The need for greater power for handling bigger vessels is driving the tug orderbook forward, says Barry Luthwaite
The tug industry is enjoying a bullish period, with demand for various types providing welcome business for smaller builders. Almost 100 tugs greater than 20 m in length have been ordered in the space of one year. The reasoning behind much of this is a requirement for more power to handle bigger ships.
Many ports throughout the world have ageing tug fleets and are forced to charter in vessels to cover towage. Orders have been placed for 90 t bollard pull tugs with some negotiations underway for 95-tonne units and even a few in excess of 100 tonnes in due course. This is also brought about by the versatility of roles today’s modern designs are expected to fulfil.
Europe has gained strongly for new business centred on big vessel escort and towage in ports and at offshore terminals. Vancouver based Robert Allan continues to derive great success from commissioning of its specialist designs world-wide. In a latest move the designer was responsible for evolving a new hybrid –powered icebreaking escort tug which will be built at Gondan, Spain for the Port of Lulua in Sweden. Robert Allan has built on experience in icebreaker designs for severe ice conditions in Canadian ports to offer the Swedish port a new vessel known as the TundRA 3600-H.
The tug will feature a hybrid propulsion system featuring two diesel main engines, shaft motor/generators plus electrical battery energy storage. A 90-tonne bollard pull is possible running with two engines and up to 55 tonnes with a single engine performance. Operational performance is enhanced by battery infrastructure utilising shore electrical connection for recharging of batteries. Significant fuel, emissions and maintenance cost savings will be achieved.
Gondan is one of the most successful tug builders in Spain. The builder recently delivered a trio of powerful 108-tonne bollard pull escort and towage tugs for Norway’s Ostensjo, which will serve Statoil’s LNG terminal at Hammerfest. These tugs each incorporate a dual fuel arrangement of two 6L34DF engines from Wartsila.
Scandinavia is well equipped with infrastructure to provide LNG refuelling being one of the best in the world for shore based installations. Combined power on each vessel will total 7,344 bhp when running both engines. Mindful of technological advances Wartsila has now launched a new portfolio of HY Tug designs featuring LNG technology. Over 1,000 tugs incorporate Wartsila’s hybrid propulsion technology producing impressive results in cost savings and meeting environment legislation.
While the use LNG fuel makes slow progress on deepsea ships it is now gaining significant ground in the towage industry. The future will see utilisation in greater numbers of diesel mechanical hybrid or diesel electric hybrid propulsion covering 40-90-tonne bollard pull strengths. Shipyards globally can expect the boom in ordering to continue as more ageing tugs with less powerful bollard pulls become redundant in the age of bigger ships.
Damen Shipyards Group continues to make great strides with its portfolio of tug designs many of which are built on a stock basis enabling a short fitting out time of around eight weeks to commissioning. Azimuth stern drive (ASD) tugs remain ever popular from the Damen stable.
Albwardy Damen just completed an ASD 2411 design that offers a 70-tonne bollard pull with main power provided by two Caterpillar 3516C engines. Statistically the newbuilding boom is underlined by a global order backlog of 214 tugs. This is dominated by the USA with 43 units although virtually all will be built for domestic owners under Jones Act subsidy.
Many of these will support the shale oil revolution and the handling of bigger containerships and tankers. Turkey goes from strength to strength as the second largest builder with 23 units, but the difference here is that all will probably be sold for export after starting out as builder’s account. Svitzer is the biggest customer and the sole builder is Sanmar, which holds an almost exclusive tug design portfolio with Robert Allan. Environment regulatory compliance in ports will dictate yet more orders in the future highlighting a positive market.