Svitzer's new ECO tug: the strong, silent type

Svitzer Boodie and her three sister tug vessels are designed to be powerful enough to tow around LNG tanker vessels the size of office towers, yet discreet enough to operate in a sensitive marine environment.


On a tug boat, the engine and the lights are primarily ­designed for power and safety. On Svitzer Boodie, Perentie, ­Dugong and Euro, Svitzer’s new ECO tugs, they are also ­designed with something else in mind: sea life.

“Barrow Island, 60 km off the coast of North Western Australia, is simultaneously a Class A nature and marine reserve and the site of some very important energy projects for Australia,” says Kim Caspersen, New-building Superintendent for Svitzer’s ­Singapore site office. “These tugs are designed specifically for ­operations in this type of sensitive ­environment.”

An unusual setting
The Svitzer ECO tugs are currently being built in Singapore’s ASL ­Shipyard. Starting in 2015 they will provide terminal towage services on contract to the Gorgon Joint Venture liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, operated by Chevron.

The Gorgon Project, located on Barrow Island, is one of the world’s largest natural gas projects and Australia’s single largest resource development project. The LNG produced by the plant on Barrow Island will be offloaded to LNG vessels via a 2 km-long jetty for transportation to international markets.

Svitzer’s customer, Chevron, has been operating oil facilities on Barrow Island since the 1960s. By working closely with ecologists and other experts, the company has maintained the integrity of the island with no animal or plant species lost or added since operations began. Svitzer’s job will be to assist in the berthing of LNG tankers at the jetty and unberthing once loaded with LNG, and is a good example of how Svitzer develops innovative customer solutions.

“Operational excellence and environmental sustainability were two of the most important factors in the bid for this contract,” says Alan Bradley, Chief Commercial ­Officer for Svitzer Australia.

“Chevron has a very long and successful track record of operations in this sensitive environment. We’ve been contracted to meet those standards, so the crews and the vessels have to be the best.”

Photo: Calvin Wu

Gorgon’s Flatback Sea Turtle Conservation

Flatback turtles, one of the world’s seven sea turtle species, breed on Barrow Island for six months of every year. Chevron and the Gorgon venture partners have committed more than AUD 60 million throughout the duration of the Gorgon Project, to establish a North West Shelf Flatback Sea Turtle Conservation Programme that will increase the protection of the flatback turtle population.

Not your typical tug
To minimise the impact that the tug operations will have on sea life in the area, including dolphins, whales, dugongs and one of the world’s seven species of sea turtles, the tugs are equipped with special features to minimise noise and light ­emissions.

As a hybrid diesel-electric, the ECO tugs combine a diesel engine with a giant, 5.5-tonne battery bank. The diesel-electric combination allows the tugs to switch power sources depending on operational needs and the sensitivity of the area.

With the diesel engine off, the battery bank can provide 525 kilowatts of power, enough to propel the tugs up to speeds of 6 knots – quietly – for 1.5 hours before recharging is needed. Combined with specially designed low-noise, low-wash propellers, the ECO tugs can move discreetly through the water when required.

Like noise, artificial light can be disorientating to sea life and, in the case of turtles, can prevent adults from laying eggs and hatchlings from reaching open water.
To keep light emission and reflection to a minimum, the outside of the tugs are painted with anti-reflective matt paint, and will be equipped on deck with low-spill, yellow sodium deck lights with low-water penetration and automatic shut-off cabin lighting.

New-building Superintendent, checks the 5.5-tonne rechargeable battery bank that provides quiet, emission-free power when needed. Solar panels (below) provide hot water.

Final preparations and naming
Work on the tugs is expected to be finished by early 2015, followed by preparation work, the Offshore Vessel Inspection Database and quarantine procedures, as well as an official naming ceremony.

All four tugs will be named after fauna native to Barrow Island’s Class A nature reserve and surrounding marine park: Svitzer Euro is named after a wallaby-like resident of Barrow Island; Svitzer ­Perentie after Australia’s largest monitor lizard; Svitzer Boodie after a small Barrow Island marsupial and Svitzer Dugong after a sea grass-munching mammal also known as a sea cow.