Saturday, May 7, 2011

What next for East Isle Shipyard?

1. First tug in the 36 tug series of similar tugs was Atlantic Spruce (i) seen here 1996-04-07.

2. The same tug on the Dartmouth Marine slip 1997-03-28. An escort skeg was retrofitted after it was sold to Norwegian owners.

3. After a break-in period with Atlantic Towing, the tug was sold to Johannes Ostensjo of Norway, and renamed Felix. It is seen here 1997-04-20, the day before sailing to Norway, where it is still in service.

With delivery of the tug Océan Ross Gaudreault to Groupe Océan of Quebec City this week, there are questions about what might be next for Irving Shipbuilding's East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PEI.
The long run of tugs to essentially the same pattern has evolved into ice class / escort / fire fighters, but now seems to be over, with no orders in sight. Atlantic Towing has apparently got enough tugs for now (a spare would be a really good idea, but there is no word of it.) There has also been talk of a hybrid tug, but no official announcement for construction has been made.
As suggested in this blog a newer generation of tug, such as the popular Z-tech, built under license in several other yards, might also be a winner to replace the now aging design that East Isle has been using. Developed originally by Robert Allen in the mid 1990s, East Isle has fine tuned it based on Atlantic Towing's experience and the needs of other customers. However a 5,000 bhp ASD tug now has limited markets. (Seaspan in Vancouver has purchased terminal tugs in Turkey of a more sophisticated Robert Allen design, with up to 6,000 bhp.)
At least two other tug owners in eastern Canada could certainly use new tugs (two new tugs for two operators) not to mention the navy, as previously posted.
Groupe Océan with six tugs from East Isle seems poised to built a Rotor (3 drive) tug at its own yard under license from Rotor Tugs (Kotug) in the Netherlands, as an escort tug for the Rabaska gas terminal. That would be a 7500bhp tug. They would be an unlikely potential customer for more orders from East Isle.
However I can see a need for 7 to 10 potential new tugs in the next few years, but no one is ordering for now. Groupe Océan did not view the Irving ownership of East Isle and Atlantic Towing as an impediment when it needed tugs, and so this would not seem to me to be too big an issue for Atlantic Towing competitors who might need tugs.
East Isle has built components for Halifax Shipyard projects, and may still do so, so it is certainly not the end of the yard. However a run of 36 tugs between 1995 and now is certainly a record no other yard can come close to matching. Starting with the Atlantic Spruce (i) a 4,000 bhp ASD, it has been quite a run.


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