A contract has been signed for two new tugs for Orkney Islands Council's Marine Services.
The design and build contract for the 32-metre tugs was secured by Sanmar Shipyards of Turkey.
Construction is due to take place at Sanmar’s new specialist tug building facility, all of which is undercover, at Altinova about an hour south of Istanbul.
Delivery of the first tug is due around May 2020, with second tug three months after that. The names of the new tugs will be decided by public vote in due course, but they are currently described simply as Orkney 1 and Orkney 2. They will each cost £6.1 million.
The Council’s Marine Services team currently operates three tugs, each with a bollard pull of 55 tons.
The operation of tugs, with a full fire-fighting capability, is an essential component of the long running services provided to the Flotta oil terminal.
They are mainly used for Flotta tanker operations, but over their 30 years of life they have undertaken a broad range of other operations, including increasing Ship to Ship transfer business, cruise ship berthings, marine renewables device towing, and complex charter operations for oil-related vessels and platforms.
The tugs have also been involved in their fair share of emergency assistance operations and, though thankfully never used in the role, they are a crucial component in the marine pollution and fire-fighting response plan for the harbour area. Without the tugs, there would have been no oil port operation, an activity which has been a key economic driver for Orkney for over 40 years.
The current vessels have been worked hard and are now reaching the end of their useful lives in Orkney.
As a result, the Council approved the purchase of two new-build tugs to a modern design and to modern standards of safety, stability and operational capability.
Following a competitive procurement process, Sanmar was selected as the successful tender with Canadian Designer Robert Allan Limited’s RAstar 3200SX design. The new tugs will each have up to 80 tons of bollard pull and will be powered through two Rolls Royce azimuth stern drives with controllable pitch propellers.
They will have some specific features for Orkney’s conditions and operations, but the overall design is well proven world-wide. They will have a full fire-fighting capability, forward and aft winches and will be much more capable than the current tugs, further improving operational safety as well as increasing the operational flexibility available to the Harbour Authority.
Brian Archibald, Head of Marine Services and the Council’s Harbour Master, said: “The current tugs have served us very well indeed for over 30 years and the three vessels, with their highly skilled crews, have provided an excellent service for Flotta and other marine business at the highest standards.
“Although the tugs have been expertly maintained, they are now approaching the end of their useful life in Orkney and, in order for Scapa Flow to maintain its faultless safety record and to continue to thrive as an income generator for our islands, the new tugs are essential.
“We are replacing two now and will work on the best solution to replacing the third tug over the next 12 months or so. I am delighted that we have selected Sanmar as the yard to build these two new ships - I was highly impressed with their modern facilities, design team capabilities and quality of workmanship I observed when I visited the shipyard in December.
“They have an excellent reputation as one of the top builders of tugs worldwide and I look forward to working with them over the course of this contract.”
Councillor Graham Sinclair is Chair of the Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee. He said: “We are proud of the services we have provided to Flotta over the decades and that we will continue to do this at the same time as establishing Orkney as the pre-eminent location for ship to ship operations in northern Europe, with 66 operations last year.
“This growth along with the Flotta operation would not be possible without world class tugs and crews and this success means that now is the time to invest in this essential equipment.
“This will allow the Council to make the most of current and future marine business opportunities and this will enable harbour operations to continue to cover the full costs of the Marine Service operations as well as where appropriate providing a return to the Strategic Reserve Fund, which in turn provides the opportunity for the Council to maintain services as a whole at a time of financial challenge.
“Over and above this, I have responsibility for the safe operation of the harbour and these new tugs are essential to maintaining our reputation for safety. The design expertise and skills of Sanmar in building the new tugs means that we can look forward to the arrival of two fantastic new vessels and I very much look forward to seeing them operate in local waters in 2020.”
Ali Gurun, from Sanmar Shipyards said: “We are proud to be building these two superb Robert Allan Limited design tugs for Orkney. We have visited the port and spent time with the team and the crew and tried to understand the operational needs of the area. As a result, we have suitably modified the design with our designers not only according to the tender requirements, but also according to the demanding conditions of Orkney.”
Marine Services is also in the process of purchasing a new pilot vessel from Spain. This already under construction and should arrive in August this year.