An increase in new LNG import terminals in Central and South America is resulting in renewed escort tug requirements
The Americas are becoming a key battleground for leading tug owners, keen to expand their fleets of escort vessels in the region as new import terminals are built. This was demonstrated most recently by the latest escort tug order by SAAM Towage in December 2019.
This Chile-headquartered group will have built three azimuth stern drive (ASD) tugs to support a new LNG floating storage and regasification project in El Salvador.
SAAM Towage managing director Felipe Rioja says these tugs will operate from Q2 2021 supporting LNG carriers berthing and undocking at a terminal designed to feed a 378-MW power plant from the end of 2021.
“We will provide services for the Energía del Pacífico (EDP) project at the Port of Acajutla, which reinforces our presence in Central America and our commitment to the region,” he says.
These escort tugs will be 32-m long with ASD propulsion and escort winches. They will be “specifically designed to meet the requirements of offshore operations and escorting vessels,” says Mr Rioja.
The expansion of SAAM Towage’s fleet demonstrates the potential for further growth in Latin America.
“The Caribbean area is a potential growth opportunity for us,” Mr Rioja explains. “We are actively mapping the market for the right opportunity to expand,” he says, noting how plans to open new LNG terminals in Latin America will drive towage demand in the 2020s.
“We have a special eye for terminal towage in this region, as it demands renewal to its current available fleet,” he says.
SAAM Towage’s expansion plans into El Salvador were announced just days after it introduced a new harbour tug in Guatemala.
SAAM Itzá was welcomed to Puerto Quetzal on 23 December 2019 to replace older harbour tug, Amazonas I. It is part of SAAM Towage’s services to Empresa Portuaria Quetzal. It was built by Med Marine in Turkey and purchased in Q3 2019. SAAM Itzá is assisting ships with two other ASD tugs at the port of Quetzal and the San José terminals. It has a bollard pull of 60 tonnes and free running speed of 12 knots.
Mr Rioja also expects a new escort-class tug to begin operations in Mexico in February 2020.
SAAM purchased an ASD tug newbuilding from Damen Shipyards for ship handling operations in the port of Veracruz.
“After new terminal entry criteria was established for merchant ships, studies were carried out that specified the need for more powerful tugs with specific manoeuvrability characteristics,” says Mr Rioja.
“We will be able to satisfy this requirement with SAAM Huasteca, which has fixed-point pulling capacity and the qualities the ‘escort’ class notation provides by design.”
SAAM Towage has operations in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay. It operates at more than 60 ports in the Americas, servicing over 25,000 ships a year.
Svitzer has also set its sights on growth in the Americas, where it operates 87 vessels, including 72 tugs. Svitzer Americas’ new managing director Arjen Van Dijk expects growth will come from new terminal developments.
“We are determined to achieve our growth objectives and further enforce our position in the Americas,” he says. “Our strategy is to pursue further growth within a careful selection of projects and ports that fit our portfolio and capabilities. We have a strong position in markets that hold a lot of potential for us, primarily Argentina, Brazil and the Caribbean,” says Mr van Dijk.