German towage giants agree to merge

Rotterdam is just one port where Fairplay tugs are operating (Peter Barker) Rotterdam is just one port where Fairplay tugs are operating (Peter Barker)

Two of Europe’s leading towage companies, Bugsier and Fairplay are joining forces in the latest example of consolidation within an increasingly competitive towage industry.

With origins dating to 1866 and 1903 respectively, Bugsier Reederei and Fairplay Towage have rich histories and deep pools of knowledge and experience. Both companies have now agreed to merge and with each offering a broad range of services across similar sectors potential opportunities are now presented to take advantage of mutual synergies.

The move follows a similar tie-up between Smit Harbour Towage and Kotug merging their north-west Europe shiphandling towage services and can be seen as a response to an increasingly demanding and competitive market. Activities of each company include a presence in deepsea towage markets and with such operations often involving the offshore oil and gas industry both companies will have been dealing with consequences of the dramatic downturn in that sector.

The detailed wording of the agreement states both parties have signed a Letter of Intent that Fairplay Schleppdampfschiffs-Reederei Richard Borchard GmbH will acquire Bugsier Reederei und Bergungs Gesellschaft mbH & Co KG in the second half of 2017.

The timing is considered as favourable to both companies with increasing competitiveness of the market in north-west Europe. The merger will create a well-established network where the strong position of Bugsier in the German market will complement the similarly strong presence of Fairplay in other European countries. Bugsier is expected to contribute new business areas and expertise to Fairplay. The merger will see the availability of over 100 tugs in north-west Europe.

Both companies have already cooperated successfully in the area of emergency towing vessels and the move is seen as having potential to provide opportunities within that sector. The merger will see the availability of over 100 tugs in north-west Europe.

Reviewing each organisation individually, Bugsier Reederei has a presence in Hamburg and Bremerhaven, it also has a long history in the area of salvage including (along with Fairplay) being a member of the ARGE Küstenschutz organisation whereby the German government charters tugs for emergency towage provision along the German North Sea and Baltic coastlines. Like many other similar companies Bugsier is active in the offshore windfarm sector.

Headquartered in Hamburg, Fairplay Towage comprises a group of companies and as well as activities in Germany itself also has a presence at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Antwerp in Belgium and Szczecin, Swinoujscie and Gdynia in Poland. Fairplay’s deepsea and offshore towage services involve operations primarily between Europe, the US, Africa and the Mediterranean with activities for the oil and gas industries on a global scale. As with Bugsier it is the harbour towage division for which those forming the merger will have had foremost in mind.

By Peter Barker

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