Owners are investing in new tugs in a vibrant north European market dominated by mergers and joint ventures
Household names such as Kotug Smit, Fairplay Bugsier and Svitzer Tugs are to the forefront with recent mergers bringing huge fleets and competitive strength in managing port operations.
Some smaller companies still survive but it is an increasing struggle to remain in business individually and more mergers are likely.
Damen Shipyards dominates construction in northern Europe with its azimuth stern drive (ASD) designs inducing purchases. New designs continue to emerge from this designer and it operates 32 shipyards globally. Damen’s secret is to build hulls for all their designs, stack the hulls and sell to owners by offering delivery inducements of only 4-8 weeks.
Mergers have mainly wrapped up north European ship towage, but there are other owners operating in the hinterland for specialist tows. They compete head on with the majors with a fair degree of success. For ship towage there are few individual companies surviving for port services.
However, Iskes Towage & Salvage is forging a strong independent position in harbour, deepsea, salvage and emergency response services and offshore support around northern Europe. It covers Amsterdam ship towage and Europoort operations as the mainstay ship employment.
Iskes has expanded to remain competitive, with new orders destined to support construction of new berths. This year it received two 62.2-tonne bollard pull ASD units – Lynx and Phoenix – boosting the fleet to 19 units. Four of these tugs have bollard pulls of 70-83 tonnes and were purpose built for offshore business.
Iskes’ fleet will increase by a further two tugs in 2019 after contracts were signed for two Damen 2312 units in June. These new additions are compliant with new stability regulations and harmonised class rules that will be adopted in January 2020 under IMO Tier III conditions.
Iskes is the first buyer of the new ASD 2312. These 60-tonne bollard pull tugs are required to serve a new port complex which is anticipated to be commissioned in 2019-2020.
In total six tugs have been ordered from Dutch shipyards this year including two for Iskes, three for Corpetrolsa, all with Damen; and one for an unnamed Dutch operator at Neptune Shipyards.
Dutch shipbuilder Shipyard De Hoop delivered six tugs this year to a consortium led by Blue Water Shipping for the Tengiz expansion project in Kazakhstan. These were mobilised to the Caspian to begin project towage work between March and June this year (Tug Technology & Business, Q2 2018).
French ports are to receive a boost after an order was placed for a probable eight-unit order with Piriou, in Vietnam. These new units are scheduled to be commissioned under the Boluda France banner from mid-2019. They will have 77 tonnes of bollard pull and will operate push and tow operations.
Options are attached for six more tugs, all for French operation. Indications are that berth slots are reserved and these have firmed but absolute confirmation is lacking.
In addition to an overhaul of the French tug fleet, France is keen to upgrade facilities in Dunkirk – the country’s third-largest port – with two new container berths earmarked to receive the world’s biggest ultra-large container carriers.
Main H1 2018 tug deliveries (excluding UK)
|Multratug 32||Novatug||harbour||Theodor Buschmann||Germany||Robert Allan|
|Multratug 33||Novatug||harbour||Theodor Buschmann||Belgium||Robert Allan|
|St Angelo||Tug Malta||escort||Damen||Malta||Damen|
|Svitzer Vale||Svitzer||harbour||Sanmar||Baltic||Robert Allan|
Source: Tug Technology & Business, 2018