Demand for newbuilding tugs remains strong with owners ordering new vessels to modernise fleets and expand towage capabilities, leading to a busy period for shipyards so far this year
The amount of tendering activity demonstrates the hunger for tugs with a higher bollard pull will result in more contracts for shipyards in the next six months. Many tug builders have full capacity to the end of this year and some well into 2022.
According to BRL Shipping Consultants, there have been 57 newbuilding tugs of more than 20 m in length ordered at shipyards from January to the end of May 2021, of which 54 were harbour tugs. This has lifted the orderbook to 337 tugs, up slightly from 333 tugs at the end of 2020.
Looking at another metric, the number of deliveries, it is likely this orderbook is a conservative figure. Data accumulated by International Tug & Salvage indicates there have been at least 107 tugs delivered in the first five months of 2021.
Indonesian owners have continued to expand their fleets in 2021 in the largest worldwide market, taking delivery of 24 tugs to 31 May, with most from Indonesian shipyards and some from Malaysia.
In the US, 19 tugboats, including harbour and escort tugs, inland towage and push boats have been delivered to owners from domestic shipyards. China is also a strong market for tug newbuildings with at least 12 delivered in what has been a quiet period for shipyard completions.
Europe is also a busy market for tug orders and deliveries with owners in most coastal states adding to their fleets. This is not surprising considering the average age of European tugboats is around 25 years according to Ecory’s 2019 study. At that time there were 1,595 tugs in the European fleet.
Latin America offers growing opportunities for owners and shipyards, while southeast Asia (outside of Indonesia) and Australasia are also strong markets for new tugs.
Svitzer was the biggest owner to add to its fleet with new icebreaking tugs ordered for Scandinavia, escort tugs added in Australia and one introduced into the UK market.
SAAM Towage also has a large fleet expansion programme, adding three tugs in South and Central America. The remaining tug deliveries and orders so far this year have involved one, two or three vessels per owner, demonstrating how fragmented the market remains, the opportunities for domestic tug owners and for consolidators.
Riviera Maritime Media’s ITS Salvage Webinar Week is being held 15 June 2021 – use this link for more details and to register