Finnish tug owner has added new ice-breaking tugs and a motorised detachable bow, while adding shore power for its fleet
Alfons Håkans is at the forefront of innovation in its northern Europe tug operations, breaking technical barriers as well as thick winter ice.
The Finnish owner of 47 tugs has introduced new ice-breaking tugs and worked with the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency on an industry first.
It is improving its environmental footprint with new hull sensors to reduce tug emissions and working with Kongsberg Maritime to optimise propulsion.
Alfons Håkans expanded its fleet and enhanced its towage capabilities in the Baltic market with two new ice-breaking tugs from Sanmar Shipyards, as demand for towage operations in northern Baltic ports has increased, says Alfons Håkans chief executive Joakim Håkans.
Sanmar delivered Bureau Veritas-classed tugs Selene and Helios in Q2 2021 from its Altinova Shipyard in Turkey. These were constructed to Robert Allan Ltd’s TundRA 3200 design for ice breaking and ship manoeuvring in Baltic ports.
These 31.5-m escort tugs have a hull strength of ice class 1A and two Caterpillar 3516C main engines each driving a Kongsberg US 255 controllable pitch Z-drive. With a bollard pull of more than 65 tonnes, they can perform open-sea towing, fire-fighting, small cargo transfers, salvage and oil spill recovery.
Alfons Håkans has also applied the world’s first motorised, detachable ice-breaking bow Saimaa, says Alfons Håkans health, safety, security, environment and quality manager Capt Kimmo Lehto. This is combined with tug Calypso to assist shipping through ice in Finnish waterways during winter, mainly in Lake Saimaa, he explains.
This combination operates out of Mustola harbour in Lappeenranta but has applications around other Finnish ports and shipping routes. Saimaa bow was designed by ILS Ship Design & Engineering and powered by Danfoss Editron. It has an overall length of 25.3 m, moulded breadth of 12.6 m and moulded depth of 3.4 m.
Alfons Håkans has made other efforts to lower its environmental impact. “The company has started to install acoustic hull cleaning systems to minimise biological fouling on the hull, and by doing this, minimise fuel consumption,” says Capt Lehto.
“Alfons Håkans has been minimising emissions by optimising transfer speed to and from the assisted vessel for more than 15 years,” he explains to International Tug & Salvage.
“We have also minimised emissions by having shore power in use for more than 20 years in all ports where we operate.”
Shore power has been introduced in many Finnish ports, including those with lower shipping volumes and port calls. In these, Alfons Håkans has made operational changes to reduce its operating expenditure.
“We operate in many ports in challenging environmental conditions in the northern Baltic, but the need for tugs in certain ports is very limited,” says Mr Håkans.
“We have optimised our operations so that some tugs are unmanned in the quieter ports. Crew go to those tugs by car and assist, then plug the tug back into the shore power and drive back to base,” he adds.
Alfons Håkans worked with other stakeholders in the region to minimise emissions and ensure its tug fleet is ready for future operations.
“We have increased co-operation with maritime pilots by having regular simulator training with pilots and tug masters from the ports where they operate together,” says Mr Håkans.
“This training helps to reduce emissions on assisted vessels and on tugs, as co-operation improves joint operations, while assistances can be performed just on time.”
This enables Alfons Håkans to optimally mobilise its tugs to ship towage and manoeuvring jobs, reducing waiting time, fuel consumption and emissions.
“Good co-operation with the authorities and other key stakeholders in the industry helps us to plan for the future, so that the goals of every player are achieved in financially and environmentally sustainable ways,” says Mr Håkans.
Alfons Håkans has worked with Kongsberg to optimise support for US255 thrusters and ND Aquapilot remote control systems on its new ice-breaking tugs. They signed an extended thruster coverage (ETC) service programme to support the new azimuth stern drive (ASD) tugs.
This proactive new business model replaces Kongsberg’s previous time- and material-based customer support approach with a fixed yearly fee. The ETC increases Kongsberg’s commitment, enhanced risk mitigation and long-term collaboration with Alfons Håkans, which will optimise fleet equipment maintenance.
Alfons Håkans technical manager Tuomas Raumanen says the company operates more than 20 tugs fitted with Kongsberg ASD units.
“Reliability is very good, but the ETC will make it even higher, ensuring the risk of unexpected service stops is very low,” he says, “This contract will be beneficial to both parties economically and technically, and we believe this will be a turning point for the whole industry as it moves towards long-term service agreements.”
Ordering spare parts and scheduling fast-tracked maintenance intervals has traditionally been implemented by vessel crews on an ad hoc basis.
However, this approach has often bred uncertainty over service availability in the event of unforeseen incidents, as well as concerns over potential price fluctuations.
With ETC, a far greater degree of critical disruption risk is absorbed by Kongsberg through a fixed annual service fee, which accommodates both planned and unplanned maintenance over the entire lifecycle of the thrusters.
Tugowners adapt to Covid and environmental changes
European tug owners have adapted to sudden changes in towage operations, the Covid-19 pandemic and the latest environmental trends. They had to find ways to operate profitably in the new normal created by coronavirus-induced restrictions and Europe’s drive to lower emissions from maritime.
Capt Kimmo Lehto, in his role as outgoing chairman of the European Tugowners Association (ETA), describes the past year as “very challenging times” for the industry.
“ETA members have shown they are able to adapt to the sudden changes in their towage operations,” he says, “have shown they are resilient and a reliable part of the logistics chain of the maritime industry.”
ETA has improved its dialogue with policy makers and other associations in shipping with new ways of communication that have been adopted during the pandemic.
“Our members have also successfully continued their work towards a greener, more sustainable future despite the current restrictions caused by Covid-19,” says Capt Lehto.
He has handed over the ETA chairman baton to Boluda Towage executive vice president Vicente Boluda Ceballos after two years in the role. Rimorchiatori Riuniti Porto di Genova chief executive Alberto Dellepiane was appointed deputy chairman.
“Our industry is going through hard and challenging times due to the pandemic,” says Mr Boluda Ceballos, “but the sector also needs to adapt to all the new international and European regulations that are being discussed and adopted.”
ETA had its 58th annual general meeting in Turku, Finland, hosted by Alfons Håkans, in early September. During this event, debate was focused on how the European towage sector was being shaped by unprecedented events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and legislation, including the European Union’s Green Deal.
“ETA must have a strong voice in Brussels (Belgium) so the positions of our industry are taken into account by policy makers and stakeholders,” says Mr Boluda Ceballos.
To aid in this, European Parliament vice president Roberta Metsola and European Commission director general for maritime transport and logistics Sandro Santamato made presentations during ETA’s annual meeting.
Along with Awake.AI chief executive Karno Tenovuo, they analysed the upcoming challenges and disruptive changes society and industry will face in the following years. Their discussions focused on the future of work, the adoption of IT-based technologies and the EU shipping and climate policies for 2030-2050.
The speakers were followed by a panel discussing the topic of the new normal that was composed of: Willem-Jan Hamers (Redwise Maritime Services), Alec Laing (ACL Shipbrokers), Mijndert Wiesenekker (Damen Shipyards), Marinus Jansen (CAT Marine) and Ben Harris (The Shipowners´ Club).
ETA represents the tug sector at a European level, with 85 full members in 25 countries, who own or operate a combined fleet of more than 900 tugs in European ports.
Its membership ranges from major towage companies operating more than 100 tugs worldwide to family businesses and port authorities with small-to-medium-size tug fleets.
ETA’s work during the next year will continue to follow the strategy set out by the association in 2020. This includes strengthening the knowledge base of the association, enhancing the awareness of the towage sector at a European and international level and augmenting the service it gives to its members.