Middle East tug fleets are dominated by contract hire and vessels built outside the region, but things are changing as demand for newbuildings is increasing
There is plenty of towage work on offer serving Middle East ports with the Middle East embracing a modernisation programme aimed at increased trade.
Against this background several port authorities have ordered new tugs to handle bigger ships focused on oil and container ship traffic. Middle East fleets are growing at an impressive rate, but shipbuilding in the region is still at a low level with some orders still awaiting buyers 2-3 years after speculative construction.
Owners have preferred to charter in or order at overseas yards for reliable delivery times. Among the latest deliveries to Smit Lamnalco are two Damen ASD 3212 pull tugs SL Lulu and SL Murjan, operating at a fertiliser terminal in the port of Sur, Oman. These tugs were originally ordered at Meyer’s Panama Shipping in November 2015 to work on the Panama Canal, but were subcontracted to Song Cam, Vietnam, for completion. Two sister tugs are scheduled to be commissioned for Smit Lamnalco towards the end of this year from Song Cam to work for Rio Tinto in Weipa, Australia.
A small number of tugs are earmarked for construction and operation in the Middle East. Since Damen took over Albwardy’s shipyard in Sharjah in 2016, it has added eight more tugs for its own account stretching employment into 2019 and is confident that owners will snap them up.
Three are of these are in the 70-80 tonnes bollard pull range. It is unclear whether all eight tugs will be completed in Sharjah or the Netherlands.
Contract hire will continue for the foreseeable future in the Middle East. Svitzer is heavily engaged and Smit Lamnalco handles some local requirements. A new shipyard under construction in Saudi Araba will require powerful tugs with negotiations underway to fulfil requirements.
Smit Lamnalco clinched a 20-year contract to service a floating LNG import terminal offshore serving the National Oil & Gas Authority of Bahrain. Floating storage and regasification units are in demand with enquiries for one or two units which will require tug attendance. Smit Lamnalco will uses its existing fleet where possible, but newbuidings will be commissioned, which may mean more business for Damen Shipyards.
There is a lack of home-grown tugs in Middle East fleets. Until someone demonstrates a will to break the dominance of contract hire this looks set to continue, which is good news for the international major tug fleets and continuing contract hire with purchase options.
|SVITZER TUGS ON STATION MIDDLE EAST|
|Svitzer Al Khabourah||67|
|Svitzer Liwa 1||69|
Source: BRL Shipping Consultants