The French emergency towing and rescue tug Abeille Languedoc arrived in Brest France, August 2. After transferring some equipment to another tug, it was due to move to an adjacent dock where it will be broken up. Its retirement brings back a memory of seeing the tug close up and getting, what to me was an unforgettable photo.
Built in 1978 by Ulstein Hatlo in Ulsteinvik, Norway as the salvage tug Neptun Gothia, it was chartered the next year by the French Navy and operated by "Les Abeilles", the famous French towing company, then owned by Progemar. It was a 12,632 bhp vessel with a160 tonne bollard pull. Along with sister tug Abeille Flandre (the forner Neptune Suecia) they were to be available on 40 minute notice or on patrol to respond to emergencies. The need for such vessels became evident the year before when the disabled VLCC "super tanker" Amoco Cadiz drifted aground and spilled all 220,880 tonnes of its crude oil cargo into waters off Brittany. The ship had a malfunctioning rudder and was taken in tow by the large salvage tug Pacific, which happened to be in the area. Unfortunately the tow line parted and the ship grounded on rock pinnacles and broke up before a second line could be rigged. See more in Wikipedia: Amoco Cadiz
The French government reponded very quickly and established the Emergency Towing Vessel service to assist ships until commercial salvors could arrive on scene. In addition the Abeille Languedoc and Abeille Flandre, they commissioned construction, also in 1978-1979, of two more ETVS, Abeille Provence and Abeille Normandie. The latter two were replaced by more powerful tugs in 1987 and in 1990 joined Secunda Marine Services. Based in Halifax they were renamed Ryan Leet and Magdelan Sea respectively. Long since sold off, they were always an appealing sight.
In my opinion the latter two were much better looking tugs, but Abeille Languedoc and Abeille Flandre were impressive nonetheless.
In May 2000 while traveling between Jersey, Channel Islands and St-Malo, France as part of the International Tug and Salvage Conference, our boat was overtaken by Abeille Languedoc (at speed). The rendez-vous had been prearranged, and the decks were lined with photo takers, some of whom (and their cameras) were doused with spray as the tug passed. Those of us who managed to stay dry got the photo that heads up this post.
In recent years Abeille Languedoc has also been rescuing distressed migrants trying to cross the English Channel (La Manche) from France to England. The French government currently operates an ETV fleet of four big tugs, and the service has figured in countless emergencies and has saved many ships and many lives.