SMIT Lamnalco has returned to towage in Port Botany, undertaking the first work yesterday [19 March] in its own name since 2015.

SL withdrew from the port that year, shortly after the acquisition of PB Towage. In the intervening period SL’s work has been carried out under a commercial arrangement with Svitzer. The re-commencement also comes shortly after the sale of SL’s stake in Engage Towage, a joint venture company which was formed in 2018 to collaborate in harbour towage.

Port Botany operations will be carried out using four ASD tugs, able to service all vessel sizes calling in Port Botany and Kurnell, SL says. Crews have been recruited from internal transfers, ex-Engage Towage staff, as well as external hires. All crews are highly experienced harbour towage practitioners.

Fittingly the first vessel handled yesterday was geared containership Highland Chief, owned and operated by Swire Shipping, a long-term customer of SL’s.

SL MD Australia & PNG David Fethers said the Botany re-entry was an exciting time for the business. “Being back and operating from our regional headquarters in Port Botany signals a new era for harbour towage competition in Australia. We are looking forward to growing the business and servicing more customers in the port.

“Our investment in the Engage Towage JV has provided a platform for re-entry into this very competitive market. The decision to dissolve the JV has come following a period of divergence of interest between the shareholders of both organisations.”

DCN understands the end of the JV will see Engage Marine concentrate on Sydney Harbour while SL works Port Botany. It is believed SL is also planning re-entry to Brisbane in its own right, while the recent Towage Services Determination for the Port of Melbourne [29 February] involved the issuing of a non-exclusive licence to Svitzer. It also specified the current short-term deployment of a fifth tug be made permanent and a sixth tug introduced. SL currently supplies one of the five tugs under the Svitzer/SL service delivery arrangement.

In August 2015 the two companies entered an agreement that saw Svitzer provide service delivery on behalf of SL in the ports of Melbourne, Botany and Newcastle. Both parties maintained their own commercial activities and continued to compete in those ports. The agreement commenced in August 2015 and was due to expire mid-2018.

In November 2017, Svitzer and SL renewed the existing arrangement in the three ports by an additional two years until September 2020 and extended the arrangement to the Port of Brisbane before, in July 2020, again

extending by four years for the four ports until 31 August 2024. Under the extended agreement, Svitzer continued to charter six vessels from SL.

In 2023, the shareholders of Smit Lamnalco – Boskalis of The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia’s Rezayat Group – entered into a share purchase agreement for the sale of the business to Spain’s Boluda Towage. However, reports overseas suggest complications with asset ownership in Russia have stalled the transaction and Boskalis may end up buying out Rezayat instead.