Leading tug owner in Brazil is building a fleet of low-emissions escort tugs to support the nation’s growing gas sector
Wilson Sons, the largest operator of port and maritime logistics in the Brazilian market, is reducing the environmental impact of its operations by investing in new escort tugs with lower emissions, more efficient hullforms and monitoring to ensure efficiency.
Contributing to the global effort for climate balance, new technologies on its tugs will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The latest initiative is to incorporate IMO Tier III standards to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions levels by more than 75% on the new tugs.
Wilson Sons is building four escort tugs at its shipyard in Guarujá, near Sao Paulo over the next three years, with the first two scheduled to begin operating in 2022. The total cost to implement IMO Tier III standards is US$290,000.
“Nitrogen oxide is a greenhouse gas, which can be 300 times more polluting than carbon dioxide,” says Wilson Sons executive director of the towage unit Márcio Castro.
“Tier III is a great differential of this project and shows how much we are in the vanguard of the Brazilian naval industry,” he tells International Tug & Salvage.
He says the first tugboat built with this standard will start operating in February 2022 and the second in August 2022. This newbuilding project was developed in association with Damen Shipyards, a Wilson Sons’ partner for more than 25 years.
These tugs will have 80 tonnes of bollard pull, an overall length of 25 m, beam of 13 m and escort tug class notation.
With NOx reduction technology, the new tugboats will comply with the IMO Tier III emissions requirements introduced in regions outside of Brazil, namely in emission control areas in Europe and North America.
“IMO, of which Brazil is a signatory, has been advancing the strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the maritime sector,” says Mr Castro. “Wilson Sons is a pioneer in Brazil meeting the requirements of Tier III standards, since it is not a requirement for the national territory,” he continues, “in anticipation this will eventually become a regulation in the country.”
In these newbuilding projects, Wilson Sons will use another pioneering technology, twin fins in their hullform design. This set of fins increases the drag capacity during manoeuvres and improves the performance of the tug. With twin fins, less power is required for the same traction, reducing fuel consumption and emissions during ship escort and manoeuvres.
Another ally in the protection of the environment is Wilson Sons’ Towage Operations Center (COR), says Mr Castro. COR monitors “the displacement of the tugboats, defining the best moment for the movement, controlling the speed and fuel consumption,” he says, “with the objective of ensuring greater efficiency, avoiding waste and, consequently, reducing gas emissions.”
Recently, Wilson Sons became a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and obtained a higher-than-average result than other companies in the Latin American maritime support sector for transparency.
“Wilson Sons already had a strong agenda related to the environment and has always acted to avoid excessive use of fuels,” comments Mr Castro, “while participating in actions such as the Clean Beach Project and projects like the Artificial Wreck Park of Pernambuco.”
There are an estimated 300 shipwrecks off the coast of Pernambuco through navigation accidents and sea battles. In addition, since 2017, 20 vessels have been purposely sunk off the coast including cleaned-up tugs and corvettes to form artificial reefs for marine life, environmental preservation, and diving programmes.
Mr Castro says Wilson Sons is going much further in reducing its environmental footprint. “What is happening now is more solid planning, with a focus on the short, medium, and long term,” he says.
Wilson Sons is the largest integrated port and maritime logistics operator in the Brazilian market, with 80 tugs spread across the nation’s coast.
It provides a large range of services to companies operating in the oil and gas industry, in international trade and in the domestic economy.
Wilson Sons’ investment in new powerful escort tugs is mainly to service Brazil’s growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) import and export sector. These tugs will assist gas carriers and tankers loading and unloading LNG and crude oil at floating and onshore terminals.
These newbuildings are part of Wilson Sons’ plans to expand its services in response to Brazil’s government sanctioning a new gas law in April this year. Wilson Sons towage division commercial director Elísio Dourado says the newbuilding programme at the Guarujá shipyard could be expanded to six new tugs with deliveries expected to continue until 2024.
This investment comes as Brazil’s gas sector expands, with more LNG import and export facilities, LNG bunkering and small-scale projects expected to be commissioned. It is also driven by rising demand for marine support services as investment in floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) units at Brazilian deepwater oil fields continues.
Mr Dourado says the Brazilian natural gas market is undergoing a major transformation, with potential for investments in thermoelectric energy generation to replace plants run on diesel and fuel oil.
“Natural gas has a significant role in the diversification of the Brazilian energy matrix and is key to the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Mr Dourado explains. Wilson Sons is preparing to meet the growth in the LNG and FPSO servicing markets as it feels there will also be more opportunities in the port support sector.
In the last year, its towage division carried out more than 25 special operations, which included services to the natural gas or LNG sector. Its tugs supported gas carriers at floating storage regasification units (FSRUs) and tankers loading crude from FPSOs. Its vessels also supported FPSO and FSRU moorings and offshore drilling rigs.
Safety improved through HSE communications and training
Wilson Sons completed one year without accidents causing injuries in its towage division to the middle of 2021. It completed 4M work hours with more than 55,000 manoeuvres carried out by 900 employees on its fleet of 80 tugboats or in support offices.
In addition, Wilson Sons’ towage division has reduced the rate of accidents with injuries in the last decade by more than 97%. This year, it achieved world-class status in safety, a standard of excellence defined by consultancy firm DuPont.
“This is an impressive result that demonstrates the company’s ability to manage risks and, above all, to care for the health and integrity of our employees and the environment,” says Wilson Sons towage division manager for health, safety, environment (HSE) and quality Guilherme Silva.
“For customers, a company with these results represents efficiency in operations, credibility and confidence in relationships.”
Mr Silva highlights how effective communication in HSE was a key factor for improving safety. “We greatly intensified our communications and improved the form and content disseminated,” he says.
Over the past two years, 15 campaigns focused on HSE were carried out. Almost 9,000 hours of training and more than 18,000 hours of daily dialogue focused on safety were accumulated.
Corporate social network, podcasts and games are some of the tools used to reinforce HSE practices. Among the actions promoted is the ‘Tuesday 9 of Safety’, which take place the third Tuesday of each month at 9 am, created in 2020. At the monthly meeting, the business directors present the indicators, highlight feats in safety, best practice and relevant safety issues for employees.
Wilson Sons also runs the Maritime Improvement Center (CAM) for training maritime professionals. CAM has its own manoeuvring simulator, capable of predicting different operational scenarios, used to train the company’s crews, managers and support teams, in addition to contributing to projects of industry stakeholders.