Permanent tugboats for the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and the Elbe

May 9, 2022

ARGE Küstenschutz, which is part of the Fairplay Towage Group, won a total of three tenders by the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (Wasserstraßen- und Schifffahrtsverwaltung des Bundes, WSV) in March. The emergency tugboats “Nordic” for the German Bight and “Baltic” for the Baltic Sea that are operated under the German flag, allow for the organisation’s successful operations to be continued seamlessly from July 2022. The syndicate also won the first-time tender for a permanently present tugboat for the Elbe.

It may be connected to the huge container vessel “Ever Given” running aground in the Suez Canal in strong wind almost exactly a year ago and the ever bigger container vessels of the megamax class operating on the federal waterway Elbe that the Elbe-North Sea Waterways and Shipping Office (WSA Elbe-Nordsee) drafted an invitation to tender for a permanently present tugboat in late 2021. The tender called for a permanently present tugboat to harbour in Stade-Bützfleth that must be available 24/7, and able to take off on a mission within 15 minutes. “From our fleet of more than 100 tugboats, the FAIRPLAY-35 was the perfect choice to match the required profile,” says Philip-Alexander Harmstorf, one of the Managing Directors of the Fairplay Towage Group. “We are very proud that based on winning this third tender by the WSV, we will be providing the FAIRPLAY-35 as a permanently present tugboat on the Elbe from 1 April 2022.” The Brunsbüttel-Elbe traffic control centre will hold mission command and the right of instruction for the FAIRPLAY-35 on behalf of the WSV Elbe-North Sea.

The chartered emergency tugboats “Nordic” and “Baltic” operate based on the emergency tow vessel concept that was put into effect by the federal government in 2001. To ensure that a damaged ship can be reached within no more than two hours, multi-purpose vessels operated by the federal government itself, are stationed in strategically selected locations along the German coasts of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea (Mellum, Neuwerk, Scharhörn and Arkona), in addition to the emergency tugboats Nordic and Baltic that are operated by Arge Küstenschutz and chartered by the federal government. An additional land-based towing assistance team* of four is available for the Nordic in the German Bight and the Baltic near Kühlungsborn, and can be winched down aboard a damaged vessel from a helicopter in case of an emergency, to ensure a safe towing connection.

Awarding of the assignment by the shipping authority means that the Nordic will continue its service on the North Sea from 1 January 2023 and the Baltic on the Baltic Sea from 1 July 2022 for at least another six years each, with an option to extend the contracts by another two years. This is also great news with regard to training under the German flag. In addition to its regular crew, up to ten ship mechanic apprentices and a training officer were aboard the Nordic on a regular basis in the past. The Fairplay Towage Group is the second biggest training provider in German maritime shipping and has received an award from the professional training association “Berufsbildungsstelle Seeschifffahrt e.V.” for its excellent training programme. “This is a concept for success that we are going to continue seamlessly, to keep setting industry standards with Fairplay’s training quality in the future,” says Holger Schwesig, who is also a Managing Director of the Fairplay Towage Group. He continues: “It is not uncommon in our fleet that staff members start as ship mechanics and move on to become captains.”

The permanently present tugboat for the Elbe was commissioned by the WSV for an initial term of one year, with an option to extend the term by another six months.