Asian shipyards dominate tug contracting and Turkish yards pledge to build more speculative newbuildings as orders jump above 130 new units
Regional towage markets remain vibrant with new orders in 2018 nearly double last year’s business. Owners realise more modern and powerful tugs are required especially for ports receiving their largest-ever ships.
In Asia, this has been good news for smaller yards, particularly those in Indonesia and Malaysia that had fallen on lean times since the collapse of the offshore support vessel market. Tight building space and rising costs have seen owners ordering in relatively unproven shipyards.
Orders in Q3 2018 for units of more than 20 m in length reached an impressive 51 units bringing the total contracted in 2018 to 132, as of 4 October. This compares to 75 tugs contracted during the whole of 2017. There may be more in the small tonnage sector that remain under the radar as they are under construction at little-known shipyard sites.
If speculative newbuilding contracts are included, European yards dominated orders during Q3 2018. Of the 51 tug orders, 25 contracts were with European shipyards and 12 with Asian yards.
|Orders July-Sept 2018 >20 m|
Overall, the bullish industry is likely to continue in the immediate future with ports struggling to decide on contract hire or building their own vessels.
Owners of coastal and deepsea trading ships do not normally operate their own tug fleets, but one rare exception to this is Formosa Plastics Corp. It operates harbour tugs under its Taiwan subsidiary Mai Liao Harbor Administration Corp to serve Keelung and Kaohsiung ports.
This corporation has invested in its biggest ever expansion programme to receive seven newbuildings over 13-25 months. They will complement the current fleet of nine vessels when they enter service from 2019.
The PaxOcean group, which owns six shipyards in Indonesia, Singapore and China won the international tender to construct these newbuildings at its Graha Trisaka Industri site in Batam, Indonesia. Three 25-m long units will be delivered by mid-2019 and two 29.2-m units by the end of 2019. These will be constructed to Paxocean’s own SRP design.
Graha Trisaka will also build two 33.5-m tugs by May 2020. These mark a breakthrough in the Taiwan market for Canadian designer Robert Allan, which received an order to design a new type TRAktor 3100-V class tug after close co-operation with PaxOcean to win the shipbuilding contract.
The new design centres on Voith propelled tugs for harbour operations, tanker escort and offshore terminal duties. Propulsion for all seven will be provided by twin Niigata engines.
In Q3 2018, Malaysia-based Lighthouse Marine Shipbuilding gained orders for two harbour tugs from Tong Hang Marine for 2019 delivery. Rival shipbuilder Tai Tung Hing secured a contract to build a harbour tug for an unnamed owner to be commissioned in 2019.
Chinese shipyards secured business for 15 tugs in the first six months of this year with at least 10 commissioned through the year so far from pre-2018 contracts. A policy of speculative construction has been adopted in addition to catering for domestic port requirements.
Most of these are azimuthing stern drive tugs (ASD) designs with Robert Allan exerting a strong influence for unrestricted navigation ABS-classed units. Four ASD tugs were recently offered for sale with prompt delivery within a 2-3 month span ex-stock.
This is likely to prove a winning hand. Additionally, four ASD vessels were delivered in a month by Jiangsu Zhenjiang shipyard during August/September and are serving the ports of Fuzhou, Nantong Yangkou Port and Ningbo Zhoushan Port.
Demand from Chinese authorities for port tugs is likely to see a steady increase in acquisitions, all of which will be built in China. But export business may be a tougher nut to crack, although prospects are improved if designers, such as Robert Allan and Damen Shipyards, are on board.
Cheoy Lee in Hong Kong continues to receive a steady flow of tug orders, most of which are switched to construction by Hin Lee shipyard in China. For example, India-based Ocean Sparkle placed an order here for four 75-tonne bollard pull anchor handling units for delivery through 2019.
In India, Shoft Shipyard secured contracts to build two harbour tugs from the Indian Government. These will have 50 tonnes of bollard pull when they enter service, expected in 2019.
With the current depreciation of the Turkish Lira, there is a competitive advantage to ordering new tugs in the country. Sales are dominated by ex-stock tonnage built by Sanmar and Uzmar. It is often difficult to pinpoint how many tugs are on the orderbook of these two yards but the successful formula of building and then selling tugs continues to be a major asset ploy.
The latest owner to award Sanmar a contract is Norwegian company Bukser og Berging (BuBe), which returned for a single Robert Allan TRAktor 3000-class escort terminal tug specifically for the owner’s requirement in meeting a newly secured contract for towage duties in Scandinavia.
Classed with ABS the vessel will incorporate twin Tier III engines developing in total 4,500 kW of power. This ASD tractor type will deliver in Q1 2020. Five tugs were delivered to BuBe in 2014, two of which were the world’s first LNG-fuelled units.
Many owners prefer tractor design tugs for increased manoeuvrability in confined spaces. Sanmar recently delivered a quartet of Robert Allan Bigacay series of fire-fighting ASD tugs of RAstar 2900 SX designs.
They will join the Svitzer fleet and boast a bollard pull ahead of 90 tonnes with a free running speed of over 14 knots. MTU will supply the quartet each with two 2,700-kW main engines turning Schottel SRP560 CP Rudder propellers, while Caterpillar will supply the generators.
MTU confirmed this is the debut of high-speed engines fitted in this highly powered class. Previously it has only been possible to use medium-speed engines. Several owners have been looking at more powerful tugs nudging bollard pulls of 100 tonnes, so this may open the way for more such orders from MTU.
The quartet, named Svitzer Tanger, Svitzer Tetouan, Svitzer Chefchaouen and Svitzer Al Hoceima, will be the most powerful to serve in the Mediterranean at the Tanger Med 2 terminal. Sanmar added four tugs to its speculative building programme in Q3 2018. It currently has an order backlog of at least 21 tugs, but there are undoubtedly more for stock account under the radar.
Fellow compatriot Uzmar adopts a similar build for stock policy and holds an order backlog of at least 20 vessels so the two builders compete vigorously. During Q3 2018, Uzmar announced that 16 additional tugs would be built during 2019.
Med Marine also builds tugs for its domestic fleet and for export, having just completed a six-tug newbuilding campaign and is planning more newbuildings in 2019.
ASD tug Med XXIX, with Caterpillar main engines and Schottel azimuthing thrusters, joined the domestic fleet in September, following five others delivered earlier this year. Med Marine has another 10 tugs to build on the orderbook, plus nine mooring vessels and five pilot boats.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Spain’s SENER will design an LNG bunkering vessel to serve Italy and the Adriatic area. The LNG construction is a semi ballastable barge transporter combining an LNG-fuelled tractor tug pushing a 4,000-m3 LNG capacity non-propelled pontoon.
This tug will be available for multi-purpose duties including dual-fuel powered towage, escort, rescue, supply and salvage duties. It will have Voith propulsion and 65 tonnes of bollard pull.
The project is co-funded by the EU through the Poseidon MED II programme and the twin units will come under ownership of Rimorchiatori Riuniti Panfido. Construction is likely to be in Italy where tug construction has suffered through competition from Spain, Turkey and Asia. In Spain, shipyard Murueta secured a contract from owner Ibaizabal for a harbour tug that should enter service in 2020.
Brazil’s industry is slowly stirring after the collapse of its offshore business. More tugs are needed for shuttle tankers working in Brazilian offshore fields in the Campos Basin and elsewhere. Starnav placed an order at Detroit Brasil for eight powerful tugs for delivery up to 2020 and is a subsidiary of the shipbuilder.
Ibercisa won a contract to design, build and deliver a complete hydraulically driven deck machinery package including winches, chain stoppers, capstans and hydraulic power system for the vessels.
(1 October 2018)
Harbour tugs: 255
Tractor tug: 8
Salvage tug: 6
Pusher tug: 4
Other tugs: 14
|Tugs contracted 2018 >20 m|
|Top 15 contractors|
|Med Marine Towage||5|
|Cheoy Lee Shipyards||4|
|Kirby Inland Marine||4|
|Ocean Sparkle Ltd||4|
|Tianjin Port Bureau||4|
|Beneficial owner country||Number|
Data sourced from BRL Shipping Consultants