2019 is a milestone anniversary year for marine services group Williams Shipping
The UK-based family-run tug and workboat owner provides insight into marine construction and port operations around southern England and Wales.
Operating a diverse fleet of tugboats, pusher tugs, multicats, barges and other vessels has enabled Williams Shipping to thrive since 1894. The group includes marine services and vessel chartering, road transport and haulage, container hire and sales and marine lubricants distribution.
It is now run by the fourth and fifth generations of the Williams family with a fleet of more than 26 marine vessels.
“Our main operations are in Southampton and Milford Haven, but we support marine civil construction work elsewhere in the UK,” says Williams Shipping compliance manager Shaun Mansbridge.
“Our vessels range from small launches to harbour tugs and pusher tugs of less than 24 m, multicats of 15-24 m and barges from 12 x 9 m up to 55 x 20 m,” he tells Tug Technology & Business.
It all started when George Williams acquired a vessel and began cargo operations in 1894. Services in Southampton began in 1947 when Williams Shipping moved to the city. In this southern England port, it provides berthing and quayside services, cargo handling, passenger services and store deliveries. “With a base in Southampton docks at berth 20 and 21, we can provide over 100 m of deepwater berthing,” says Mr Mansbridge.
In 2018 it stored building materials destined for Rothera Research Station in the Antarctic, where a new wharf for research ship RSS David Attenborough will be constructed.
Williams operates a fleet of three harbour tugs. These are 2000-built Damen Stantug 2207 Willpower with 28.4 tonnes of bollard pull and a top speed of 12 knots; 2004-built Damen Stantug 1605 Wilanne with 12.8 tonnes of bollard pull and speed of 10 knots; and Triton class Voith Schneider Lilah, which has a top speed of 8 knots.
It also has a fleet of three multicats, three road transportable workboats and three fast vessels.
“Our workboat and tug fleet is getting younger with an average age of around seven years with our newest vessel delivered in 2017,” says Mr Mansbridge.
Apart from Lilah, the oldest vessels are around 15-years-old. Despite the age of some vessels, there is still value in operating them and reasons not to mothball them. “Depreciation on workboats is quite small, so it is good to keep these assets operating,” says Mr Mansbridge.
Ports and projects
This year, Williams assisted Red Funnel in constructing a lay-over berth adjacent to the existing East Cowes ferry terminal on the Isle of Wight.
Marine civil engineers Red7Marine installed mooring dolphins and mooring piles. Williams stan tug Willpower and 2007-built Eurocarrier multicat Willendeavour helped tow Red7Marine’s jack-up barge. During the project, 2011-built Meercat multicat Wiljive remained on site as a support vessel conducting tasks such as collecting and delivering fuel, repositioning the barges and being used as a platform for a cherry picker.
In addition, Willpower was chartered to tow new roro ferry Red Kestrel from the shipyard in Liverpool to Southampton.
Williams continues to provide berthing and crew transfers for Red Funnel ferries. It also assists in transporting new passenger vessels from the construction yard in the Isle of Wight to Southampton docks. It transported Red Jet 6 for Red Funnel using tugboat Joli L towing the ferry on barge Wilcarry 1750 across the Solent.
Also in the area, Williams supports dredging and marine civil projects with Boskalis Westminster, while chartering vessels and transporting equipment for BAM Nuttall.
Boskalis Westminister chartered four Williams vessels – tugs Willpower and stan tug Wilanne, Willendeavour and barge Wilcarry 501 to support dredging Portsmouth Harbour in preparation for the arrival of a new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier.
BAM Nuttall utilised 2011-built multicat Willsupply, workboat Willchallenge and Wilcarry 1711 barge for the Poole South Quay extension project. In another project Willendeavour towed a floating bridge from Pembroke Dock to Cowes for Mainstay Marine.
In 2018, Williams joined the offshore renewables sector, transporting offshore wind turbine blades for MHI Vestas on a purpose-built barge between the factory in Cowes, the painting facility in Fawley, and Portsmouth Harbour.
In southwest Wales, Williams operates a base Pembroke Dock, from which it supplies ships at anchorages and in marine terminals in Milford Haven and St Brides Bay. This includes “supporting LNG carriers berthing at the two terminals in Milford Haven and tankers at the refinery”, says Mr Mansbridge.
Williams has 75 m of deepwater berthing at Pembroke Port Quay 3 and undercover storage facilities. Projects in the area included assisting the replacement of a marine loading arm at the Pembroke refinery. Willpower tug towed Wilcarry 1750 barge with an Ainscough crawler crane to the terminal for the project.
Other marine construction projects Williams vessels supported include the £4.2Bn (US$5.7Bn) Thames Tideway Tunnel project. This involved navigating barges along the Thames river to transport spoil from 25 km of tunnelling, minimising the need to move this dirt bulk in lorries. This project will complete a new super-sewer as a conduit for waste from west London to a processing centre in Becton. Tideway expects to transport around 4M tonnes of material by river during the construction of the tunnel.
Williams is also involved in project heavy transport and lifting. It supported Mammoet to transport Magma Structures’ masts designed for a superyacht from Portchester to Portsmouth. The barge carrying these 100-m masts was 69 m long and 16 m wide. During this project, Willendeavour was pulling the barge, Wilwren acted as a rudder and Willjay was the brake to navigation through the narrow 20-m wide channels in Portchester.
Williams also assists cruise shipping by lifting heavy equipment on ships in the UK. For example, it lifted life craft equipment during maintenance on Norwegian Jade. Tug Willpower moved barge Wilcarry 1711, with a 90-tonne crane on board, which lifted the life rafts and equipment on and off the cruise liner. Willsupply assisted divers maintaining the life rafts, and Willjay ferried equipment and personnel between shore and Norwegian Jade.
Williams also assists Whitaker Tankers in bunkering cruise ships around Southampton.
Its vessels are also available to support salvage, with Williams assisting the salvage of car carrier Hoegh Osaka when it ran aground on the Brambles bank in the Solent. Its multicat Willsupply and fast passenger launch Wilventure II were used during 19 days of activity.