Damen’s new RSD Tug not just another ASD

The raised bow and stern are particular features of the RSD Tug 2513 (Peter Barker)
The raised bow and stern are particular features of the RSD Tug 2513 (Peter Barker)
The uncluttered consoles are suited for shiphandling in either direction (Peter Barker)
The uncluttered consoles are suited for shiphandling in either direction (Peter Barker)
The 13m beam allows for a particularly spacious engineroom (Peter Barker)
The 13m beam allows for a particularly spacious engineroom (Peter Barker)
A standard DMC winch and substantial staple is fitted forward (Peter Barker)
A standard DMC winch and substantial staple is fitted forward (Peter Barker)

As part of its European tour, Damen’s new Reversed Stern Drive Tug Innovation was presented to the press recently in Southampton.

Peter Barker went along for MJ to see first-hand this new addition to Damen’s portfolio. “We have had some very seriously interested customers and could actually have sold it in Italy”, the words of Damen’s sales manager Arjen van Elk when asked about the level of interest, suggesting the new design has been positively received by the industry on its grand tour of Europe which has seen it visit: Malta, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France. Following stops at ports in the UK it is visiting Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark to conclude its tour.

The occasion allowed the package to be examined more closely than just studying detailed specification sheets, the opportunity producing an interesting insight into often-overlooked specifics of how tugs such as this operate.

The RSD Tug 2513 is an intriguing example of how the design of shiphandling tugs has evolved over many years from traditional one-size-fits-all examples to today where permutations of hull shape along with machinery, thruster and winch type and location can be developed to produce vessels suited for specific operations.

Modern designs sometime make it difficult to establish which end is the bow, sometimes there is no bow and stern as such, the tug able to operate efficiently in either direction. The starting point for the writer in putting such shiphandling tugs into any sort of box is usually, which end and of what type are the thrusters, and which end is the winch assuming only one fitted.

Initial thoughts that this was surely just another ASD were corrected with Damen’s explanation that the rounded-hull shape, raised fore and aft (it has a visually pleasing sheer each end), one-metre raised freeboard midships and deep twin-fin skegs forward make it an ASD only through the thruster/winch layout, this is clearly an advanced design in many ways.

Innovation is described as ‘a powerful shiphandling tug for assisting all types of vessels. The RSD Tug 2513 is the first compact tug designed to work always bow first. Sailing ahead or astern, directly or indirectly, as a stern or bow tug, always in the safest position.’

As standard with Damen tugs various optional extras are available based on the basic design and when asked by MJ, Mr van Elk stated provision of a second winch aft is one such option allowing for towage operations over the stern. Vessel number one meets IMO Tier II standards with IMO Tier III, hybrid versions along with selective catalyst reduction included also an option to reduce emissions and make for a greener operation.

Innovation has an MTU/Rolls-Royce engine/thruster arrangement comprising twin 16V 4000 M63L main engines developing in total 4,480bkW (6,008bhp) driving Rolls-Royce US 255 azimuth thrusters with ahead performance figures of 74.3tbp and speed 13kn. Two Caterpillar C4.4 TA 81kVA gensets are also included as standard. A basic DMC split-drum winch is flush-mounted and integrated into the foredeck providing 31 ton pull up to 11m/min and a 175-ton brake load. Ahead of the winch is a substantial staple incorporating highly-polished stainless forepart. The RSD Tug 2513 can be supplied with a main engine-driven pump to meet fifi1 requirements and other options include provision of a folding mast

Innovation meets the builder’s usual high standards but unusually perhaps, when reviewing newbuilds, the first area to mention in detail is the accommodation.

Two single and one double cabin, all conforming to modern standards are provided, the design featuring a separate compartment between each cabin enhancing privacy, no banging on the bulkhead to turn the music down. On what was a particularly hot day, the air-conditioned environment in the accommodation was notable, another example of the modern trend to consider the welfare of arguably the most important component of such vessels, the crew.

Innovation is the first Damen tug to include a resiliently-mounted, flexible glued accommodation further improving the crew environment. This was evident on the exposed bridge deck noting the difference between holding the handrail on the deck-mounted stairway structure with the adjacent handrail on the separate accommodation with virtually no vibration compared to the deck-mounted structure.

Another example of this is in the wheelhouse. Moored alongside with one generator running the environment is virtually noise and vibration free. When the master started both main engines no difference at all could be felt in levels of noise or vibration as he maneuvered the vessel off the berth.

Good use has been made of the limited space in the wheelhouse. First impression is how uncluttered and basic (in a positive way) the control consoles are, much thought given to the ergonomics of the layout.

The now standard configuration of split-consoles with a central track-mounted seat is adopted, the layout biased towards bow operations with two monitors, radar and chart plotter mounted low down and out of the line of sight of the foredeck. The winch is controlled by two pedals so with a thruster in each hand and each foot controlling the winch one person will very much be in efficient control during the critical phases of shiphandling operations.

The consoles themselves are designed in such a way that only one angled display screen, on this occasion displaying the integrated Alarm, Monitoring and Control System (AMCS) illustrating the basic machinery and thruster data, is included in each console. The port side console screen is positioned forward for bow operations while the starboard console screen is at the aft end for when the operator faces that direction operating over the stern. AMCS monitors are located around the vessel including in the communal accommodation passageway on the main deck.

Another example of the thought that is going into the wheelhouse ergonomics is where the ‘press to talk’ button for the VHF radio, currently on the inside panel of one of the consoles is to be incorporated into one of the thruster controls such that the hand does not have to leave the controls. The master also explained quite positively that while it is ECDIS-capable Innovation was currently a paper chart vessel, no doubt for its current exploits around European waters.

Unless routed through the transom or elsewhere on the hull there is always the conundrum of how to minimise blind-arcs in the wheelhouse from the funnels which also of course require an element of tumblehome for when maneuvering beneath the flare of ships’ hulls. On Innovation the exhausts are virtually abeam of the driving position allowing a clear view over the important forward and aft decks.

The 13m beam allows for a particularly spacious engineroom, indeed it was explained that presentations to larger groups were usually carried out there rather than the comparatively less-spacious mess room we were able to fill comfortably.

Ease of access to the machinery was an important design requirement for maintenance and it was indeed particularly notable how accessible the main engines, thrusters and gensets where with clever use made of outboard spaces for the stowage of stores and spare parts.

With cloud-based remote monitoring, the RSD Tug 2513 is able to operate without a dedicated engineer, one of the crew trained to carry out basic maintenance.

The demonstration run (once clear of the busy Southampton waterway channels) included a demonstration of the vessel’s manoeuvrability. The crew were efficient in ensuring that everyone was ‘hanging on’ as it was put through its paces including crash stops, high-speed turns and spinning on the spot, manoeuvres that anyone watching ‘tug ballet’ demonstrations will be familiar with.

The power involved can only be experienced however with being on board, the expression ‘roller-coaster ride’ seeming to be an understatement. Unlike some such demonstrations witnessed (from on shore) by the writer however, throughout these manoeuvres, both the after and foredeck remained remarkably clean, the only experience of any spray as such being when it encountered its own wake.

As mentioned Innovation meets Tier II standard and vessel number two, a hybrid version, appropriately painted green and meeting Tier III standard was at the time of writing making its way to Marseille for an appearance at ITS 2018 which will be attended by MJ.

Experience will judge the eventual success of this intriguing new design and it will be interesting to see how Innovation, the new impressive addition to Damen’s portfolio fairs in a market that thrives on the challenge of innovation.

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