Tug Assist Developments; the need for solutions for tugs operating in waves



Johan H. de Jong, Marin, Wageningen, The Netherlands


The tug industry is busy and changing rapidly and good order books are being filled with interesting and innovative designs. Many developments are being driven by the end-users of the tug services. Important required services such as the standard harbour assist services are being challenged by the increasing size of containerfleets (dimensions and numbers), the high safety demands for LNG carriers and last but not least offshore offloading activities.

The first issue concerns larger vessels as they challenge existing port infrastructures (apart from the capacity issue) and require large, high speed sailing tugs (due to the high ‘dead slow’ speed of the large vessels which often have to leave the sheltered port to make a timely connection.

The second issue, to do with LNG services, also requires high speed assistance, needed quickly and efficiently and often combined with an escorting assist type of operation in case of an emergency. The offshore offloading services makes it necessary to stay out at sea, assist for longer periods (approach and staying berthed) and again operate in open sea with exposed conditions.

Many of the above aspects come together in Marin’s larger than ever Joint Industry Project (JIP) SAFETUG (30 participants) on the operation of tugs in waves. The project addresses both the escorting (high speed) type of assist as well as the berthing (low speed) assist in open, exposed waters, including issues such as fendering, winches and ultimate safety behaviour. The content of the JIP could be summarised as follows:



• To identify the relevant modes of tug-terminal operation in various operational contexts

• To quantify the appropriate operability envelopes while assisting in waves

• To quantify the operational effectiveness in waves

• To identify the relevant criteria per type of the operation

• To find the important factors in design, equipment and operation

The commitment of all parties involved in the tug-terminal operations is seen as essential for the success of this JIP. The integration of the various technologies and practical experience combined with the envisaged knowledge extension in this JIP, the issues of tugs operating in waves around terminals, can be taken forward. To enable this, the project is currently organised around a design and operations working group.


1. Framework of tug-terminal operations in the various working contexts.

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