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Safeen expands tug fleet with three new orders

Tue 31 Oct 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Safeen expands tug fleet with three new orders
Safeen signed a contract for the delivery of two tugs from Sanmar (credit Martyn Wingrove)

The marine services subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports has ordered three tugs this year to increase its tug fleet to 12 vessels and expects to require more powerful tugs in 2018, writes Martyn Wingrove 

Abu Dhabi Marine Services (Safeen) is in the middle of expanding its fleet to meet the growing requirements of all port and terminal operators in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Safeen provides marine services both to its parent company Abu Dhabi Ports and to independent operators of jetties and port infrastructure in the UAE.

Safeen chief marine services officer Maktoum Al Houqani explained to Tug Technology & Business in Abu Dhabi the rationale behind the fleet growth strategy, which will expand to 12 tugs of different sizes ranging from 20 tonnes to 75 tonnes of bollard pull by the end of this year. These will include two azimuth stern drive (ASD) tugs Safeen ordered from Turkish shipyard Sanmar in September.

Next year, Safeen is highly likely to order more tugs to provide marine services to Abu Dhabi Ports’ expansion of the Khalifa container terminal as larger ships, up to Newcastlemax in size, will be calling at this port. “We are considering acquiring tugs with up to 85 tonnes of bollard pull and we will also be adding two more ASD tugs with 65 tonnes of bollard pull,” Capt Al Houqani said.

He said being part of Abu Dhabi Ports “is a great advantage for us” as this provides growth opportunities for the vessel owner, especially as Abu Dhabi Ports takes on more responsibilities in other areas of the Middle East. “We continue diversifying our business with new services and contribute to major projects abroad,” he said.

However, growth in ports business has not grown as fast as initially expected in the UAE and there are economic challenges that Safeen faces, including competition from other tug operators. “In the current economic environment where there are many players in the market, we reviewed our strategy for sustainable business and for continuing growth,” said Capt Al Houqani.

Part of this strategy was to diversify the fleet with purchases of three tugs this year for different types of port work. On 27 September, Safeen ordered two Yenicay-class 18.7 m ASD tugs from Sanmar, each with 32 tonnes bollard pull. They are based on Robert Allan’s RAscal 1800 design of harbour tugs and will each have two Caterpillar C32 main engines that each generate 969 kW at 1,800 rpm. These will drive Veth VZ-900 azimuthing stern thrusters, pushing these tugs to a top speed of 12 knots.

On the same day, Safeen signed a contract with Damen for a new 19 m conventional twin screw vessel. This Damen Stan Tug design will have a bollard pull of 28 tonnes.

Capt Al Houqani said these three tugboats are due to be delivered before the end of 2017 and should go into service in the Mussafah and Zayed port areas early in 2018. “These tugboats allow us more flexibility and engagement thanks to their different sizes and different designs,” he said. “They have an advantage due to their length and shallow draught, as they can get into tight spaces to support private owners of piers and jetties in different locations.”

“These tugboats allow us more flexibility and engagement thanks to their different sizes and different designs”

Safeen conducted a competitive tender for these tugs. “We asked many shipbuilders from around the world to tender,” he said, and Sanmar and Damen were chosen because Safeen had experience in operating tugs that were built by these shipbuilders in the past.

Its existing fleet is mostly composed of 24-25 m ASD tugs with bollard pulls of between 55 and 75 tonnes because of their manoeuvrability in ports. However, Safeen also has one tug with Voith propulsion and three with conventional screw propulsion. “We also have a Shoalbuster for multipurpose activities such as pushing, towing and anchor handling as well as for shallow water intervention,” said Capt Al Houqani.

Along with fleet expansion, Safeen is also extending the capabilities of its crew through training and simulation. It operates a training division and specialised learning centre that it also offers to other vessel operators in the Middle East. This centre is being expanded with the latest full-mission bridge and engineroom simulators. The bridge simulator will have 360º of view and the facility will have four tug simulators.

“This will be the most advanced training centre across the Middle East,” said Capt Al Houqani, who added that it will also be used for research and development of technology and marine services.

UAE digitalisation

Technology is an increasingly important aspect of Safeen’s operations, just as it is for its parent company. Abu Dhabi Ports has introduced a digital platform for exchanging information and improving transparency of port operations. Its customers, including cargo owners and shipping companies, can use the Maqta Gateway’s port community system for managing shipments, export and import operations.

Abu Dhabi Ports chief executive Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi said the Maqta Gateway’s port community system had “developed more than 100 efficient and easy-to-use services, which has further encouraged 100% adoption from our customers”. He added that this “new system has also succeeded in creating fully intelligent maritime services designed in Abu Dhabi”.

During the Seatrade Offshore Marine & Workboats Middle East conference in Abu Dhabi in September, Capt Al Shamisi urged the UAE maritime sector to invest in digitalisation technology. This could result in operational efficiencies, improved business and better recruitment of future generations of seafarers in the UAE, he explained. “We need to lead these developments, to focus on the future and embrace change as technology will drive the future of this industry,” he said.

More than 35 international shipping partners joined the Maqta Gateway system this year. Maqta general manager Dr Noura Al Dhaheri said the gateway logged 37,000 voyages entries and 3.6M digital transactions, “showing there is an insatiable appetite for online services that provide seamless connections across the industry”.

“We are coming into the age of the automation of services”

Safeen has introduced an in-house application system, called MARSA, that connects with the Maqta Gateway. Capt Al Houqani said MARSA is a scheduling and operating management system for tracking and monitoring operations, maintenance and quality management. “We are coming into the age of the automation of services,” he said.

Overall, he expects growth in Safeen’s operations as Abu Dhabi Ports expands its businesses. This will mean more tugs will be needed with various towage and ship manoeuvring capabilities he concluded.


Safeen marine services

  • Harbour towage.
  • Vessel mooring.
  • Terminal marine services.
  • Vessel traffic services.
  • Bunkering.
  • Seafarer training.
  • Fresh water delivery.
  • Garbage disposal.
  • Permit issuing.
  • Diving services.
  • Pilotage.

Safeen operates nine tugs, five pilot vessels, six speed boats, one buoy maintenance vessel and two oil spill response boats.


Captain Maktoum Al Houqani 

Since graduating in 2009 at an Australian university, Maktoum Al Houqani has assumed different roles aboard seagoing vessels and managed petroleum ports. He obtained a masters degree in maritime studies from the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong. He worked on tankers and gas carriers, then became a tug master and pilot.

Capt Al Houqani supervised reclamation projects to create artificial islands and became a manager of offshore petroleum ports in Abu Dhabi. In 2011, he was appointed as senior vice president for operations at vessel operator IRSHAD. In September 2015, he joined Abu Dhabi Ports as the chief marine services officer of the newly formed subsidiary, Safeen.


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