Tug owner SAAM Towage has expanded its operations in the region through newbuild deliveries and corporate acquisitions
Chile-headquartered owner SAAM Towage, part of the SAAM ports and logistics group, has added new tugs to its fleet to begin operations in El Salvador and Peru.
These additions are part of the multinational corporation’s drive to increase its business sphere as it reacts to growing demand for maritime trade in the region. It already provides towage, logistics and owns terminals in 14 countries in North, Central and South America, operating more than 170 tugs in 84 ports in the Americas and completing over 100,000 manoeuvres for around 37,000 vessels per year.
In April, SAAM Towage welcomed two escort tugs to El Salvador and took delivery of a Turkish-built tug for its operations in Peru.
Two Robert Allan-designed tugs arrived in the Port of Acajutla, El Salvador on 21 April. SAAM Acaxual and SAAM Centzuna will be deployed to assist gas carriers into the Energía del Pacífico LNG terminal on the Pacific coast. They were built by Uzmar in Turkey to a RAstar 3200W design with more than 80 tonnes of bollard pull.
Redwise Maritime transported these new tugs from Turkey to El Salvador, across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Panama Canal, during 40-day voyages.
“The arrival of these tugs marks the first milestone in initiating our operations in El Salvador,” says SAAM Towage managing director Hernán Gómez. “These state-of-the-art vessels will allow us to provide exceptional service for the specific requirements of such a major project.”
To assist LNG carriers into the terminal, these 32-m tugs can work under dynamic traction loads of more than 135 tonnes at 10 knots and have free sailing speeds of 13.5 knots.
“This project is essential for El Salvador, as the first floating storage and regasification unit in both the country and the region,” says Mr Gómez.
“It will cover a relevant percentage of the nation’s energy demand and will help to diversify its energy matrix with more sustainable fuel. We are here to serve this objective, making these new tugs and highly skilled personnel available to the terminal,” Mr Gómez explains.
SAAM Acaxual and SAAM Centzuna each have two CAT 3516C engines generating 2,350 kW of power and two Kongsberg US255 fixed-pitch azimuth thrusters.
They are equipped with safety features including a remotely operated gas detection and automatic isolation system, deck equipment and machinery with explosive atmosphere certification and fire-fighting 1 class systems for fighting off-ship fires, certified under Bureau Veritas classification rules.
SAAM Towage technical manager Pablo Cáceres says completing these tug newbuildings was an enormous challenge. “The project was a success, despite the pandemic’s complications which we were able to navigate while staying on schedule,” he adds.
In April, SAAM Towage started operations in Peru by relocating a tug to the Port of Callao and taking delivery of a newbuilding.
“We are taking the first steps at the Port of Callao, which lets us provide better coverage on the southern Pacific coast,” says Mr Gómez. “We are interested in this market and foresee leveraging our broad network in the region.”
He expects this extension to lead to further corporate deals and purchases. “Our strategy is to preserve our leadership position and play an important role in the industry’s consolidation process,” says Mr Gómez.
RAM Valkyria was mobilised to begin assisting ships into and out of the Port of Callao. It will be joined by RAM Albatros after it is completed by Sanmar Shipyards in Turkey, initially as Bogacay XLII. Albatros is a 24.4-m tug, built to Robert Allan’s RAmparts 2400SX design with a beam of 11.25 m.
It is powered by two 2,100-kW main engines providing it with a top speed of 13 knots and 70 tonnes of bollard pull. It has a fire-fighting pump, driven through clutched flexible coupling in front of the port side main engine, with capacity to deliver 2,700 m3/hr of water and foam.
Mr Cáceres says Albatros has “power and size that perfectly suits the requirements for the Port of Callao and our clients operating there.”
Both tugs will berth and undock ships, tow barges, provide emergency response and salvage, service ships at offshore terminals and support civil construction projects.
SAAM Towage also expanded its services in Ecuador with two more tugs built to handle larger ships. It welcomed the first of these two tugboats, SAAM Tarqui, on 26 January in the port of Guayaquil after its long voyage from Turkey.
SAAM Towage purchased SAAM Tarqui from Med Marine in Q4 2020 when it was 2016-built Efesan Port, a RAmparts 2500W tug. Another tug was scheduled to arrive from Mexico in Q2 2021.
These tugs support large container ships, roro ships, oil, chemicals and LNG tankers, as well as bulk carriers, reefers and general cargo ships. Its vessels also support offshore exploration activities and growing gas imports.
On the corporate side, SAAM completed its US$49.7M acquisition of 70% of Intertug in January, fulfilling part of its strategy to expand into new markets. This purchase saw SAAM Towage enter the Colombian market and strengthens its presence in Mexico and Central America.
“With this deal, we improve our standing as the top tug operator in the Americas,” says SAAM group chief executive Macario Valdés. “It is consistent with our strategy of being leaders in the consolidation process the industry is experiencing.”
SAAM is integrating Intertug into its own process and seeking more growth opportunities. “We will begin to capitalise on growth opportunities, implement our operational model and processes and take advantage of the synergies we have with the 11 countries where SAAM Towage currently operates,” says Mr Valdés.
SAAM secured majority ownership of Intertug via a capital increase and share purchase. This acquisition was financed through a combination of debt and equity. It followed a merger of four companies in Colombia to create the larger Intertug group, operating 25 vessels, in 2020. They are used for harbour and ocean towing, ship mooring, escorting, pollution control and fire-fighting operations. Intertug also operates offshore support vessels for rig and platform supply and oil recovery activities in Colombia.
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