DISCOVER Magazine #7

Crew transfers in a challenging environment

Published in category: Harbour & Terminal

Leendert Muller, managing director Multraship Towage & Salvage

Leendert Muller
managing director
Multraship Towage & Salvage

A cursory glance through the fleet list of Dutch towage company Multraship shows that harbour and sea towage operations make up the lion’s share of the company’s operations. Indeed, Multraship Towage & Salvage has a range of more than 40 tugs on its books. Take a closer look, however, and it becomes clear that other maritime services also form a key part of the company’s portfolio. These include salvage and offshore contracts as well as diverse support services such as fire-fighting and perhaps surprisingly, crew transfer tasks. For this latter function, Multraship’s fleet contains a vessel that is particularly well-suited to perform these duties – a Damen Stan Tender 1905 called Multraship Responder.

“We use the Multraship Responder on a long-term crew transfer contract. It’s a purpose-built vessel with a few modifications to the accommodation and rescue capabilities that Damen carried out for us,” says Leendert Muller, Multraship’s managing director.

Western Scheldt

The crew transfer services are for a joint venture dredging company operating on the Western Scheldt River in the south of the Netherlands. “The dredging works are all along the river – from the entrance of the North Sea all the way to the Port of Antwerp. We use the vessel to transfer dredging crew and also representatives of the port authorities who inspect the dredging operations. For this purpose, the Multraship Responder has seating capacity for twelve passengers.”

The complexity of conditions on the Western Scheldt River means that the Multraship Responder is far more than a glorified water taxi, however. Providing a comfortable seating plan for its twelve passengers is just not enough.

First and foremost, at 95 kilometres, the river is long. “The distance to the transfer point can be up to 15 miles away so it is good to be fast because time is money,” says Leendert referring to the Stan Tender’s maximum speed just shy of 30 knots. “We use multiple pick-up points at Vlissingen, Terneuzen, Hansweert and Antwerp so that we are never more than 20 or 30 minutes from the job site.”

Testing tides

The second point is that the Western Scheldt is a dynamic estuarine environment with a large tidal range. Currents are strong and exposed low tide sand banks are plentiful. “This is a tough environment with very changeable sea states. When the wind and the currents work against each other this can form quite large waves with short wavelengths. Therefore, you need a strong vessel that can cope with this working environment. The Stan Tender 1905 has the advantage of a strong steel hull.”

Furthermore, not only is the Western Scheldt one of the busiest shipping routes in the world with 150,000 ship movements per year, it also takes a notably meandering route from Antwerp to the North Sea. At one point, for instance, the largest 20,000+TEU container vessels on their way to and from Antwerp have to negotiate a bend with a historically treacherous acute angle.

“It is a busy river, of course, but it is also our home area,” adds Leendert. Multraship is headquartered in Terneuzen, roughly halfway along the river’s length. “Our crews know the area well allowing us to provide an excellent service.”

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