Home' Work Boat World : November 2016 Contents As we get older, we tend to become more confused and
muddled. I know, because it seems to be happening to me. My
wife claims to have detected the symptoms shortly after we
were married, but she is a notorious troublemaker so we can
ignore her opinions.
The latest manifestation of this worrying slide into total
confusion appeared when I decided to find out how many tugs
there are. After all, somebody must know and all things known are
on the Internet somewhere, so a convenient search engine was
engaged and off I went.
After bouncing around in cyberspace for a very long time I was
no closer to an answer – at least, not an answer in which I could
place any trust. One paper claims there are 17,917 tugs worldwide,
with an average age of 20 years , which seems not unreaso nable
until you look at the figures in more detail. The paper says the
largest fleet is in Indonesia, where there are 3,516 tugs at an
average age of nine years. The number might be reasonably
accurate – I have found nothing to contradict it – but the average
age is a bit of a problem for me because I have been to Indonesia
and seen some of their tugs. According to the paper, the average
tug in Japan is more than 50 per cent older that its Indonesian
counterpart and this seems unlikely even in my confused state.
The known unknown
Second in fleet size is a country called Unkno wn, which has
1,760 tugs averaging 25 years old. Now I am really confused. If you
don’t know anything about Unk no wn, how can you count the
tugs? How do you know they are there? Are they ASD
The next-largest fleet, we are told, is in the USA where 1,487
tugs disport themselves (and have been doing so for generations, if
the average age of 34 years is to be believed). Given the restrictions
of the Jones Act, I suppose it might even be true.
Reading the small print, the figures relate only to seagoing tugs
over 100GRT, which implies that harbour tugs and most of Canada
are excluded. In other words, they don’t count the tugs I was really
interested in (the harbour tugs, not Canada). I expect they do,
Based on these figures, we can say with total uncertainty that
the average tug lives to be 40 years old. People in New Zealand will
have no trouble believing this unlikely figure and I ask the rest of
you to suspend your disbelief so I can finish writing this column
and get paid.
Number of new tugs needed
So if there are 17,917 tugs each living to be 40 years old, it can
be seen that we need to build 448 new tugs each year just to
replace them. This is roughly the number cited in the statistics.
Eight new tugs every week, then, just to top up the fleet. If you
allow a bit to cover the growth in world trade we probably need 10
new tugs every week to satisfy demand. No wonder tug builders are
generally such cheerful fellows. And let’s face it, they do turn out
some beautiful vessels. I have been particularly impressed in recent
months by some of the tugs being built in Russia – nothing
revolutionary, you understand, but communism has passed away
so they no longer have to be – just fine looking vessels which
seem entirely fit for purpose.
And the nice thing is that our business does not really suffer
from the boom and bust cycle so eloquently described each month
by my neighbour Hieronymus in his reports about the offshore
industry. Nor are we immediately affected by changes in the Baltic
Indices which spread such gloom among the operators of mighty
seagoing vessels. People still need to eat and drive to work, so vital
commodities still move in and out of port. Tug activity may
fluctuate, but most of us keep our jobs – even the bone-idle types
who merely write about tugs.
The future seems assured
So long as people continue to breed like rabbits we are fairly
safe. Overpopulation and contempt for the environment will
eventually wipe out life on Earth, but we will continue to operate
until that happens. Perhaps the last people on the planet will be a
tug crew, waiting at the pilot station for an unmanned bulk carrier
which never arrives. At least they will know how many operational
tugs there are, which is more than I know.
In my dotage, I am remarkably pleased that I was once
seconded to a tug company. It was only going to be for a few
months, but somehow that stretched into 20 years and was mostly
a lot of fun. Last week I saw one of the tugs we built during those
years and she still looked good to me – workmanlike and not
suffering at all from being tied up alongside a newer tug designed
by one of the major industry players. I was just glad I don’t have to
confused about that!
With ALAN LOYND
10 November 2016 WORK BOAT WORLD
10 TUG:Layout 1 17/10/16 6:10 PM Page 10
Links Archive October 2016 December 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page