The tugboat market in the USA is the second-largest in the world, according to Clarksons Research. There are more than 1,700 tug-type workboats operating in the US, which is only surpassed in size by Indonesia. The largest North America-based tug ownership groups include Crowley Marine, Moran, McAllister Towing & Transportation and Kirby Corp.
There is approximately 5,000 bhp of tug workboats operating around the US. This reflects the nation’s long coastline, coastal shipping requirements, considerable inland waterway market and lake transportation. A multitude of tugs service the Great Lakes and Mississippi river trades. These are conducted using articulated tug-barge combinations providing significant cargo demand for the tug fleet, in addition to the roles of harbour support.
The majority of the 1,700-plus US-based tugboat fleet is more than 20 years old, reflecting the reticence of US owners to retire elderly tonnage. Clarksons said around 1,200 US-based tugs are more than 20 years old; another 200-plus are more than 10 years old. This ageing fleet profile is due to the extremely sizeable tug building drive in the US in the 1970s. This was followed by a slow-down in new orders in the 1980s and 1990s, then a steady upturn this millennium.
Some US owners are renewing parts of their fleets with more modern tugs, which keeps the nation’s shipyards busy with orders. Recent newbuilding contracts include orders from Edison Chouest, Kirby Corp, EN Bisso and Marquette Transportation Co, to name a few. For more information on recent orders, see the latest issue of Tug Technology & Business, which is being distributed at this week’s International Workboat Show in New Orleans. Come to our stand 2204 during the exhibition to collect an issue of the magazine.