Northern Europe is a highly competitive market for towage service providers, who continue to invest in new tugs and innovative design concepts
Operators of tugboats in northern Europe continue to purchase new tugs and invest in design innovations despite the market being described as one of the most competitive worldwide. Owners have enhanced their fleets with more powerful tugs in reaction to the increasing size of ships, particularly container and car carriers, using the region’s ports.
Multraship Towage & Salvage is at the forefront of investing in different tug designs and technology to enhance its fleet. Multraship operates two of the world’s first Carrousel RAVE tugs in northern Europe, Multratug 32 and Multratug 33, which combine a Robert Allan-designed hull with a rotating winch system and inline Voith Schneider propellers.
These Bureau Veritas-classed 31.9-m tugs are owned by Novatug and leased to Multraship, which tested them in the Netherlands and deployed them in Germany and Belgium this year. The hulls were built by Theodor Buschmann in Hamburg, Germany, before being mobilised to Stellendam, the Netherlands in 2017 for fitting-out by Damen.
Multratug 32 was tested in Rotterdam in January and deployed in Antwerp in February this year, said Multraship senior commercial manager Dirk Provoost. It was replaced by Multratug 33 in April and redeployed in the port of Bremenhaven, Germany, he told Tug Technology & Business at the Posidonia exhibition in Athens, Greece, in June.
These are the only two commercially operating tugs in the world with carrousel rotating winch systems, supplied by Machinefabriek Luyt. They rotate 360° around the wheelhouse of the tug in response to the movements of the tug and the ship it is towing.
Multraship commercial manager Willem Spijker said the carrousel rotating winch and inline Voith Schneider propellers “improve manoeuvrability and stability of tug operations.” Mr Provoost said this makes the tug almost impossible to capsize”, which is a “good advantage for safety and lowering fuel consumption.”
Carrousel RAVE “makes the tug almost impossible to capsize”
They expect more Carrousel RAVE tugs to be built as they have proved their technical and safety capabilities. “Novatug created this concept and if there are buyers, it will build more,” said Mr Provoost.
Multraship has added other tugs to its northern European fleet this year in response to changing requirements and competition. “It is a challenging and tough market as everyone wants the same pieces of cake” in ports such as Hamburg, Antwerp and Rotterdam, he said.
In July, Multraship christened Multratug 31 at Terneuzen in the Netherlands. This is a 453-gt, 83-tonnes bollard pull fire-fighting and towage tug that entered service late in 2017.
In April, Multraship acquired an azimuthing stern drive tug with 50 tonnes of bollard-pull from Turkish shipbuilder, Med Marine, for its Terneuzen harbour operations. Multratug 9 has twin Caterpillar 3512B engines that each develop 1,230 kW of power at 1,600 rpm and drive two Rolls-Royce US155/2620 azimuthing propellers, which give the 2009-built tug a top speed of 12 knots.
It replaced a 33-tonnes bollard pull tug of the same name which is no longer operational and will now be put up for sale. The new Multratug 9 was in action in June along with three other tugs to refloat 2005-built bulker Harrow, which ran aground on the Western Scheldt, near Vlissingen.
It was aided by Smit Seine, Multratug 4 and Multratug 7, christened at Terneuzen in June. Multratug 7 is a fire-fighting and towage tug with 62 tonnes of bollard pull built by Damen in Romania.
Damen also built a tug with 86 tonnes of bollard pull for Multraship this year. Multratug 29 replaced a 2015-built tug of the same name that has been sold to Shetland Islands’ authorities. Other fleet additions include:
Multraship managing director Leendert Muller said tugs were added to the fleet because the market “is so volatile, and continues to change, giving rise to demand for new and better services.” He explained that Multraship was “committed to investing in order to compete and, where appropriate, to working alongside other competitors.”
Mr Muller said Multraship will “continue to invest in quality and safety and will evolve in line with the demands” in harbour and terminal operations, sea towage, salvage, offshore and renewable energy projects and port services.
Hybrid and conventional
Kotug Smit Towage has also been christening and adding tugs to its fleet this year. It officially named Damen-built Rotterdam and Beagle in the Port of Rotterdam on 13 June. Both tugs support ships in harbour areas of Rotterdam including escort and vessel manoeuvring, berthing and unberthing duties.
Rotterdam is a 29-m ASD 2913 tug built with more than 80 tonnes of bollard pull. Beagle is a 24-m azimuth tractor tug (ATD) of 2412 design with twin fins on the hull. It has a bollard pull of 72 tonnes and is described by its owner as combining compactness with manoeuvrability.
Kotug Smit intends to name another of its newbuildings, Buffalo, in Southampton, UK in September this year. This 24.7-m ATD featured in a newbuild profile TTB, Q2 2018. Kotug Smit chief executive Rene Raaijmakers told TTB that these investments were made to ensure the company remained competitive in harbour services as other tug operators have also upgraded their fleets, and the size of ships using these ports are increasing.
Kotug Smit Towage was established as a joint venture between Kotug International and Boskalis subsidiary, Smit, on 7 April 2016 to provide harbour towage services in northern Europe. It operates in 12 ports in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
Although Kotug Smit is currently investing in diesel-powered tugs, it operates the world's largest fleet of hybrid tugs, with five operating in UK and northern European ports, said Mr Raaijmakers.
He said these have exceeded operational performance and have lower operating expenditure because batteries reduce fuel consumption. However, they have not attracted higher rates from charterers than conventional tugs, which Mr Raaijmakers had expected for tugs with green technology, because of the competitive nature of the northern European market.
ASD tug contracts
Another Netherlands-based tug owner, Iskes Towage & Salvage, has ordered two ASD tugs from Damen to service a new port service contract the owner expects to commence in either Q4 2019 or Q1 2020.
Iskes has ordered two ASD 2312 tugs for ship-handling operations, salvage and coastal towing. These 23-m tugs will have bollard pulls of around 60 tonnes in both push and pull modes and accommodation for six people.
They will also have 54 m2 of aft deck space and propulsion compliant with IMO Tier III requirements. These latest purchases will take the number of Damen ASD tugs owned and operated by Iskes to 11 in a total fleet of 20 vessels.
Meanwhile, the Port of Rotterdam and RH Marine Group have sold the joint venture Royal Dirkzwager Coastal & Deep Sea Pilots (DCP) to Redwise Marine Holding. DCP provides pilotage, offshore vessel tracking services and deepsea pilot training. Redwise-DCP pilots can safely navigate loaded tankers, car carriers and container vessels from the English Channel, across the North Sea and up to the entrance of the Baltic.