Buksér og Berging (BB) is a Norwegian tug operator that offers a range of port, coastal and offshore services throughout Norway. It was founded in 1913 in Oslo, where its headquarters remains, but today also has a branch office at the coastal town of Stavanger. From these the company runs a fleet of 30 tug vessels ranging in size from small seven tonnes bollard pull (BP) to a large 165 tonne BP and is currently in the process of acquiring two new cutting edge tug designs.
Managing director John Nielsen talks in more depth about these two revolutionary new tugboats and why BB has designed them: “They are the first tugs in the world that are designed to be powered by liquid nitrogen gas (LNG). Rolls Royce Marine is designing and developing the propulsion system, which provides zero NOx emissions during operation as well as CO2 and sulphur emissions that are much lower than conventional engines. We have designed the tug ourselves in co-operation with Rolls Royce Marine to ensure compatibility. There are some technical challenges but BB is very technically focused so we enjoy doing something new. Both are currently under construction at a shipyard in Turkey.”
There are two major reasons for this new tug propulsion concept. The first is client, Statoil, which has signed with BB a 20-year contract for terminal services at the gas production facility of Kårstø. Statoil’s focus on environmentally friendly operation prompted research into greener methods of providing these services. Although there is no bunkering of LNG and very few LNG refuelling stations outside of Norway, Kårstø’s status as a gas refinery means the new tugs will be able to offer the same performance as traditional models but with a advantages: lower harmful emissions and reduced long-term running costs due to the greater efficiency of gas.
The secondary motivation behind the two new tugs is BB’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology and efficiency. “The cost of operating in Norway is one of the highest in the world so we must sell our services based on having the highest quality and the most cutting edge equipment,” John explains. “Alongside the regular training of our crew and development of some of the highest health, safety and environmental systems that mean we have no accidents, we are always trying to be at the forefront of tug designs. We learn from the market its future needs then try to adapt and improve what we are doing to better meet the customer needs. Then, every once in a while, we must change our tug concept. Modernise and develop new ways of putting things together.”
Approximately one-third of BB is comprised of technical staff, illustrating the importance that technological development holds within the company. This also provides it with the unique opportunity to design its own vessels. Whilst most tug companies use models designed and developed by shipyards, BB will create its own vessel to meet the demands of its work and find the yard that will best be able to bring the specifications to life.
This approach has been important in ensuring that BB is at the forefront of Norway’s harbour towage, salvaging and rescue, environmental protection and – most recently – offshore support sectors. A client portfolio that includes StatoilHydro and Esso Norge for harbour towage illustrates the quality that the company offers.
“Standby rescue and coastal protection work are the old cores of our business but, because of the market saturation in these areas, we don’t see much growth there,” John says. “In order to grow and in order to have a dynamic company we have been extending our reach into the offshore sectors. BB has contracts in the North Sea where we support the decommissioning of old oil structures that are now being dismantled, as well as contracts helping the installation of high tech equipment along the costs of Norway.”
This work takes the company outside of its home country so, whilst 80 per cent of its business is domestic towage and support, ten per cent takes place in the British North Sea. For this it works out of Aberdeen. The remaining ten per cent of its business takes it further abroad, for example to the US Gulf or Brazil. A result of BB’s good reputation, these are commissions for specific projects by clients with an international presence. As a small organisation focused on providing the best it can, however, it is happy to remain a domestic company where business continues to thrive.
“Our present market is very good,” John agrees. “It has been strong for some years with maybe the exception of 2010, which was low on business. Last year we saw resurgence in business though and 2012 so far looks to be on the same level. This is due to strong demands and investments in the oil and offshore sectors, which is probably stronger than most other markets in Europe. We are a domestic Norwegian company and feel there is more than enough market to fulfil our ambitions. Looking forward, we just want to continue improving our existing businesses, particularly in marine contracting and possibly special offshore vessels. We believe this will be our growth area of the future.”