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Harbour Towage: major ports present an essentially stable picture

SMIT Harbour Towage saw a good opening of the year. With the total number of ship movements remaining at a stable level compared to the end of 2011 SMIT Harbour Towage experienced increased demand during the first quarter of the year. This was due, to a large extent, to the high level of special assistances rendered during the period. Loek Kullberg says: “We continue to concentrate on those strategically important areas which serve as the crossroads for the world’s shipping networks. This means giving prominence to ports such as Rotterdam, Antwerp, Panama, Singapore and the main Brazilian centres. At the same time we have withdrawn from certain markets - such as the Baltic and Argentina – where we see more challenging market conditions. “We are also concentrating on developing major joint ventures across the world regions. In this context, the KST (Keppel SMIT Towage) joint venture performed strongly in the first quarter. KST was on budget and we expect this high performance to continue during the rest of this year." “One particular feature of KST’s business is its relatively strong level of ‘spot’ activities. There are three elements to KST: the ongoing harbour towage business in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries; time charters for oil and gas terminal support; and, thirdly, a substantial volume of spot work - including towage services for Keppel Shipyard and coastal towage.” SMIT-SAAM SMIT and SAAM are making good progress in establishing an important joint venture. The intention is to create the leading harbour towage operator in Central and South America, with operations extending into North America. Loek Kullberg explains: “This is an important step in our long-term programme to explore opportunities to develop large joint ventures, based on world regions. In this case, SAAM has existing operations in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru and various other countries in Central and South America. SMIT Harbour Towage has a substantial operation in Brazil, together with businesses in Panama and the Canadian West Coast. We are joining forces with SAAM in terms of network, coverage and tugs. We will work together to serve new, large contracts concerned with harbour towage and terminal support. We aim to have the SMIT-SAAM joint venture running by the end of this year. In all probability, our Brazilian activities will be integrated. We have yet to take a decision on the location for the joint venture’s headquarters.“ “SMIT Harbour Towage will contribute around 60 tugs to the joint venture: 27 in Brazil (including six newbuildings), 10 based in Panama and another 20 in Canadian ports. SAAM will add another 90 tugs, bringing our total fleet to around 150 tugs in all.” Six ASD tugs are now under construction for SMIT Harbour Towage’s operations in Brazilian ports. The first of the 47 tonnes bollard pull tugs, 'Smit Pataxo', is due for delivery this October. Keppel Singmarine’s Brazilian yard will deliver the remaining five over the 12 months to October 2013. New developments Recent developments relating to SMIT Harbour Towage during the first half of 2012 include SMIT Amandla Marine’s success in obtaining a new contract to service a coal export terminal at the port of Beira, in Mozambique. Loek Kullberg comments: “This is a very encouraging development, as we intend to extend our activities throughout Southern Africa. We are now looking hard at Angola, where we already have a track record in terminals support and transport activities but have yet to secure a harbour towage contract.” In Northwest Europe, following the award of a new, seven-year concession for harbour towage at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, two new 85 tonnes bollard pull Rotor tugs have been deployed to this port. They began work at Zeebrugge in early May. The 'Smit Kiwi' and 'Smit Emoe' are newbuildings purchased from KST’s yard in Singapore. They succeed 'Smit Onyx' and 'Smit Topaz' which are being deployed to Australia, to work on a new Boskalis project. In Australia, there have been positive developments surrounding the existing GPC contract at the port of Gladstone. Here, SMIT has been requested to begin preparations to build two new tugs for the British Gas LNG Terminal at Gladstone. It is likely that these 70 tonnes bollard pull tugs will be built in Turkey. In the Far East, the KST joint venture is now responsible for harbour towage operations in Chinese ports (which currently involve six tugs). Furthermore, KST will shortly take responsibility for the SMIT Kueen Yang harbour towage joint venture in Taiwan.

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Two new anchor handling tugs to join fleet

On Tuesday 20 November 2012, newly built Smit Seraya was launched at Guijing Shipyard in China. The Smit Seraya is one of two new anchor handling tugs (AHT) currently under construction. The vessels are now being finalised to join the fleet in the coming month. Smit Seraya is scheduled for delivery in April 2013 and sister vessel Smit Sentosa will enter service this February. Both 100 tbp newbuildings are anchor handling tugs, but the 32 ton crane, FiFi 1 unit, and extended accommodation for 24 persons, make that the vessels are very versatile. In addition to deployment for anchor operations, they are also are well-equipped for salvage activities, including emergency response, and the support of pipelay operations and construction barges.

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Core towage business steady in European ports

The second half of 2012 unfolded in much the same way as the first six months for SMIT’s towage operations in Europe. In Rotterdam-Europoort, business was steady in the core areas of bulk carrier and containership movements, with the second half encouraging in terms of the number of “specials” assisted. This was a period when many platforms and jack-ups were involved in maintenance and drydockings. In Zeebrugge - where SMIT secured a new, seven-year concession for harbour towage at the end of 2011 - there were signs of revival in the LNG sector. Yet, taken overall, LNG in Europe remains under pressure, given strong demand in Japan. Equally, the signs of recovery now evident at Zeebrugge are also reflected, to some extent, by improved LNG throughputs in Rotterdam. In the container sector, both Zeebrugge and Antwerp suffered somewhat due to the decline in Asian markets. At the same time, business levels at Liverpool held firm during the second half, boosted by the additional activity linked to offshore projects and associated barge traffic. In response, a sixth tug reinforced SMIT’s Liverpool fleet until the end of the year. New operational structure Recent new developments in SMIT’s harbor towage operational management in Europe have reduced the number of SMIT Coordination Centres (SCCs) from three to two. The remaining SCCs are located at Antwerp and Rotterdam. The latter is now also responsible for the operational management of activities at Terneuzen, Flushing and Ghent. These streamlined control arrangements provide more efficient despatch over the entire operational region, which is now managed as a single port area. The focus on Antwerp and central Rotterdam, as control centres, marks the first step towards the creation of a single virtual management centre from these bases - each handling business at any of the region’s ports as a matter of course and in a seamless manner. There have also been changes in SMIT’s towage fleet composition in Europe. These follow on from the addition of the two Singapore-built, 85 tonnes bollard pull tugs Smit Emoe and Smit Kiwi. Both are now working at Zeebrugge. These tugs were named at a joint ceremony at Zeebrugge on September 29. Their arrival freed the Union Emerald and Union Ruby for deployment elsewhere in North West Europe, triggering various re-deployments introducing more powerful tugs. Furthermore, a bareboat-chartered Damen 3213 tug has joined the Zeebrugge fleet, which now consists of the 96 tonnes bollard pull tugs Smit Lion and Smit Tiger, the Smit Emoe and Smit Kiwi and the 65 tonnes bollard pull Union Coral and Union Pearl. There have also been changes in training arrangements for SMIT Harbour Towage tug crews in Europe. This is now focused entirely on simulator facilities in Antwerp, which are used to train tug crews and pilots. The two 320 degrees simulators will train SMIT’s new generation of tug Captains. These simulators provide training on all tug types now operating in the SMIT fleet .

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SMIT towage fleet in Brazil continues to expand

Taken overall, business levels in 2012 were stable for SMIT Harbour Towage operations beyond Europe. At the same time, the challenges in the container sector, arising from declines in volumes from China and elsewhere in the Far East, are likely to persist over the next six to 12 months. Today’s shipping environment is characterised by the prevailing trend - fewer calls by larger vessels. The bulk sector was stable in 2012, although levels were still some way from those seen in 2007. The major Asian economies continue to display growth. China leads the way, with growth in tonnage well above five per cent. The Japanese and Australian markets are stable. In the latter case, however, volumes of coal and iron ore are still on the increase. In South America, volumes are still growing in Brazil. Brazil is a core business area for SMIT Towage and other SMIT and Boskalis activities. The Brazilian market has been galvanised by the phenomenal success of this country’s oil and gas sector. Looking at the Brazilian ports, general cargo volumes are still on the increase, although the vigorous rate of growth enjoyed in recent years may slow somewhat. SMIT’s Brazilian fleet continues to expand. The first in a series of six new 45 tonnes bollard pull tugs arrived in December. The remaining five will join the fleet at a rate of one per month until May. This will increase SMIT’s Brazilian tug fleet from 18 to 24 units (plus an additional three on bareboat charter). The four “frontrunners” still operating in Brazil will be phased out during the first half of this year.

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Busy salvage caseload following groundings

A series of vessel groundings produced a run of Lloyd’s Open Forms for SMIT Salvage during the second half of 2012. They involved a number of cases in the Asian region, including the 735 TEU container vessel Conmar Cape. This vessel grounded in the Philippines, in the Subic Bay area. This 2002-built, German-owned vessel grounded during early November. A SMIT Salvage team responded and, upon arrival, found the casualty sitting on rocks and heavily damaged. The team managed to refloat her by a combination of retrimming and reballasting, without the need for lightering. This project was brought to a successful conclusion in association with local partner Malayan Towage & Salvage. Other Asian cases include the Petrobras tanker Itaperuna, aground at the Isle of Bintang, in Indonesian waters adjacent to Singapore. A response was organised on commercial terms. This vessel had just left drydock when she had the misfortune to strike a rock pinnacle. This caused substantial bottom damage, including a large gash, 18 m long by up to 2 m wide. This casualty was in ballast and at anchor, with internal spaces – including the engineroom – flooded. The vessel was retrimmed, stabilised and redelivered at Singapore on October 29, nine days after the commencement of salvage work. A third Asian case concerned the 30,000 dwt, double-hulled product tanker Prathiba Cauvery, which was at anchor off the Indian port of Chennai when the grounding occurred. The tanker dragged her anchors in a Monsoon storm and was eventually driven onto the beach. A Salvage Master and team soon arrived on site and carried out an initial inspection. There was a great deal of ballast within the casualty and the generators and other systems could not be activated. Ballast was discharged by gravity and by the use of four powerful submersible pumps. This LOF service was performed by SMIT India Marine. The 1981-built vessel was refloated with the assistance of a chartered tug of 200 tonnes bollard pull. The casualty, which lacked anchors at that point, was controlled after the refloating by an Indian Emergency Towing Vessel. The Prathiba Cauvery was redelivered in the port of Chennai. Elsewhere in the world, responses included assistance for the grounded 500 TEU container feeder vessel Vega Sagittarius. Having just departed the port of Nuuk, Greenland, she ran aground on August 16 and breached all double bottom tanks. The grounding occurred within one hour of High Water. The salvage team – from Houston and Rotterdam – discovered that the casualty was sitting on multiple rock pinnacles and had a six degrees list. Her stern was in deep water but her unsupported bow extended well above the low water mark. Logistics was an important issue during this operation. Air connections to Greenland are via Copenhagen, yet SMIT’s team arrived within 24 hours of the grounding. Equipment was flown into the nearest suitable airport and then trucked across Greenland to Nuuk. Vega Sagittarius was a new vessel, delivered in 2012. The casualty’s position was precarious and her condition was deteriorating rapidly. Refloating would be challenging. Calculations revealed that a full discharge of cargo, coupled with the selective pressurisation of breached spaces, ballast discharge and external pull force, would be required to free this casualty. The remote location of the grounding site was another challenge. Nevertheless, a major response was organised and a powerful tug (175 tonnes bollard pull) was mobilised from West Europe. Fortune smiled on this operation, which began to unfold during a period of unusually benign weather. The casualty’s own gear was used to discharge containers to a local barge, which made a “shuttle run” to a reception area in the port. The boxes had to be moved to the casualty’s stern - where the barge had sufficient water to go alongside. The casualty was refloated on August 29 and redelivered the next day. Refloatings at mid-year included the 175,000 dwt capesize bulk carrier Flash, which grounded in Tunisian waters. The vessel went aground on a rocky outcrop off the island of Galite, breaching several ballast tank. Subsequently, the engineroom flooded. Flash was on a voyage from Hampton Roads, in the USA, to Taranto, Italy, with a cargo of 165,000 tonnes of coal. A Salvage Master and an advance team arrived on scene, together with a support tug mobilised from Italy. SMIT Salvage local partners OMMP also participated in this response. It was obvious, from the first, that an substantial part-discharge of the coal cargo would be required, if refloating was to be achieved. Work began promptly. A tanker arrived on scene to take off bunkers. A small, geared combi carrier, the Veelerdiep, began taking off cargo. A second lightering vessel, the HR Constellation, was also involved in the part-discharge, followed by the larger, 70,000 dwt geared vessel Barkal. In total, some 70,000 tonnes of coal was offloaded, with simultaneous and careful ballasting keeping the casualty stable as the operation progressed. A refloating was achieved with the assistance of large pumps, installed in hold no. 4 following discharge of this space. The availability of an empty hold was essential for ballasting amidships. When the large bulk carrier floated free, the powerful tug Union Manta was on hand to control her. This tug was later succeeded by the Union Princess. In addition, a Turkish tug attended on-scene, acting as a salvage support platform. The refloating was achieved in early August and the Flash was redelivered three weeks later. Response to shipboard fires SMIT teams responded to several ship fires in the August/September period. One case involved the newly-converted FPSO ARC II/ Cidade de Itajai, off Singapore. Fire broke out in the engineroom during sea trials. SMIT’s Singapore base responded as the crew abandoned the FPSO. The fire was brought under control and then extinguished during the following day. With her draft returned to port level, the FPSO was towed and escorted by five tugs back to the shipyard, where she was redelivered. The second fire case concerned the cable layer Chamarel, which suffered an engineroom fire whilst off the Namibian coast. The fire spread rapidly and burnt out the accommodation. The crew abandoned the vessel, which then drifted ashore at a remote location (some 200 km north of Walvis Bay). The operation to remove the environmental threat from this casualty was undertaken by SMIT’s base in Cape Town, reinforced by a team from Rotterdam. The oil was pumped to a buffer tank on board, then to a reception bladder ashore and was ultimately transferred to road tankers. At the time of writing, technical investigations were under way, to explore the best way to remove the vessel from the beach. Other salvage/support operations The more unusual tasks undertaken by SMIT Salvage in recent months included the pumpout of two of New York’s deepest subway stations, following Tropical Storm Sandy. The work was carried out in association with SMIT’s partner, Donjon. In South America, a difficult oil removal operation was undertaken at Sao Luis, where the Korean-owned jack-up construction platform Sep Orion capsized alongside a jetty extension (designed to accommodate 400,000 dwt vessels). The quantity of oil inside was relatively small, amounting to around 30 m3 , but the difficulties of removal were immense, due to zero visibility and very strong currents at the site. Diving was limited to a maximum of just 30 minutes on the neaps. This contract included inspection, reporting, the recovery of the oil and other pollutants and stabilisation (Sep Orion had suffered a broken leg). Stabilisation was achieved by tying back the leg to the main structure. In the meantime, the scope of work was expanded with debris recovery as well. At time of writing, SMIT Salvage has also started preparations for the mobilisation of specialised equipment to remove the platform.

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Boskalis/SMIT removes ship wrecks in the Dutch section of the North Sea

In the Dutch section of the North Sea are four wrecks of sunken ships that are forming an obstruction to shipping. Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, has ordered the complete removal of one of these wrecks and the partial clearance of the other three in order to restore the shipping channels concerned to their required depth. This will speed up the flow of shipping, improve access to the Dutch seaports and make the waterways safer. Boskalis/SMIT will be responsible for clearing two of the wrecks. These activities will take place during the month of July. A salvage grab will be used to clear the wreck of an unknown ship in the IJgeul, until the shipping channel has reached the desired depth. The other wreck – the sunken fishing trawler Jan Breydel – will be raised in its entirety and removed. This animation gives an impression of the wreck removal activities.

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