Saturday, December 15, 2012

Naval Large Tug Construction Project

As reported in Halifax Shipping News last week the Canadian government has issued a “Price and Availability Enquiry” for the acquisition of new naval large tugs. In a Notice on the Public Tenders web site MERX, the navy is seeking to acquire six new tugs to replace five Glen class tractor tugs and two fire boats. The tugs will be stationed at the naval dockyards in Halifax and Esquimalt.

1. Glenside is the larger of two classes of naval tugs currently in service.

The current fleet of “large” tugs consists of two Glens at Esquimalt, three Glens in Halifax and one fireboat at each. All were built in 1977-78. The Glens are 1750 bhp Voith-Schneider water tractors, and the fireboats are 750 bhp firefloats with very minor tug capability.

2. Firebird's fire fighting capability can be combined in with that of a tug.

The new tugs are to be under 33m loa, with 40 tonne bollard pull and 4,000 bhp with FiFi1 (the lowest level) fire fighting capability, and 12 knot speed. They are to perform the usual dockyard berthings of ships up to 25,000 tons [displacement]. No mention is made of coastal towing which the current Glens are tasked to do from time to time, or a towing winch. No mention is made of preferred propulsion systems, but azimuthing stern drives seem to be the most likely.

To quote the notice “ it is expected that commercial tug designs currently in service will meet all requirements... with minor or no modifications.”

The speculation then is, who will respond to this offer and what will they propose?

In eastern Canada there are only two yards with recent, significant tug experience.
3. Atlantic Willow 4,000 bhp, FiFi1 would seem to meet the RCN's requirement, except perhaps in length. (See also earlier post from today for another picture of the same tug.)

1. East Isle shipyard in Georgetown, PE, part of Irving Shipbuilding Inc, although idle for the last two years, built in excess of 30 tugs of a design similar to what is wanted. The last tugs built were 5,000 bhp, ice capable, which are only a bit bigger and more sophisticated than the P&A Enquiry is asking for, however they would easily accommodate the 4,000 bhp engine package, as the earliest tugs in the series had that power.)
4. Point Valiant is the right size and power, but lacks firefighting, which could be added.

2. Industrie Océan in Ile-aux-Coudres, QC, which has built several 4,000 bhp tugs, which would seem to meet this requirement exactly. (Ectug’s Point Valiant, one for export and five to their own account - one to be delivered this fall.).
5. Seaspan Falcon was built on the west coast, but in 1993.

3. No yard on the west coast has built anything like this in some time. The most recent large tugs for BC owners were built in the US or Turkey..(Seaspan Falcon, 1993: 3,000 bhp was an earlier design to the Océan-built tugs)

6. World War II emergency single screw steam tugs were built on the Great Lakes and elsewhere.

4. The marginal yards, such as Davie, will likely jump in with both feet, citing fifty year old experience as relevant, or that they can built anything. I would be very cautious about such claims.

The navy is certainly not seeking to break any new ground with this Enquiry. No mention is made of hybrid or other energy efficient propulsion systems, which would certainly be warranted for tugs with this kind of duty, where the maximum power is needed so infrequently and for such short periods, that going with conventional power systems seems irresponsible to me.

Yes the navy may have to pay a premium for such novelty, but given the life of the current tugs, the payback would be significant over a 35 to 40 year service life for the new ones.

The current tugs were very advanced state of the art when they were built (azimuthing stern drives had not been developed at the time) and the new ones should be too. Just buying off the shelf does not seem to me to make good sense.

My advice: get with it Public Works Canada and Royal Canadian Navy, and get green! Also built some tugs with slightly higher ultimate high end power, say 4,500 to 5,000 so that they might be of use in Halifax harbour in case of an emergency. My solution: the Z-Tech tug of Robert Allan design. Scores are working around the world, including the port of Singapore and the Panama Canal. But add the hydrid option.
It has many of the capabilites of the current V-S tugs, it does not require a separate towing winch, which a conventional ASD would, fire fighting can be added with ease, and hydrid (such as Aspin Kemp's diesel /battery/electric) can be added. Added benefit? Canadain design, Canadian technology and Canadian built. Can't go wrong!

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