UK-based Marine & Towage Services (MTS) is seeking to secure longer distance longer-term contracts for its diverse tug fleet. Deputy managing director Steve Williams said one of the company’s key priorities is to develop markets that are further afield and to secure larger projects requiring multiple vessels. “We do see global opportunities to secure multiple vessel contracts on longer duration projects, where we can offer clients a bespoke package of vessels to suit their requirements,” he said.
Recently MTS has achieved some notable success in the international towage sector, carrying out its longest tow to date over the third quarter of 2016. This required the deployment of its 52-tonnes bollard pull ocean-going tug MTS Viscount to tow a jack-up barge from Western Australia to Falmouth in the UK. “We are proud that this very long tow was carried out without incident,” said Mr Williams.
“It was a challenging assignment that required careful attention to weather forecasting, detailed route planning and undertaking the required bunkering in an optimum manner. The client wanted the asset back quickly, but economically, and so this was a time sensitive job. We were able to complete the project to the client’s satisfaction, in a textbook manner, without any problems or delays.”
In another longer distance tow the company’s most powerful tug, 68 tonnes bollard pull MTS Vanquish, a Damen Stantug 2909 type vessel, was used to deliver a 9,000 tonnes, 92m barge from Congo to the Mediterranean for Italy’s Saipem. The tug had earlier this year towed the barge from Europe to Angola and provided site support services as part of the contract package.
As well as these longer haul tows, the company has been busy with some interesting towage projects closer to home. One unusual assignment required the delivery of a Boeing 767 aircraft from Shannon Airport to its new home at the ‘Quirky Glamping’ site in Enniscrone, Republic of Ireland.
The one-off contract saw the 48 tonnes bollard pull tug MTS Statum tow Wilcarry 1500 barge a distance of 1,280 miles. The project required the MTS tug to pick up the barge in Southampton, then take delivery of the aircraft at Shannon Airport, and finally tow it to Enniscrone, from where the 70-tonne aircraft was transported by road, and unloaded by crane to its final position. On completion MTS Statum towed the barge back to Southampton.
MTS currently operates a fleet of 25 vessels, including 13 ocean-going tugs with bollard pull capacities ranging from 16 tonnes to 68 tonnes. There have been no recent tug acquisitions by the company, although this year it has boosted its coastal infrastructure support capabilities with the purchase of landing craft and diving support vessel MTS Terramare.
Market conditions have been generally tough over the last year in the coastal towage markets in which the company has traditionally been active. Mr Williams explained: “Weather conditions in Europe were highly changeable over the 2015-2016 winter season, so some projects encountered delays. This, combined with the market cooling, and a number of large projects ending, has resulted in more vessels in the spot market, chasing fewer projects.”
However, there have been some signs of a recovery in the UK and Ireland sector of late. “We are seeing more coastal infrastructure projects, requiring the delivery of equipment and onward site support for near-shore operations,” said Mr Williams. “It is too early to say there is a boom, but there is at least a gentle buzz around the market now, with port developments, nuclear power and windfarm projects coming up, which will require a significant amount of ocean-going tug support.”
Further investment is being considered by MTS, but is unlikely to proceed in the short term. Mr Williams concluded: “We have some ideas with regard to fleet enhancement and will act on these when ready. In the meantime, we will continue to serve our clients’ requirements with our excellent fleet of vessels, including ocean-going tugs.”