Meet the team: Towage, Salvage & Transportation
We sit down with Adrian Goodger (Director of Towage, Salvage & Transportation) to find out about the team, how they work and the countries they cover. He also tells us about some of the team’s most notable success stories, including the longest recycling towage in history.
Tell us about the history of your department...
We are the Towage, Salvage & Transportation desk within Clarksons London HQ. Having joined in 2015 as a result of the acquisition of RS Platou, we brought to Clarksons a new area of business with a dedicated desk operating 24/7 in terms of salvage and emergency response.
Our heritage can be traced back to 1922, when the company of Samuel Stewart & Co. Limited was established. In those early days, Samuel Stewart concentrated on ships agency in London, Belfast and Glasgow, as well as being operators of a few coastal and near European colliers.
During the mid-fifties, an agreement was established with the Schuchmann family. They were a prominent German shipping family who themselves operated a fleet of coastal vessels around Northern Europe, but more importantly their company (Bugsier) owned and operated a large fleet of harbour and deepsea towing tugs, barges and heavy lift cranes.
Our role developed alongside Bugsier in a brokerage capacity as we had access to the Lloyd’s insurance market, which at the time was virtually the only international marine insurance market available globally. In addition, we also had ready access to hundreds of UK based shipowners and operators that existed in those days. Bugsier used our offices as their broker and agent to act as a conduit to offer their services to the H&M underwriters and the shipowners when their vessels were in distress and in need of towage or salvage assistance.
We flourished on the back of this relationship and began to develop this service globally. Working largely hand in hand with Bugsier, we were making new contacts with international shipowners and managers, other tug owners and salvors, as we were not actually exclusive to Bugsier. As new insurance markets formed in Scandinavia and widely throughout Asia, we furthered our connections with these new emerging markets offering them a service that they had a great need for in the early years.
Through the ‘80s, ‘90s and into the ‘00s, Samuel Stewart & Co (London) Limited. (as it was then known) became the leading specialised towage and salvage broker in the world. After the acquisition by RS Platou in 2008, and then by Clarksons in 2015, we changed our company name to be branded as Clarksons Platou (Offshore) Limited and our current trading name.
Tell us a little more about what your department does in today's environment...
Today, our business continues to offer brokerage assistance and revolves around the emergency response cases, port-to-port towages of damaged, out of class or laid up vessels, barges, drilling rigs etc. We also work in the heavylift transportation business, organising the movement of large and heavy loads like drilling rigs, modules and top sides aboard submersible HLVs.
We have some good and successful interaction with other Clarkson departments and offices, so we will, on occasions, work with the salvors who may need to charter lightering tonnage (tankers and bulkers) to remove some cargo from a distressed vessel to enable its refloating or stabilisation. We have collaborated well on several occasions with our colleagues from tankers, bulk and the specialised desks in various offices, bringing additional revenue opportunities to those departments, as well as our own.
We are certainly a unique desk within Clarksons in terms of salvage and emergency response brokerage.
What countries do you operate in?
It’s fair to say that we are global. With the maritime world trading far and wide, accidents and emergencies can - and often do - occur anywhere and quite regularly in some of the remotest areas of the world. Over the years we have worked on and around numerous Pacific and Caribbean Islands, throughout maritime Europe, Scandinavia, North and South America, most of the coastal countries of Africa, extensively in Asia/Australia and - believe it or not - Antarctica too!
Which clients do you focus on?
Our client base is hugely diversified and widely spread geographically. In our world, our clients could be shipowners large and small, ship managers, their Hull & Machinery underwriters, perhaps the insurance brokers, the P&I Club, it could also be a tug owner or salvor needing additional resources themselves.
We also hear from the legal fraternity, we work in the recycling arena for the cash buyers and directly with the recycling yards, for drill rig owners and their operators. We have previously worked and continue to support the Marine & Coastguard Agency, the UK and US Navy. We occasionally get requests from the fishing industry and also the cruise, yachting and superyacht owners of this world.
We don’t tend to focus on any specific area, we focus on them all as we never know from whom or where the next call or email may come. A client to us is effectively any person or company who have a controlling influence or interest in the decision-making when a vessel or structure requires rescue, movement or some other type of assistance.
What types of things does the team do to keep morale up?
In a work context, keeping up morale can at times be challenging. There’s always something to do relating to ongoing cases, updating of position reporting, managing the day-to-day general duties.
The buzz comes really from that next call or email with the beginnings of a new case. No two days, no two cases, are ever the same. There is always a twist, be it new parties involved, a new location, a variety of challenges to be faced. The satisfaction is always the time when you receive back that signed contract, you know then that in all likelihood, you have participated and achieved a remedy and will earn a commission.
Outside work, many of the team are active in various pursuits. Several are cyclists, both as a means of commuting but also for social enjoyment, play golf, we have gym goers and yachtsmen. Others are avid watchers of sport both on TV and in attendance at rugby and football grounds or at horse race events.
Do you have any great anecdotes of what working for your department is like?
We are a TEAM and we operate as a TEAM and that old adage of “there is no “I” in Team” is very true in our department. Our strength is being able to work collectively and efficiently together to assist our clients in the quickest and most capable manner possible. We have prided ourselves over many decades on our honesty and integrity towards any business dealings, the proof of which is clearly the number of our clients who return time and time again for our support and assistance.
We’ve had many success stories over the years. I'll share a few notable ones:
Working in wartime conditions
Back in the early ‘80s, during the first Gulf war between Iran and Iraq, Iraqis were firing Exocet missiles at the tankers trading to the Iranian terminals of Kharg, Sirri and Lavan. We were involved in over 50 rescue missions, creating salvage contracts for assistance to those damaged and disabled tankers, often on fire as a result of the air strike and usually with a crew and its cargo at risk. Working under war time conditions, the tugs and salvage crews we engaged were on occasions being attacked themselves as they were attending to and assisting these vessels, but in most of those cases we/they were successful in averting disaster and rescuing all concerned.
Vessel stuck in heavy ice in Antarctica
One day we received a call from a large German shipowner whose vessel was trading to Antarctica in support of the research stations established there. On this occasion, she had become stuck in the heavy ice.
There were concerns that the vessel may get crushed if she was left there over the winter and obviously the crew and cargo aboard were also at risk. They required a suitable icebreaker to get them free and tow them back out to the ice-free waters.
Initially the South African Government offered their research and fishery protection vessel, but she couldn’t reach the vessel’s location due to the heavy ice build-up. We searched for options in New Zealand, South America and Europe/Baltics.
A large Finnish icebreaker was quickly chartered and headed at full speed from Finland. Daily reports talked of incredibly high temperatures in the engine room and accommodation as they headed south towards the equator - she was not fitted with air conditioning as she was obviously built to withstand incredibly cold temperatures.
During the early stages of mobilisation of the Finnish icebreaker, a response was then received from the Argentine Navy that they could make available their own icebreaker, but she needed to be reactivated from lay-up. This was achieved, and in the meantime, the Finnish icebreaker was left drifting off West Africa pending the progress of the Argentine ice breaker.
As days went by, the Argentine icebreaker made good progress towards the stricken vessel so it was then possible to release the Finnish icebreaker, returning them to their more customary operating territory of the Baltic Sea and a welcomed cool down in the on-board temperatures!
The Argentines were successful in reaching the vessel and assisting breaking enough ice to bring the stricken vessel and her crew and cargo to the safety of the ice-free waters of the Southern Ocean.
Towing a rig 15,000 miles over 120 days
We organised the towage of what is regarded as the world’s largest semi-submersible drilling rig. Initially this was from the builders yard in South Korea to Labuan for commissioning tests, ahead of a contract in Australia, however, that contract was eventually cancelled. After a lay-up of over 12 months, we again towed the rig from Labuan to NW Scotland, UK via Cape of Good Hope. A total transit of almost 15,000 miles and 120 days!
The longest recycling towage in history
We organised the towage of a badly fire-damaged 50,000 DWT bulk carrier from SE Australia (Port Kemble) to Turkey for recycling.
Whilst this may not seem to be a great feat or a momentous triumph, the towage proceeded via the Cape of Good Hope and was just shy of 13,250 miles. This is thought to be the longest recycling towage in history!
What makes it even more remarkable is that the tug engaged to perform the towage actually mobilised from Greece to Australia, adding another 8,500 miles to the overall journey distance and giving them a utilisation of over four months employment - a virtual round the world trip!
You may wonder why it was necessary to (a) take a tug from Greece and (b) tow from Australia to Turkey via the CoGH.
Due to a strengthening of the international recycling laws, this vessel was owned and operated by Europeans with a European flag. This resulted in the vessel being unable to be recycled in the closer and more obvious locations like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. China was also off limits at that time due to a change in their policy over importing non-Chinese ships.
The clients required a tug with sufficient fuel capacity to make only one Offshore bunker stop as they were required to limit or avoid any port calls during the voyage (again due to the international regulations surrounding recycling). There are few tugs with this kind of range and fuel capacity. It’s also not financially practical to transit through the Suez Canal in cases such as this, not forgetting it was necessary to again observe the laws regarding recycling of vessels. As such, the convoy had to transit around Africa.