A swell in newbuilding orders for oceangoing anchor-handling tugs means around US$1.5Bn of vessels are now under construction
As the offshore and maritime transportation sectors begin to improve there has been a revival in orders for anchor-handling tugs capable of oceangoing towage. Following a six-year downward trend in deliveries of such vessels, there is set to be an increase in the number of these vessels coming into service, both this year and 2019. According to VesselsValue, the orderbook stands at almost US$1.5Bn.
Last year, 42 anchor-handling tugs, including those built for ship escort duties and barge towage, were delivered. This year, there could be more than 160 vessels delivered, notwithstanding any slippages in completion.
VesselsValue said 24 tugs have been delivered so far this year, but 142 remain scheduled to enter service before 31 December. It is likely that some of these deliveries will slip into 2019, when another 36 anchor-handling tugs are due to exit shipyards. The last time this number of anchor handlers were delivered in a single year was in 2012.
During the period of 2008-2012 there was a surge in new deliveries, meaning that more than 40% of the anchor-handling tug fleet (1,400 vessels of a fleet of about 3,200) is less than 10-years old. Another 17%, or 600 vessels, are between 10-15 years old. Around one-third, or 1,200 vessels, are more than 15 years old, resulting in a rising requirement for new tonnage.
There are around 3,200 anchor-handling tugs in the serving fleet, with a combined value of US$8.1Bn, while there are 178 on order, with a total value of almost US$1.5Bn.
"There are around 3,200 anchor-handling tugs in the serving fleet, with a combined value of US$8.1Bn, while there are 178 on order, with a total value of almost US$1.5Bn"
FPSO - towage and positioning
Of the recent newbuilding deliveries, those operated by ALP Maritime Service have the greatest bollard pull. ALP operates 10 vessels, having completed its fleet with the addition of towage and anchor-handling vessel ALP Keeper - the fourth of a series of ALP Future-class heavy-duty anchor handlers, built for ultra-long-distance towage projects. The fleet now consists of six anchor handlers, with bollard pulls of around 300 tonnes; two long-distance anchor handlers with 220 tonnes of bollard pull; and two near-shore anchor-handling tugs with 200 tonnes of bollard pull.
ALP uses its fleet for worldwide ocean towage, positioning and hook-up of floating installations to pre-laid mooring systems, anchoring of installations, mooring retrieval and repositioning and decommissioning operations.
ALP Future class vessels, such as ALP Keeper, were built in Japan to an Ulstein SX157 design with dynamic positioning (DP) of DP2 class. The main propulsion and deck machinery can undertake all types of offshore structure towage, including some of the world’s heaviest floating production systems.
The DP2 class and the high bollard-pull capabilities of these vessels were key elements in their conception and design, according to ALP chief executive Paul Mulder. “With Ulstein, we designed a vessel that combined all the primary features of anchor-handling tug, supply and towage vessels that were expected by our clients,” he said.
Mr Mulder noted that the ALP Future class offer a full vessel-spread solution to its clients, while the DP2 system results in increased redundancy of systems during towage.
He added that for some of the largest towage projects, using ALP’s fleet avoids having to contract several vessel spreads with multiple sub-contractors and eliminates vessel scheduling risk, because ALP controls the transit. “We can exactly time the delivery of the remaining positioning vessels,” he explained.
Having DP2 on these vessels assists positioning operations and reduces the likelihood of major vessel breakdowns, which is a valuable aspect when towing multi-billion dollar structures across the world’s oceans, said Mr Mulder.
ALP’s fleet has now completed many projects involving the towage and positioning of floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels from shipyards to offshore oilfields. Earlier this year, ALP’s fleet towed and positioned the Kaombo Norte FPSO offshore Angola for a joint venture between Saipem and Interoil.
Its Future class of vessels towed this FPSO from Singapore to Angola in a spread during Q2. Once this spread reached Angola, three more ALP vessels were brought in to assist in stationing Kaombo Norte and securing its mooring lines. On completion of the mooring activities, two of the vessels continued to support the riser pull-in operation.
Beyond the Mediterranean
Greek anchor-handling tug operator Spanopoulos provides oceangoing towage across the Indian Ocean and around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. It conducts offshore and maritime project towage using a fleet of anchor handlers that includes three with DP and 100 tonnes of bollard pull, according to Spanopoulos towage, salvage and chartering specialist Chryssis Symeonides.
“We have up to six anchor handlers currently on towage projects from the Black Sea to northern Europe, West Africa to Turkey and the Black Sea to Singapore,” he said.
These tugs can tow all types of heavy equipment over long distances, individually or as part of a team, including drilling rigs, oil production platforms and barges, transport barges, tankers and other large floating objects.
Spanopoulos constructs its own anchor-handling tugs at a shipyard on Salamis Island, Greece. This facility is building four tugs with bollard pulls of around 60 tonnes for the group’s own requirements. The shipyard built six tugs in 2017.
GAC is another operator of anchor-handling tugs that provide oceangoing towage in the Indian Ocean. It has a fleet of seven of these ships, all operated out of the Middle East for various towage projects.
This fleet now includes two anchor-handling tugs purchased from Singapore this year, according to GAC vice president for marine operations Erland Ebbersten: the 2008-built Kristiina (ex-Lewek Kestrel) and the 2007-built Agneta (ex-Lewek Kea).
Mr Ebbersten said other tugs were built at GAC’s own shipyard in the United Arab Emirates, which is also used for drydocking the anchor-handling vessels at regular intervals.
GAC inspects and repairs vessels every two and a half years at this facility, which it built from scratch when it started operating in the Middle East in 1974. “Back then, there were no shipyards, so we had to have our own maintenance facility with a drydock in Abu Dhabi,” explained Mr Ebbersten.
GAC is currently building an anchor-handling tug at this shipyard and plans to deploy it offshore Africa when completed.
Italy-headquartered Rimorchiatori Riuniti added a new oceangoing towage and escort vessel to the fleet of its subsidiary Finage Armamento Genovese in July this year. Paraggi completed its first towage project on 26 July, manoeuvring a ship from Tulcea, Romania, to the Italian port of Genova.
Paraggi is a 32.5 m vessel with 70 tonnes of bollard pull, built by Turkish shipyard Bogazici to a Cintranaval design of CND-15231. Paraggi has an azimuth stern-drive propulsion system that gives it a top speed of 13 knots.
The engineroom is furnished with a pair of Caterpillar 3516C engines that each delivers 2,100 kW of power at 1,600 rpm. There are also two Caterpillar C7.1 generator sets that each generates 150 kW of electrical power at 1,500 rpm and 50 Hz, plus there is a smaller harbour genset.
Paraggi has two Schottel SRP 1515 controllable pitch and azimuthing propellers, with a 160 kW electric-driven bow thruster for extra manoeuvrability.
It has a strong fender system, supplied by Yantai Taihong Rubber, which protects the vessel’s hull. Its deck machinery includes Kraaijeveld-supplied winches and a fully hydraulic and foldable knuckle boom crane, supplied by Palfinger Marine.