DUTCH specialist KOTUG has officially commenced towage operations in Port Hedland on behalf of Fortescue Metals Group.

FMG subsidiary Pilbara Marine was awarded Port Hedland’s second towage licence in 2016, to commence this October 1 year to service the company’s own shipping traffic and provide shipowners with an option to using the existing BHP-controlled tug fleet.

In March 2017 FMG ordered six newbuildings from another Dutch company, tug-building specialist Damen, and in December that year awarded the contract to operate its fleet to KOTUG Australia, with Westug to provide crewing.

The new fleet comprises FMG’s six state-of-the-art ART 85-32W Rotortugs®, plus two sisters built to KOTUG’s own account and one RT80-32 Rotortug® chartered to Pilbara Marine. KOTUG manages the entire contract.

KOTUG notes that ship-handling at Port Hedland, the highest tonnage port in Australia, requires “well-trained crews and the right method of towing tool” to manage the world’s largest, heavy loaded vessels “through small channels with difficult bends”.


“By using the patented high-end Rotortug® technique KOTUG maximizes the tugboat efficiency while safeguarding the safety for the operator. The Rotortug® propulsion configuration makes the Rotortug® the safest tugboat available because the third thruster always provides a way out in challenging situations while it also guarantees maximum manoeuvrability,” KOTUG said.

“The local team members are trained according to the highest standards by leading company Tug Training & Consultancy, providing professional tug training and world-leading towage expertise.

“KOTUG is renowned for establishing solid, long-term business relationships with clients in industries such as Oil & Gas, Mining and Renewables,” Ard-Jan Kooren, CEO of KOTUG International, said. “We commit to continuously improvement and I am proud to say that together with Westug we have an amazing team that can make this happen. We thank Fortescue for their trust in KOTUG and value their business, it fits our strategy to expand our activities in the Australian market from our local offices in Perth and Port Hedland.”

In 2018 KOTUG bought five-year partner Teekay Shipping Australia out of joint venture KT Marine Services, which provides all towage operations for Shell’s Prelude FLNG, as well as towage assistance at ConocoPhillips’ Bayu Undan FSO, for which it employs four Infield Support Vessels (ISVs).

KOTUG also owns AMSA’s North Queensland Emergency Towing Vessel Coral Knight.