Pacific Towing Undertakes Massive Ocean Tow
Pacific Towing once again showcased its maritime expertise not just in PNG and Oceania but also South East Asia.
In August the company completed a massive 5610 NM (i.e., 10,389 KM) and 44-day ocean towage project of a large barge (128 M x 36 M) between Micronesia and Indonesia. The project also incorporated a detour to Rabaul on the way home to tow a stranded tanker to Port Moresby for repairs.
Pacific Towing’s tug ‘Vulcan’ with its 100 per cent PNG crew completed the towage project. The Vulcan chartered a circuitous route overall.
After leaving Port Moresby the Vulcan travelled first to Micronesia’s Chuuk Islands to clear customs, then to Satawan Atoll to retrieve the barge.
Captain Jethro Lumbuk says the tug and its crew negotiated narrow channels and atoll entry points with the cumbersome barge at the Micronesia stage of the project. “People were cheering and obviously impressed when they saw us towing the barge back in to the harbour,” Capt Lumbuk said.
“I don’t think anyone there had seen a tug the Vulcan’s size pulling such a large vessel before and local authorities were relieved to have it removed from the atoll before it could do further damage.”
The Vulcan and its crew left Micronesia for Indonesia with the barge on 6 July and encountered severe weather that was experienced by much of the Pacific. “It was really, really rough” recalls Chief Engineer Michael Taweg.
“When the conditions are that bad, you’re extra grateful for rigorous maintenance programs and the calibre of the crew around you.”
Despite the challenges posed by the weather, Mr Taweg said the impressive seamanship of the crew kept the barge out of any real danger and they safely arrived in Bitung Indonesia on 23 July. Operations Manager, Gerard Kasnari, explains how Pacific Towing was originally contracted to salvage, not tow, the Indonesia-owned barge at the centre of the project.
“The barge was damaged and stranded last year when an Indonesian company was towing it. The tow ropes were unnecessarily cut and it ran aground on an atoll not far from Chuuk.”
Singapore marine consultants and brokers, ACL, approached Pacific Towing to salvage the vessel. “The contract was signed and we were about to mobilise but big seas from a cyclone actually re-floated the barge so we ended up with a towage contract instead,” Mr Taewag said.
“The brokers must have been pleased that we were able to literally switch from ‘salvage mode’ to ‘towage mode’ and hundreds of thousands of dollars were saved.”
General Manager, Neil Papenfus, describes the Micronesia-Indonesia towage project as not just having a level of technical complexity – largely due to weather conditions and remoteness – but also project management complexity, especially since it involved so many different parties operating from multiple countries.
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