Foss cancels 10-tug order with Damen after closing Rainier yard

Foss
Courtesy Damen
Damen’s ASD 90 tugboat is an American version of its 2813 tug, shown here, which is 90 feet long with a 42-foot beam. Plans to build 10 ASD 90s with Foss Maritime are now on hold.

Foss Maritime’s recent decision to close its shipyard in Rainier, Ore., also has resulted in the cancellation of an agreement to build 10 Damen azimuthing stern drive (ASD) 90 tugboats.

The companies announced a memorandum of understanding in late 2017 to build 10 of the next-generation tugs in Rainier, some for Foss’ fleet and others for purchase. With the closing of the facility in July, the deal for the ASD 90s is off the table. Deliveries had been scheduled to begin in 2019.

Loren Skaggs, a spokesman for Foss, declined to provide many details about why Foss closed the shipyard, but said the decision had to do with internal business considerations.

“We are still an active partner in Damen, so we still plan on doing some things that we just can’t announce yet,” he said. “But we’re still working with them on some opportunities, and we are also still very much planning on building ASD 90s.”

A U.S. version of Damen’s ASD 2813 tug, the ASD 90 is designed to meet industry demands for bollard pull and multifunctional capacity. The boats, which have not yet launched in North America, have ship assist and offshore towing capabilities, according to Harriet Slager, a senior manager at Damen.

“It is a perfect evolution of our most successful ASD 2810, of which we have built (more than) 200,” Slager said.

According to Damen’s website, the ASD 2813 design offers a maximum bollard pull of 85 tonnes, compared to 60 for the ASD 2810. Using ASD 90 tugs could help towing and harbor services companies keep up with changing needs in container shipping, especially as neo-Panamax ships become more common.

“Pilots using the 7- to 8-knot dead slow power setting on the ultra-large containerships need tugs with at least 80 metric tons to retard the speed to a manageable 2 to 3 knots in confined waterways to maintain control of the ship,” Capt. Eric Von Brandenfels, president of the Puget Sound Pilots, said in an email.

As states move toward stricter emissions standards, ASD 90 tugs also may help vessel operators save money.

Stricter standards, especially on the West Coast, “will create a need to replace older vessels with modern vessels with EPA Tier 4 certificates. Additionally, these new and efficient (ASD 90) tugs allow for reduced operational costs, which will allow operators to replace older vessels,” Slager said.

Damen and Foss have discussed other potential projects to build tugs, Slager said, and Damen currently has an agreement with Foss subsidiary Young Brothers to construct four offshore towing vessels. However, Slager also indicated that Damen and Foss currently don’t have any plans to build ASD 90s together.

While the core of Foss’ tugboat fleet was constructed in Rainier, Skaggs said the company is not ready to announce where such work will go after the closure. The yard handled new ship construction for 15 years and 23 vessels were completed there, including the entire Dolphin class and Arctic class, he said.

Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole recalled that the shipyard employed as many as 50 people during busy periods. He said the city is open to finding a new tenant for the facility, which closed on July 24.

Even as Foss explores other maritime sectors like bunkering of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Skaggs said the company has no plans to desert its primary business line.

“Despite any other things that we do, the core thing that we are is a harbor towage company,” he said.

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