Shoalbusters keep getting bigger - By Jack Gaston

Tarka, an early Shoalbuster 2409 built in 1996, was an operated by Herman Sr BV and replaced in 2004 by a larger 2609 of the same name.
Statum, a Shoalbuster 3009, will be joined by an identical sister ship Vilgilar in April of this year.
Sea Bravo is the largest Shoalbuster to date
The powerful MCS Lenie, a Shoalbuster 2709, is at work on the London Gateway project.
A new Bever for Viegers has been ordered to a new 36m Shoalbuster 3612 design.

Of all the new tugs reported on in Maritime Journal it is the Damen Shoalbuster that consistently attracts attention. The reason is that since the first prototype was completed in 1995 the Shoalbuster has become an increasingly popular design that continues to evolve, often in spectacular fashion.

This report reinforces that view. Over a period of just a few months several examples of this popular Damen product have been delivered to their owners and each is different and noteworthy.

The Shoalbuster was originally designed and developed as a joint project between Damen Marine Services and their neighbours, the Damen Shipyard at Hardinxveld in the Netherlands. The primary aim was to produce a vessel that would enable marine contractors to operate on site in shallow waters, carry out a wide range of lifting, anchor handling and transportation services, yet also have a significant coastal towing capability. Since the introduction of the first vessel ‘Shoalbuster’, designated the Shoalbuster 2309, development has continued unabated and to date approximately 35 vessels have been built in a variety of sizes (from 19m to 32m in length) and configurations. Throughout the life of the Shoalbuster project the design process has been driven by the needs of Damen’s various clients in the dredging and marine civil engineering business.

A real breakthrough came in 2004 with the first three tugs of a new Shoalbuster type, the 2609. Although all of the major features of the original shallow draft design were retained, the new tug had a raised foredeck, a redesigned superstructure and more power, all of which were required to enable the vessels to comply with Bureau Veritas classification and meet Dutch Shipping Inspectorate rules for ‘Unrestricted’ and GMDSS Area 3 operation. These compliances enabled the Shoalbuster 2609 to carry out all of the duties associated with a shallow draft tug but also to undertake deepsea towage operations with contracting plant. Although Shoalbusters of the original design regularly carry out coastal and short sea operations, restrictions placed on maximum distances (in some cases 60nm) from a safe haven were no longer acceptable to some operators. Named Amstelstroom, Tarka and Camperduin, this first trio built to the 2609 design led to several further orders and the continuing development of seagoing variants.

The most recent deliveries reflect that further development and serve to illustrate that there may still be considerable ‘mileage’ in the Shoalbuster design.

On last day of October 2008 the Shoalbuster 3009 Statum was christened in Makkum, home port of the Dutch tug owner Rederij Engelsman Towage & Salvage (Maritime Journal Ship Shot - December 2008).Statum replaces the owner’s shallow draft anchor handler Dutch Partner and will be followed by a sister ship, the Vigilant, in April of this year. The first Shoalbuster 3009, the Giessenstroom, was produced in 2006 and customised to a high degree for Van Wijngaarden Marine Services BV.

On 21 November 2008 the largest Shoalbuster yet, designated a 3209, was handed over to brokers and marine contractors Seacontractors of Flushing. The delivery of Sea Bravo followed that of Sea Alpha, a Shoalbuster 3009, to the same operator just seven months earlier. The order for Sea Bravo was placed at that time. It is an imposing vessel and when seen by your correspondent being fitted out in Gorinchem a few weeks before delivery, it was difficult to imagine that this tug was developed from such humble beginnings.

Sea Bravo measures 32.08m in length with a beam of 9.10m and a maximum draft of 3.20m. Two Caterpillar 3512 B TA main engines produce a total of 3,300bhp to drive twin Van Voorden fixed pitch propellers of 2,250mm diameter via Reinjes WAF 772/1/6 4.4:1 gearboxes. On trials this propulsion system gave the tug a bollard pull of 42 tons and a maximum speed of 11.6 knots. A 350 horsepower bowthruster is located within the central push knee structure, in the normal way.

In all other respects Sea Bravo embodies all of the features normally found in the original Shoalbuster design. A massive hydraulically powered Ridderinkhof towing and anchor handling winch, is a twin drum machine of the ‘waterfall’ type. The lower, anchor handling, drum is capable of a maximum line pull of 100 tons at 5m per minute and accommodates 60m of 51mm diameter steel wire rope (SWR). The towing drum has a line pull of 50 tons at 10m per minute and carries a 900m towline of 40mm SWR. Other deck equipment includes an 8 tons capacity tugger winch and the usual deck crane. In this instance the crane is a Heilla HLRM 140.000-4 SL capable of being controlled remotely via a wireless link or locally.

Immediately after delivery Sea Bravo assisted Multraship with the successful refloating of the rock barge Armour Rock grounded in the Dutch Islands. Seacontractors has a long term bareboat charter, with a purchase option fixed with Iron Offshore. The tug will work on a wreck removal operation in North Africa. That project has been temporarily delayed leaving Sea Bravo free to pursue other work in the meantime.

Just one week after the Sea Bravo delivery and naming ceremony,  the Damen Shipyard at Hardinxveld handed over the new MCS Lenie to Maritime Craft Services (Clyde) Ltd  a little ahead of schedule. The owners are by no means strangers to the Shoalbuster and this time the vessel concerned is a 2709. This variant was first introduced in 2007 with the delivery of Bever to Viegers and Son Tugboat Services of the Netherlands.

The reason for the additional one metre in length was to allow more powerful Caterpillar 3512 B TA/A engines to be fitted, increasing the total power available to 3,000bhp at 1,600rpm. A further bonus is that the additional length, inserted amidships, enables a ‘waterfall’ style winch to be fitted. In all other respects the tug is almost identical to the Shoalbuster 2609.

MCS Lenie has a bollard pull of 39.5 tons at MCR and a free running speed of 11.6 knots. The deck equipment is very similar to the larger Sea Bravo. The crane is a Heila HLRM 140-4S and the Ridderinkhof anchor handling and towing winch has a similar performance but at a slower speed. A set of WK Hydraulics triple-pin type tow pins are installed, along with a Bevini tugger winch and an 850mm x 650mm moonpool fitted with a small winch. The latter was an essential last minute addition for the vessel’s first charter.

The new MCS Lenie is one of a growing number of vessels being engaged to work on the huge London Gateway project in the Lower Thames. The tug has been chartered by Dredging International to carry out survey and support services during the important dredging phase of the project and started work immediately after Christmas. In common with previous Shoalbusters, there is ample provision on board for the specialist survey electronics equipment required, in this case provided by the client.

Last but not least, Viegers and Son Tugboat Services has ordered what will be the largest variant yet to be produced, a Shoalbuster 3612. The design of this new vessel is very much a collaborative project between the design staff at Damen Shipyards, Hardinxveldt and Mr Thijs Viegers, the operator.

This will be a very large tug but one that is still based on the original Shoalbuster concept. Apart from the new extended length of 36.50m, the beam has also been increased to 11.60m and the draft to 4.22m. A pair of Caterpillar 3516 B TA/HD diesels will give the tug a total of 5,15bhp and a predicted bollard pull of 60 tons. The now familiar Ridderinkhof ‘waterfall’ double drum towing and anchor handling winch will be used but with the maximum brake holding load increased from 100 to 130 tons. One set of Karm Fork line handling gear, with a safe working load of 160 tons, will be installed to match the increased anchor handling ability.

This first Shoalbuster 3612 has already been allocated the name Bever. Completion of the hull and all major steelwork is due for completion by the end of December 2009 and delivery of the finished vessel in June 2010.

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