Damen Shipyards has secured a significant order for construction of six 32m Rotortugs for operation at Port Hedland on Australia’s west coast.

The six Rotortugs will be a widened version of the standard vessel (Damen)

The six Rotortugs will be a widened version of the standard vessel (Damen)

It what may be challenging times for the global towage industry, a succession of interesting news items has emerged recently from the Rotterdam offices of Rotortug BV. Of equal interest to industry watchers will be the now seemingly well-established relationship between Rotortug BV, Damen Shipyards and Robert Allan Ltd.

This relationship is suitably referenced with RT Evolution, an ART 80-32 advanced hybrid Rotortug built by Damen to a joint Rotortug and Robert Allan Ltd design, commissioned by Kotug and currently operating in Rotterdam.

Returning to this latest Rotortug order, the six vessels will be built for Pilbara Marine Pty Ltd (Pilbara Marine), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group Ltd and to be deployed at Pilbara’s operations at Port Hedland on Australia’s west coast, the world’s largest bulk export terminal from where between 165 and 170 million tonnes of iron ore are exported each year. Pilbara Marine was awarded a second towage license by Pilbara Ports Authority in May 2016 for towage services at Port Hedland.

The tugs selected are designated ART 85-32W, the ‘W’ notation referring to the model’s increased beam intended to provide additional stability during escorting operations conducted regularly at Port Hedland. They otherwise follow the conventional Rotortug principle of three azimuth thrusters, two in the bow and one aft. They will deliver 85 tonnes of bollard pull over both the bow and stern and 65% of this figure from amidships.

The tugs will be built at Damen’s Song Cam Shipyard in Vietnam with the first two scheduled for delivery at the end of October 2018, the remaining four due in early 2019.

Australia may be about as far away as you can get from the Netherlands but Damen has a notable presence there as Vincent Maes, area sales manager at Damen touches on: "Damen, as a world leader in the design and construction of tugboats, has been very successful in Australia for many years. This project underlines again that Damen listens carefully to our customers’ needs and that they value our superior quality vessels built for competitive prices, along with our technical expertise and after sales services".

Rebecca Hayward, legal manager strategic contracts/developments at Fortescue Metals Group, added: "After reviewing the market, Damen was an obvious choice because of its global reputation for outstanding quality leading to lower running costs, as well as its proven track record of delivering vessels on time, within budget. We are confident that our full operational requirements will be met by the new ART 85-32W design and are heartened by the fact that Damen will provide long term support here in Western Australia".

By Peter Barker