Towage activities are the most profitable division in the Østensjø Group and can become a platform for future investment
Østensjø Rederi is considering expanding its towage business after a profitable year and a new terminal support contract. The Norway-headquartered group operates a fleet of 12 tugs and eight mooring launches in its marine services business.
It also operates a fleet of vessels that support the offshore oil and gas and renewables industries, mostly in the North Sea region, but its towage fleet has become the most profitable part of the group and provides growth opportunities.
Østensjø Rederi chief executive Kenneth Walland said all of the company’s tugs and mooring vessels are on long-term contracts. “Our niche is mainly operations at oil and gas terminals, escorting and towage, as well as the emergency response functions in case of oil spills,” he said.
Mr Walland is confident the towage market will remain positive and profitable. “The fleet made decent profits last year and it looks good going forward,” he said. This should be a platform for expanding its services in the future. “Given the fleet we have, we would like to see further growth in the years to come,” said Mr Walland. “We continuously monitor the opportunities that open up in this market.”
That growth may come from outside Norway, where Østensjø operates a strong fleet of nine tugs providing mooring services at gas export terminals. Østensjø has towage operations in the UK with three tugs registered in Southampton. These are 2008-built Apax and 2007-built Phenix, both tractor tugs with Voith Schneider propulsion, 2012-built azimuth reverse tractor tug Lomax and mooring launches.
But as a contract award in November 2018 demonstrated, there are also opportunities for the existing fleet in Norway. Østensjø signed a contract renewal with Norske Shell for tug services at the Nyhamna terminal, between Ålesund and Molde on the west coast. It has served this terminal since 2007 and this contract renewal extends this until Q4 2023. There are options to extend this contract for another four years.
Under this contract, Østensjø will manoeuvre and assist liquefied petroleum gas tankers that berth at the Nyhamna terminal. It will employ azimuth reverse tractor tugs 2008-built Vivax and 1994-built Silex, plus 2007-built mooring launches Max and Obelix, during tanker calls.
Østensjø is responsible for tanker loading operations, employing 15 people for mooring and other terminal services and provides shore-based loading master functions. Mr Walland said this contract renewal was “proof of the value of the long-term relations we have established with our charterers”.
Østensjø Rederi operates three LNG-fuelled escort tugs in Hammerfest (credit: Astilleros Gondan)
The Norwegian operator also provides towage, escort and berthing services at Equinor’s LNG production plant and export terminal on Melkoya Island, near Hammerfest in northern Norway. For this, Østensjø operates three LNG-fuelled azimuth reverse tractor tugs – Audax, Dux and Pax – that it brought into service in 2017.
This was a considerable investment in terminal tugs, set against long-term charters with Equinor. However, Østensjø demonstrated that it could successfully tackle technical challenges in escort tug design, classification, construction and operations. This was achieved in partnership with naval architect Robert Allan, shipyard Astilleros Gondan and classification society Bureau Veritas.
Further investment across the company could be hampered by the group’s finances, which have been impacted in the last four years by the downturn in the offshore oil and gas sector. Østensjø Rederi chief financial officer Håvard Framnes said the group is unlikely to generate a profit in 2018 because of the continued low rates in offshore oil and that two of its vessels in that sector were out of service during the year.
“On the other side, the towage segment is doing very well and has become the most profitable part of the group,” he said. Østensjø’s finances were secured through a reorganisation of the legal structure of the group in the last two years. Mr Framnes said the company “had a sustainable debt level and a satisfactory cash position, this makes the group financially relatively well positioned.”
However, he followed this by stating that “it will be important to continue the restrictions on expenses and investments” to overcome the challenges ahead. These will continue to come from the group’s offshore oil and gas support activities where the market remains tough for owners, but less in renewables and towage. Which means, as Mr Walland said, Østensjø will be ready to take advantage of any growth opportunities that comes its way in the towage sector.
Østensjø Rederi fleet
Østensjø marine services portfolio
Østensjø Rederi operates a fleet of six azimuth reverse tractor tugs and six other tractor tugs with Voith Schneider Propulsion (VSP), plus eight mooring launches. All of its tugs are equipped with oil recovery and fire-fighting systems for immediate deployment in an environmental emergency. With this fleet, it is able to provide the following services:
Six of the tug fleet is registered in the port of Haugesund, of which four VSP tractor tugs –Ajax, Tenax, Velox and Vortex support operations at Equinor’s Sture oil terminal at Hordaland. Two azimuth reverse tractor tugs also registered in Haugesund – Silex and Vivax – provide support at the Nyhamna liquefied petroleum gas export terminal in western Norway. Another three azimuth reverse tractor tugs – Audax, Dux and Pax – operate in Hammerfest. Its Solent Towage subsidiary operates three tugs – Apax, Lomax and Phenix – in Southampton, UK.
Østensjø can also provide shore teams for terminal and port operations, plus mooring lines and equipment, mooring analysis and masters with towage and mooring experience. These masters can plan and prepare a scope of work and mooring procedures according to instructions from client and mooring analysis.
They can prepare a list of equipment, including certificates, attend and facilitate HAZOP meetings, co-ordinate instructions to and from pilots, tugs and shore teams. Masters can also act as mooring supervisors to the shore team, prepare mooring master reports and arrange harbour and coastal towage permits.
|ØSTENSJØ REDERI TUG FLEET|
|Type||Year built||Registered port||BP|
|Audax||azimuth reverse tractor||2017||Hammerfest||100|
|Dux||azimuth reverse tractor||2017||Hammerfest||107|
|Lomax||azimuth reverse tractor||2012||Southampton||80|
|Pax||azimuth reverse tractor||2017||Hammerfest||108|
|Silex||azimuth reverse tractor||1994||Haugesund||62|
|Vivax||azimuth reverse tractor||2008||Haugesund||80|
Dux, Pax and Audax particulars
Owner: Østensjø Rederi
Type: Escort tugs
Builder: Astilleros Gondán
Designer: Robert Allan
Design: RAstar 4000-DF
Operating: Statoil’s Melkøya LNG terminal, Norway
Length, oa: 40.2 m
Beam, mld: 16 m
Draught: 6.7 m
Max speed: 15 knots
Bollard pull: 107 tonnes
Engine: 2 x Wärtsilä 6L34DF
Propulsion: 2 x Schottel SRP 3030CP
Bow thruster: Schottel STT 170 T-FP