PacTow Increases Ocean Towage Services

by PNG Business News - May 22, 2023

Photo: Pacific Towing towed a replacement 250m oil transfer hose from Port Moresby to an offshore export terminal in the Gulf of Papua in February as part of the terminal’s scheduled routine maintenance.  Pacific Towing also towed the replaced transfer hose back to Port Moresby.

Pacific Towing (PacTow) is increasingly performing ocean towages, including outside of Papua New Guinea and broader Melanesia.  Recent months have seen the marine services company perform two towage projects from Northern Australia and another for an oil and gas major in the Gulf of Papua.  PacTow anticipates further growth in ocean towage services as barges and vessels, as well as heavy plant and equipment are sourced internationally for the imminent construction phase of PNG’s next LNG project.

PacTow is a PNG business in its 46th year of operation.  Employing in excess of 200 staff, the company operates out of PNG’s five main ports as well as in Honiara, Solomon Islands.  Although harbour towage represents approximately 70 percent of its business, PacTow also provides a range of niche services to the oil and gas sector and is Melanesia’s leading salvage operator.

General Manager Neil Papenfus reports that PacTow has provided international towage services for at least two decades but that these have increased in frequency over the last five years.  Two significant projects were the 2019 towage of a stranded barge from Micronesia to Indonesia, as well as the 2020 tandem towage of a vessel and barge from American waters in Guam.

Papenfus says that PacTow has increased its capacity to perform long distance ocean tows and that this is “primarily due to the company’s refleeting programme” which it embarked upon in 2020.  The company’s 20-vessel fleet has been modernised and more than half of its tugs are Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) tugs.  Several vessels in PacTow’s fleet are also specialised ‘blue water’ tugs ideally suited to long distance tows, including multi-week projects such as international tows and salvages.

The company’s diverse fleet and experienced crews have the capacity to tow a wide range of vessels and even ‘items’ as evident by its first three ocean tows for 2023.

PacTow delivers excellent, reliable, and safe marine services through PNG and the broader region. A well-maintained fleet, as well as a dedicated and exceptionally trained team underpin the company’s ongoing expansion and success. PacTow is part of a larger sea and land logistics group wholly owned by Steamships Limited.  To learn more about PacTow:

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Pacific Towing Passes International Safety Audit

Nearly 5 years LTI free and with a record of continuously improving and fine tuning its safety systems, Pacific Towing (PacTow) recently passed its International Safety Management (ISM) Code audit.  The voluntary audit was conducted in accord with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations agency specialising in maritime and shipping affairs.  The aim of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of PacTow’s Safety Management System with regard to its vessels as well as its shore-based support.  The audit was conducted in accordance with a variety of IMO standards and international industry best practice. HSSEQ Manager and Designated Person Ashore (DPA) Richard Hayka reports that the audit, which was conducted by HSE New Zealand, incorporated not only the ISM Code but also the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.  The audit was conducted online due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Importantly, Hayka confirmed that the audit verified PacTow’s Safety Management System was in compliance with all mandatory rules and regulations.  This is in line with the company’s expectation that it will be certified for ISO standards 9001:2015, 14001:2015 and 45001:2018 by midyear. The audit also found that all annual vessel surveys were up to date and in accord with the National Maritime Safety Authority’s (NMSA) requirements.  Furthermore, statutory certificates reviewed as part of the internal audit were found to be valid, and company records verified that all policies were properly implemented. Adding to the safety credentials of PacTow, is the recent employment of an Operations Manager with considerable international oil and gas sector experience, including emergency response – Captain Marcelo Santini.  Together, Hayka and Santini are getting ready for another audit; they are preparing PacTow’s dedicated tug base at Motukea, Port Moresby for an International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) gap audit.  Hayka says that he expects certification for this next audit to be achieved by the end of Q3 this year. To learn more about Pacific Towing and its safety credentials:


PNG Business News - September 29, 2021

PacTow Salvage Saves APEC Haus

Pacific Towing (PacTow) saved APEC Haus from likely and significant damage after it salvaged an abandoned vessel that had run aground within metres of the landmark building.  The salvage of the ex New Zealand navy patrol boat ‘Hawea’ occurred last Thursday evening during strong winds and a rising tide.  The PacTow salvage team expertly manoeuvred the leaking vessel off the rocks it was lodged on, then towed it back to its dedicated tug base at Motukea.  After receiving notification of the marine casualty from the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) and PNG Ports Corporation, PacTow rapidly despatched its tug ‘Wato’ and lifeboat ‘Buru’. Twelve crew and five members of PacTow’s commercial dive team were directly involved in the salvage; with additional support provided by senior managers and operational personnel located at the company’s headquarters.  Upon arrival at Ela Beach at 7.00pm it was evident to the PacTow team that given the high waves and shallow water, the vessel was in imminent risk of breaking up.  The divers quickly assessed the integrity of the Hawea’s hull and bollards for towing.  The vessel was then towed by its stern to dislodge it from the rocks and then by its bow once it was in safer waters.  The Wato and her crew proceeded to tow the vessel back to PacTow’s tug base at Motukea, where she was securely moored shortly before 10.00 pm. The following day, when daylight permitted a thorough inspection of the vessel by PacTow marine engineers, it was discovered that the aging vessel was in exceptionally poor condition with several leaks.  PacTow reports that the vessel’s intake of water is currently mitigated by around-the-clock mechanical pumping.   It is understood that the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) is in the process of trying to track down the vessel’s owners.  PacTow plans on disposing of the vessel if the owners can’t be located and the relevant authorities provide them with instruction to do so. PacTow has performed well over 50 salvages in the region and is Melanesia’s leading marine salvage and emergency response company.  General Manager Neil Papenfus described the most recent salvage as one of “patriotic duty given the significance of APEC Haus to our country.” To learn more about Pacific Towing and its salvage capabilities, as well as its commitment to serving PNG and its communities:


PNG Business News - October 20, 2021

Marine Services for Papua New Guinea’s O&G Sector

Pacific Towing’s commercial dive team is central to the numerous services it provides PNG’s O&G sector including in-water surveys to class with live feeds back to international survey technicians. Pacific Towing, a 44 year old marine services business headquartered in Papua New Guinea has been servicing the oil and gas sector in excess of 10 years.  The company is a member of both the International Spill Control Organization and the International Salvage Union.  With its own Australian trained and certified commercial dive team, ‘PacTow’ is now providing its in-water surveys to class with live feeds streamed back to internationally located survey technicians. PacTow provides a diverse range of services to not just O&G companies themselves but also to some of the largest offshore support operators.  General Manager, Neil Papenfus says that the company’s commercial dive team at its dedicated tug base in Port Moresby is central to the many services it provides its O&G clientele, including the sector’s offshore operators. Of considerable value to these offshore entities, are PacTow’s in-water class surveys.  “Because our dive team can provide a live feed to surveyors in just about any country, we’re able to negate their need for international travel.  The live feed component of our service is obviously highly valued given that COVID-19 is making it next to impossible to get specialist international technicians both in to and out of PNG.” Papenfus confirms that the company’s commercial divers are all Australian trained and certified.  In addition to being highly trained, he says that "as PNG nationals they have an intimate knowledge of the country’s water ways, its weather patterns and overall marine conditions – they are definitely the best in-country and easily equal to their international counterparts.” Other services PacTow provides to the O&G sector include oil spill response and prevention; video pipeline inspections; PLEM valve hook up and release; towage, berthing and mooring; hull cleaning; and a range of niche, as well as project-based customised solutions. Specific to the country’s PNG-LNG project are the installation of current sensors, inspection of navigational piles/systems, and sea water intake inspections.  Additional services provided to two of its downstream clients include mooring inspections and repair, annual pressure testing of fuel transfer sub hoses, and also seabed survey and sampling. The company anticipates introducing new services to support PNG’s O&G sector as it invests further in its re-fleeting program which will see it acquire another three Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) tugs by 2025. 

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