The second half of 2012 unfolded in much the same way as the first six months for SMIT’s towage operations in Europe. In Rotterdam-Europoort, business was steady in the core areas of bulk carrier and containership movements, with the second half encouraging in terms of the number of “specials” assisted. This was a period when many platforms and jack-ups were involved in maintenance and drydockings.
In Zeebrugge - where SMIT secured a new, seven-year concession for harbour towage at the end of 2011 - there were signs of revival in the LNG sector. Yet, taken overall, LNG in Europe remains under pressure, given strong demand in Japan. Equally, the signs of recovery now evident at Zeebrugge are also reflected, to some extent, by improved LNG throughputs in Rotterdam. In the container sector, both Zeebrugge and Antwerp suffered somewhat due to the decline in Asian markets. At the same time, business levels at Liverpool held firm during the second half, boosted by the additional activity linked to offshore projects and associated barge traffic. In response, a sixth tug reinforced SMIT’s Liverpool fleet until the end of the year.
New operational structure
Recent new developments in SMIT’s harbor towage operational management in Europe have reduced the number of SMIT Coordination Centres (SCCs) from three to two. The remaining SCCs are located at Antwerp and Rotterdam. The latter is now also responsible for the operational management of activities at Terneuzen, Flushing and Ghent.
These streamlined control arrangements provide more efficient despatch over the entire operational region, which is now managed as a single port area. The focus on Antwerp and central Rotterdam, as control centres, marks the first step towards the creation of a single virtual management centre from these bases - each handling business at any of the region’s ports as a matter of course and in a seamless manner.
There have also been changes in SMIT’s towage fleet composition in Europe. These follow on from the addition of the two Singapore-built, 85 tonnes bollard pull tugs Smit Emoe and Smit Kiwi. Both are now working at Zeebrugge. These tugs were named at a joint ceremony at Zeebrugge on September 29. Their arrival freed the Union Emerald and Union Ruby for deployment elsewhere in North West Europe, triggering various re-deployments introducing more powerful tugs. Furthermore, a bareboat-chartered Damen 3213 tug has joined the Zeebrugge fleet, which now consists of the 96 tonnes bollard pull tugs Smit Lion and Smit Tiger, the Smit Emoe and Smit Kiwi and the 65 tonnes bollard pull Union Coral and Union Pearl.
There have also been changes in training arrangements for SMIT Harbour Towage tug crews in Europe. This is now focused entirely on simulator facilities in Antwerp, which are used to train tug crews and pilots. The two 320 degrees simulators will train SMIT’s new generation of tug Captains. These simulators provide training on all tug types now operating in the SMIT fleet.
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