Ocean-going ships travel thousands of miles encountering a variety of weather and operational tests along the way, but the most challenging part of their journey is maneuvering through the narrow waterways and harbors to their port and finally to a berth. Crowded shipping channels and ports are a poor match for the mammoth tankers the length of a city block and jumbo cargo ships of today. It takes harbor tugs with speed, agility and power to handle these ships safely and precisely.
Tugboats handle two types of vessels: the ships that cannot maneuver in tight spaces and the barges, rafts, platforms or disabled ships that do not have their own power sources. Tugboats are basically large engines and props on small boats for the greatest maneuverability.
Early tugboats were steam powered; now most have diesel engines. In October, 2013, Professional Mariner reported the launch of the world's first LNG powered tugboat, the Borgøy. Norway's Statoil (the state oil company) entered it into service in November at its Kårstø gas terminal. Rolls-Royce, the engine's manufacturer, indicates that the lower fuel cost and cleaner running tug will be welcomed in near shore ports, where environmental pollution is a major consideration.
In 2014, some vessel classes will need to adhere to the US Environmental Protection Agency's higher Tier 4 standards to reduce pollutants. These include newly built commercial marine diesel engines above 600kW (1 HP = .746 kW).
AIS (Automatic Identification System) receiver-responder equipment has been a legal requirement since 2005 for all tugboats that operate in ports with vessel traffic services (VTS), that make international voyages, are over 26 feet in length or over 600 HP. This collision avoidance system sends data via two frequencies in the VHF marine band showing a vessel's location, the MMSI number, speed, course and other specifics to AIS equipped vessels and base locations. AIS is used by the US Coast Guard as well as Homeland Security for ship tracking for port security reasons.
In particular, tugs use this tool to identify other ship traffic, to hail ships, and to stay in touch with client ships. AIS makes it easy to track the progress of an inbound vessel and to predict an accurate meeting point. It also brings efficiency to crewing the tug by knowing if the incoming ship will be late or early.
In a January, 2013 article, Marine News reviewed industry trends covered in the annual Marcon International Tug Boat Market Report. At that time, of the vessels tracked in this report, 4,600 tugboats were in operation worldwide. The trends appear to point to replacement of older tugs with newer built vessels that have engines in the 6,000-7,000 HP range. A record 758 tugs were for sale worldwide (up 19.7%), some older but many newbuilt.
In June, 2013, Professional Mariner described the tug industry as growing after a four-year stagnant period. The reasons for this activity include replacement of aging tugboats as well as the need for larger, more capable tugs driven by an increase in tanker and cargo ship size, as well as the impending opening of the new Panama Canal locks. Tugboat builders along the Gulf of Mexico are particularly busy.
Bigger ships require more powerful tugs. Before container ships grew to an average of 1,200 feet long and 160 feet on the beam, tug owners were satisfied with 5,000 HP engines. Now, 6,000-7,000 HP is on everyone's radar.
PortVision provides harbor tug management systems that support scheduling, job management, invoicing, and fleet management. Our Fleet Management System supports wheelhouse activity logging, crew management, and full data integration from the fleet to shore. Want to take your harbor tug operation to the next level? Then let’s talk.