Tug owners can streamline safety equipment audits, inspections, maintenance and replacements, reducing administration burdens
Tugs operate at the sharp end of shipping in challenging environments, providing a vital support service in ports. They need the highest safety standards and to guarantee their equipment remains in service. However, tug owners are not immune to market forces that place pressure on the industry to reduce costs.
Uncertain trade volumes, tightening environmental regulations and changing political landscapes continue to take their toll on profits, forcing down prices across the shipping industry and tug sector.
Safety standards on tugboats are protected by local, regional and international regulations. Calls from organisations such as the European Tugowners Association and the British Tugowners Association to maintain these standards in the face of commercial pressures are difficult to ignore.
The nature of the tug industry makes it relatively dangerous in comparison to others by today’s standards and it faces its own specific safety challenges. Tug owners place a high value on safety and have this firmly in their mindset.
However, keeping up with safety audits, inspections, equipment maintenance and replacements places a burden on tug masters as they work with multiple suppliers in a port to ensure equipment is booked in for servicing and testing by the due dates.
Survitec account manager for Benelux and Switzerland Frank Relou works with tug operators to ensure their safety equipment remains compliant with these regulations.
He helps tug operators ensure safety equipment is maintained, serviced and inspected in compliance with the tug’s individual class and flag requirements and adheres to port state rules.
“A vessels’ safety equipment will have different delivery times and therefore different due dates for inspection,” Mr Relou explains. Many of these tests and services are organised at short notice and piecemeal rather than in a coherent and planned way.
“Harmonising when equipment needs to be serviced and certified can reduce vessel downtime and save costs for operators,” says Mr Relou.
In reaction to these challenges, Survitec introduced SOLAS 360, a service to support tug masters and operators and reduce the operational burden of keeping safety equipment compliant.
This service alerts tug masters and owners to the various deadlines, harmonising product testing as far as possible. SOLAS 360 was developed for an individual vessel and can be adapted to suit specific circumstances. It considers all necessary codes of practice, class and insurance requirements, port state rules and regional legislation, making it relevant to tugs and oceangoing towage vessels.
When an owner joins SOLAS 360, a full inventory of safety equipment is taken, including personal lifesaving appliances and fire detection systems. This information, along with compliancy status and safety certificates, is held in an online portal the client can access.
Survitec works with owners to ensure as many pieces of equipment as possible can be serviced at the same time, resulting in fewer tug visits and reduced service costs. SOLAS 360 does not reduce the master and operator’s responsibility for ensuring the equipment is compliant. “But it does relieve the burden, and they are alerted at 90, 60 and 30-day intervals in the run up to the service deadlines,” says Mr Relou. It also removes “uncertainty as a fixed rate is agreed at the outset, based on the scope of equipment,” he says.
“We also have regulation experts who can advise on rules and legislation, giving our customers confidence they are meeting all necessary regulations and laws.”
Not having the right equipment can disrupt tug operations, damage reputation, and be potentially dangerous for crew.
“At the end of the day, tug operators want to make sure their employees and customers are safe,” says Mr Relou.