tug design and engineering as it summarised the key deliveries during the year. New designs were introduced for enhancing towage services in smaller ports, to increase bollard pull without impacting tug stability and enabling better all-around ship towage and escort duties.
Novatug revolutionised towage technology this year when its first Carrousel RAVE tugs came into service. Multratug 32 and Multratug 33 are operated by Multraship Towage & Salvage in Antwerp, Belgium and in the Netherlands. They are generating plenty of interest from other owners and Novatug has started designing a smaller version.
Multratug 32 and Multratug 33 each have a carrousel towing system that revolves around the wheelhouse, Voith Turbo inline propulsion for manoeuvrability and dynamic towage to escort oncoming ships into harbours and terminals instead of just static towage.
Also in 2018, Damen Shipyards unveiled a newly designed tug for harbour towage and ship manoeuvring in tight areas. Damen’s first reversed stern drive (RSD) tug, Innovation, was put through a series of trials during Q2 2018 and Tug Technology & Business witnessed its capabilities during a demonstration in Southampton, UK, in June.
The new design combines elements of azimuth stern drive and tractor tugs. It has a patented twin-fin skeg and can tow ships ahead or astern. Innovation was built by Damen to an RSD Tug 2513 design.
Tug owners turned increasingly to hybrid propulsion technology in 2018, including batteries for electrical power storage in newbuild tugs. I expect some owners will also consider converting propulsion on existing tugs in their fleets to hybrid when they need to repower their vessels in the future.
The move to hybrid is largely being driven by IMO, regional and national legislation, particularly in the UK and North America, Hybrid propulsion reduces operational expenditure which more than outweighs the initial capital outlay, and the associated emissions reduction will also bring cleaner air and less pollution to port communities.
There were more dual-fuel tugs built in 2018, too. The dual-fuel uptick happened mainly in Asia with two tugs delivered for operations in Singapore, more on order from Chinese shipyards and two being built in Japan. These demonstrated an exciting trend in terminal tug design and construction.
2018 also saw further developments and demonstrations of tug remote control and autonomous tug concepts.
The Rolls-Royce partnerships were not the only demonstrations of remote control tugs in 2018. Kotug successfully tested the technology over a distance of more than 1,000 km using Tug Training & Consultancy’s 15-m training Rotortug Borkum. A remote operations unit in Marseille, France, controlled the training tug in the Netherlands. Kotug continued to test remote control of the tug during H2 2018 from its centre in the Netherlands.
And yet another demonstration of remote tug technology happened in Marseille in late June. Italian shipbuilder Rosetti Marino teamed up with Purple Water to demonstrate remote control of the double-ended tugboat, Giano. In September, Purple Water tested the remote control towing capabilities of Giano. It was able to tow a barge from Palermo, Sicily, to Genoa, Italy, from a remote bridge in Naples.
Singaporean authorities and companies are planning to develop autonomous and remote control tug technology in their long-term plan for port operations in the city state, so 2019 promises many more demonstrations and technical developments in the autonomous operations field.
Commercial tug managers were busy bedding in mergers and partnerships during 2018. This was demonstrated most prevalently in Europe where the market is dominated by merged owners, partnerships and a major Denmark-headquartered owner.
Well-known names such as Kotug Smit, Fairplay Bugsier (along with Multraship) and Svitzer are at the forefront of regional European operations, all with huge fleets in a competitive market.
Owners operating in local markets including Iskes Towage & Salvage in the Netherlands and Germany, Boluda in France and Iberia and SMS Towage in the UK are doing well, but I expect there will be more mergers and partnerships in 2019 as owners continue to expand fleets for economies of scale. For more on that, read my 2019 preview.
Photo credit: Sam Willis
Back in August, Svitzer Europe managing director Kasper Friis Nilaus spoke exclusively to Tug Technology & Business about how his group continues its sustainable growth in operations.
The northern European market where Svitzer operates is seen as the most competitive of all regional arenas because of the number of players able to deploy tugs in ports. Svitzer Europe mobilises tugs between ports to minimise downtime and offhire periods and can also bring in tugs from other regions if demand exceeds regional supply.
Mr Nilaus said it is these economies of scale that enable costs and prices to remain low and keep Svitzer competitive and efficient in providing port and terminal services. Svitzer has also maximised margins through operational and strategic innovation. It continues to invest in newbuildings in Turkey, and expand its position in key ports, such as Liverpool UK, by mobilising tugs from South America.