FMG awards towage contract

Wednesday, 6 December, 2017 - 16:03

Dutch company KOTUG and local subcontractor Westug have been selected to provide towage services for Fortescue Metals Group at Port Hedland, 18 months after the iron ore miner won a tender that broke BHP Billiton’s monopoly at the port.

Perth-based Westug is already the main towage contractor for Rio Tinto at its Dampier and Cape Lambert ports.

Westug will effectively compete with Queensland-based Rivtow Marine, which last year won a contract to provide BHP’s towage services at Port Hedland.

The introduction of competition at Port Hedland follows massive growth in iron ore export volumes through the port over the past decade.

The biggest exporters are BHP (about 260 million tonnes per annum) and FMG (170mtpa), followed by Roy Hill (55mtpa), Mineral Resources and Atlas Iron.

The new towage contracts are being supported by large investments in berthing facilities and expanded fleets.

Fortescue said today it has selected Kotug as its towage service operator, and that Kotug would supply three tug boats to complement the miner’s six new tugs.

Kotug has selected Westug as its key subcontractor.

Fortescue expects to commence services in 2019.

Fortescue chief executive Nev Power said Kotug was an internationally recognised builder and towage operator with experience in Europe, Asia and Australia.

"Together with the local experience and expertise of Westug, we are confident they will provide safe and reliable towage services that will maximise efficiencies at our Port operations," he said.

Fortescue is building a tug haven behind its existing Anderson Point berths. 

BHP is in the process of spending $US240 million developing a new eight-pen tug harbour at Hunt Point and purchasing six additional tugs, taking its fleet to 18 vessels.

Its investment will also include an upgrade of workshop facilities, operational and service berths, and two small boat moorings at the existing Nelson Point tug harbour.

The port, which is renowned for its narrow entry channel, had 5,867 vessel movements in 2014-15.