DISCOVER Magazine #7

Saam Smit Towage Panama

Published in category: Markets

Choose Damen ASD 2913 Tug for Atlantic waters

When Saam Smit Towage Panama Inc. was considering purchasing another tug to serve its clients in the post-Panamax era, it chose the new Damen ASD Tug 2913. A powerful vessel was essential given the new challenges in the Atlantic waters.

Saam Smit Towage is a joint venture between Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. from the Netherlands (Boskalis) and Sociedad Matriz Saam S.A. from Chile (Saam), currently operating in four countries, Mexico, Panama, Brazil and Canada. It was established in 2014, after Boskalis acquired Smit in 2010.

Saam Smit Towage is no stranger to Damen vessels and this is particularly the case in Panama. In fact, it is believed to be unique in the world because all of its 11-strong fleet are Damen vessels. The company has a presence in ports on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Panama Canal.

We need a tug with more power for the Neo-Panamax Ships

Walter van der Dussen, General Manager, Saam Smit Towage Panama Inc., explains that the new Damen ASD 2913 Tug, which arrives in April, is destined to serve the Atlantic operation.

“We need a tug on the Atlantic with more power for the neopanamax ships entering the breakwaters at Manzanillo International Terminal and Colon Container Terminal. These vessels need to get through them at a certain speed and there are strong currents in the area, so the larger and more powerful Damen ASD Tug 2913 is essentially being used as a brake, to take the speed off as vessels enter the harbour.”

The tug was bought directly from Damen stock and is already equipped for LNG applications and has FiFi 1. Fast delivery times were another reason Saam Smit Towage chose a Damen vessel.

“Damen facilitates a very quick delivery but there was also very strong demand for this new type of tug. I think when we originally started mulling over the idea there were eight 80-tonne tugs being prepared for stock but only one available when we actually ordered.”

Walter laughs that it wasn’t even necessary to customise the vessel. “Actually Damen vessels are always close to our own specifications, given Damen’s long relationship with Smit.”

Attention to detail is important to the company, he stresses.

Length o.a.                     28.90 metres
Beam o.a.                       13.23 metres
Displacement                 658 ton

Bollard Pull                    80.0 ton
Speed                             13.7 knots
Main Engines                 2x Caterpillar 3516C HD+ TA/D
Total Power                    5050 bkW (6772 bhp) at 1800 rpm
Thrusters                        2x Rolls Royce US255FP

There are several jetties very close together, therefore a more compact tug is necessary

“We have a lot of respect for chairman Mr Kommer Damen and the quality of his vessels. Mr Damen visited Panama and was walking around our tugs with his notebook, asking the captains what the company can do better and reporting back with their feedback. This attention to detail is very important to Damen and I like to think we are the same!”

“We have to make sure customers are satisfied with our service levels and that’s why we want quality vessels. If you have technical problems for example, the availability of the tug may be disrupted which could cause delays for our customers endangering their network integrity. With Damen vessels we know we are getting good quality.”

Saam Smit Towage places a lot of importance on having a modern and standardised fleet. “It is part of our strategy to standardise. Here in Panama we have Damen vessels, the same engine design, thrusters… This makes it much easier on the technical management side, as well as for the crews to train and operate.”

Smit Harbour Towage started to standardise in Panama in early 2000 when it deployed Damen vessels. Initially, the company was awarded concessions in Cristóbal and the Port of Balboa. Overall about 85 crew are employed in Panama.

Currently five Damen ASD Tugs 2810 are operating in Balboa. In the past SMIT has had a lot of input into the Damen ASD Tug 2810 during the development stages, Walter stresses.

In 1995, Smit also provided tugs for the Manzanillo International Terminal, and currently it deploys both Damen ASD Tugs 2810 and two Damen ASD Tugs 3110. “There are several jetties very close together so manoeuvring space is more limited, therefore a more compact tug is necessary.” Walter sees some opportunities coming up in the region. On the Pacific entrance of the Panama

Canal there is Corozal Container Terminal, which may come to fruition next to Port of Balboa, which already has the largest container terminal in Latin America. Corozal was recently approved by the Panama Canal Authority and when the two phases of the facility are complete it will have capacity for 5 million TEU.

Close by is also the former Rodman US navy base, of which part is now operated by PSA International and its JV partner. Known as the PSA Panama International Terminal, the expansion and dredging of the new post-panamax berths has already started.

Overall, Walter does not expect significant container growth this year. “There are of course, bigger vessels coming due to the expansion of the Panama Canal but there will be fewer of them. Panama container terminals do approximately 95% transshipment. However, bigger vessels might also mean more feeders. Additionally we may also see new terminals in the region, for instance for mining or LNG projects.”

Saam Smit Towage will maintain the fleet in Panama at 11 tugs in 2016. Once the new Damen tug arrives an existing vessel will move to Saam Smit Towage Mexico to replace an older conventional tug.

“There are always opportunities for growth, although we realise the maritime industry is dealing with overcapacity and diminishing freight rates. We do have a strong position in the markets we are in. But there is also increasing pressure from competition. So we need to continue to offer a strong and reliable service to our customers in order to counter that pressure and be the preferred towage operator.”

We need a strong and reliable service to be the preferred towage operator.

back to top