AWARDS 2022 | Best Small Naval Tug – Céladon – Piriou Group

AWARDS 2022 | Best Small Naval Tug – Céladon – Piriou Group

Best Small Naval Tug – Céladon (Photo: Floch)

Best Small Naval Tug – Céladon – Piriou Group

The Piriou shipyard in Concarneau in Brittany is renowned globally for the quality of its vessels ranging from fishing boats to warships. It is no wonder, then, that the yard was chosen by the French Navy for its new fleet of harbour tugs that will look after its precious warships. These comparatively small but powerful tugs are very manoeuvrable and perfect for their role.

“It is the first of class of a very polyvalent series of tugs ordered by the French Navy to replace three to four types of coastal and harbour tugs,” Piriou told Baird Maritime. “She combines numerous naval and operational technologies for this type of vessel. The series is named RPC 30, for “Harbour and Coastal” (Remorqueur Portuaire et Côtier, 30 tonnes).”

The builder added that the vessel presents a challenge for crews, as the RPC fleet of modern and hybrid ASD tugs will replace tugs with conventional propulsion units. The ensuing training program is therefore also important, especially for the first tug in the new series.

“These tugs will be operated in harbour for assistance to major navy ships such as aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and frigates, and also to tow smaller floating equipment like barges and fuel tankers. The tugs thus need to ensure high levels of safety and increased flexibility. They are fitted with two winches (plus three independent drums, all VDF-driven) and with an additional special winch, they can also handle acoustic reels.”

Piriou said the RPC designation means that the same tugs can operate in harbours throughout Europe or between islands in the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, for a rather small vessel displacing 280 tonnes and measuring only 26 by eight metres, the integration of equipment to fulfil nearly one thousand operational requirements set forth by the navy presented a challenge during the design stage.

“The construction was first impacted by Covid, as the contract was finalised at the end of 2019,” Piriou told Baird Maritime, explaining the difficulties imposed by the pandemic. “Then, the complexity of the design also had an effect on the integration process, with more co-activity during outfitting. The trials and training program was also far more crucial compared to other tugs of the same size due to complexity of the new tug design itself.”

The builder said the goal of a bollard pull of 35 tonnes was achieved, and it is now possible for all improvements and insights from the trials to be incorporated into the design.

“We have also to optimise our industrial schedule in order to take full advantage of a good learning curve for this important series of tugs, of which there will be 20 examples.”

Piriou has identified a lack of skilled manpower as a present trend in shipbuilding while regulations are being influenced by the need for environment-friendly vessels.

“Our shipyards and design offices are already involved in hydrogen propulsion with one hybrid dredger under construction and work underway on an in-house design for an H2-ready crewboat as well as wind-assist propulsion refits on four vessels for three different customers. We believe this makes our profession more attractive for young engineers.”

Piriou said the main trends that impacted shipbuilding in 2022 were the increasing costs of raw materials and main equipment as well as additional and unpredictable delivery times. These factors needed to be considered as far as commercially practicable, which proved challenging as the company worked on securing new shipbuilding contracts.

“Fortunately, we were able to fill up our orderbooks with long-term contracts, and we expect more stable economic conditions in the coming years.”

The company expects the tug industry will continue its high level of activity in terms of both conventionally-powered vessels and those powered by what it labels as “greener” technology. Specialisation will also become more widespread with harbour tugs having all-electric propulsion with batteries or generators and ship assist tugs powered by dual-fuel engines or engines powered by methanol and other alternative fuels.

“We also expect a drop in newbuilding orders from the public sector following an increase during the onset of Covid,” Piriou told Baird Maritime. “We nonetheless remain hopeful that the French workboat industry will remain highly active, particularly in the area of crewboats to built for the offshore wind market.”

For a list of the 2022 “Best Of” award winners, please click here.

Baird Maritime

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