US owners dominate the bullish tug contracting market, ordering new ATBs and harbour tugs to meet growing demand
In January, US owners and builders took the limelight. Currently there is a resurgence of small vessel shipbuilding, which is welcome news for all smaller yards especially those hardest hit by the offshore collapse which left some with many unwanted and half-built supply vessels and anchor handlers.
Currently there is a wave of optimism sweeping the US tug industry especially with the shale oil and gas industry booming, which leads to increasing oil exports. Port terminals are being upgraded to receive Suezmax tankers and VLCCs, which could eventually eliminate the need for offshore loadings and requirements for a new breed of tugs. Several of these will be Jones Act protected but keeping out overseas design and construction expertise will be difficult.
Damen is a good option for sourcing more powerful tugs for US owners, which means US builders may struggle to achieve high productivity. The ASD 2813 is a multi-role unit for escort and towage duties and will be modified to meet the special demands and regulation surrounding towage operation in the US.
Bollard pull is likely to be 60-70 tonnes but can be adapted to necessary requirements. In the future, there is likely to be a call for tugs with 80-90 tonnes of bollard pull, as sometimes there is a requirement to handle naval vessels. This opens the way to more agreements for construction of other ASD designs.
A fuller orderbook analysis report will be in the upcoming issue of Tug Technology & Business, which is due to be published later this month.
ATB orders aplenty
Elsewhere in North America, more articulated tug-barge (ATB) units are being contracted to support growing distribution of oil products and LNG. Crowley Fuels entered into a contract with Bollinger Shipyards to build a 100,000 barrel capacity ATB that will transport clean products within the Alaska hinterland. An option is attached for a second vessel. Delivery of the firm unit is stemmed for the end of 2019.
Crowley is handling construction management services from final design through to delivery and among the project’s demanding considerations are its construction to ice class and Polar Code requirements. Employment for this ATB is guaranteed from a long-term charter to Petro Star, Alaska. Crowley's naval architect subsidiary Jensen is featured in the next issue of Tug Technology & Business.
A further ATB order was placed at Bollinger by Bouchard Transportation, which then ordered another ATB from VT Halter Marine. Deliveries are set for first quarter of 2019. VT Halter Marine also signed a prestigious contract with newly-established Quality Liquefied Natural Gas Transport (Q-LNG). This calls for construction of one offshore articulated LNG tug barge unit.
On another project, Chesapeake Shipbuilding agreed a contract with loyal customer Vane Brothers four 2,240 kW pusher tugs bringing the total ordered by the Baltimore-based owner to 20 vessels at the yard. The quartet of Chesapeake-designed 31.5 m tugs will each be powered by twin Caterpillar 3512 engines.
Gulf Island Shipyards will build a single multi-purpose Z-drive pusher tug designated for icebreaking and ice management services in the St Lawrence Seaway. It will also assist in rapid response, fire-fighting and response to pollution spills. This 39 m tug will have a bollard pull of 65 tonnes and be classed by ABS with an ice class 1A notation. St Lawrence Seaway Development Corp will mainly employ this tug pushing two buoy- and gate-lifter barges. A heavy duty deck crane will be installed plus a stern roller and shark jaws to allow handling of buoys on the aft working deck.
Nichols Brothers Boat Builders (NBBB) also won a contract in January 2018 for a new Z-drive harbour tug. It will build a Jensen Maritime-designed 33 m hybrid tugboat for Baydelta Maritime. This vessel is scheduled for delivery in Q1 2019, when it will be put to work in US West Coast ports assisting large container ships and tankers.
Read a fuller orderbook analysis report in the upcoming issue of Tug Technology & Business, which is due to be published later this month.