Buffalo becomes a cornerstone of UK ship towage

Source: Tug Technology and Business

BUFFALO ( Source: KotugSmit.eu)

Kotug Smit Towage officially named its latest azimuth tractor drive tug in the UK as the joint venture’s sale to the Boluda Group continues.

Buffalo was named in Southampton, England, by container terminal operator DP World, Kotug Smit Towage and builder Damen Shipyards, on 15 May 2019.

This ceremony, witnessed by Tug Technology & Business, was conducted with the backdrop that 50/50 joint venture partners, Kotug International and Royal Boskalis Westminster, are selling this business to Boluda for around €300M (US$340M).

Buffalo is a 2018-built azimuth tractor drive tug. It was built by Damen Shipyards in Vietnam to an ATD 2412 design and Lloyd’s Register class for ship manoeuvring and escort. Its main employment is assisting container ships into DP World’s terminal in Southampton.

Kotug Smit Towage chief executive Rene Raaijmakers said the addition of Buffaloboosted the company’s fleet in the UK to 14 vessels, operating in Southampton, London and Liverpool.

He explained at the naming ceremony that Kotug Smit Towage invested in the fleet in Southampton for a strategic position.

“There was a need for networked solutions of suppliers in Southampton, so we felt it was our mission to support the container ship and terminal business,” he said. Kotug Smit Towage began operating in Southampton in Q2 2017.

“We wanted to be the cornerstone of the container business in Europe.” Mr Raaijmakers said.

He told Tug Technology & Business that the sale of the joint venture to Boluda remained on schedule and due diligence is continuing. In the meantime, safety is the joint venture’s chief focus.

“We are able to build communities,” he continued. “Towage is about people and safety, so we seek people that are committed to local ports and their operations.”  

Kotug Smit Towage had no personal injuries in the last 12 months. “We are committed to focusing on safety as our primary value,” Mr Raaijmakers said.

Buffalo captain Giles Innes agreed with Mr Raaijmakers that safety was the most important factor in towage as he explained some of the key issues he faces in daily operations.

Capt Innes highlighted overweighted heaving lines or not using a weight at all on a line can be a safety issue for tug crew. He told Tug Technology & Business his preference was to have a well-displayed weight on a heaving line that a person on a tug deck can easily see to avoid when it is thrown by the crew of an assisted vessel.

This minimises the risk of a deck-board accident and the need for the tug captain to manoeuvre too close to the ship’s bow. This reduces the risk of the tug being T-boned on the assisted ship’s bow, Capt Innes explained.

Buffalo has 72.5 tonnes of bollard pull that comes from its propulsion, which consists of two Caterpillar 3516C main engines and two Rolls Royce US 255 fixed pitch azimuth thrusters.

DP World UK commercial director Aart Hille Ris Lambers, whose wife (Petra Hille Ris Lambers) is became the lady sponsor of Buffalo, told Tug Technology & Business that 24-m azimuth tractor drive and azimuth stern drive tugs were ideal for operations in Southampton. “These are highly manoeuvrable around the harbour, even in tight port spaces,” he said. “Pilots like these tugs because they are highly manoeuvrable.”

Two or three tugs are required to tow and berth container ships of up to 22,000 TEU capacity at DP World’s terminal in Southampton, depending on the wind speed and other weather and current conditions.