Towing the line
The Gesmar Group was founded in Italy in the early 1980s as a towage business after founder Eduardo Vitiello took over tug services company S.E.R.S., then operating in Ravenna.
Today the group is in shared ownership between two Italian families that have many interests in shipping, raw materials trading, and port terminals across the country. Gesmar Group’s services portfolio has grown to include harbour towage, offshore terminal towage, salvage and marine response, and escort services. At presentthe group’s fleet comprises 40 vessels, but this number continues to grow.
The two most recent additions to Gesmar Group’s fleet are the tugboats Rigel and Gladiator. Both are azimuth stern drive (ASD) escort tugboats. Rigel features FiFi 2 and oil recovery capabilities, unattended machinery spaces (AUT-UMS), automated operation in port (AUT-PORT), 110 tonne bollard pull, and a hydraulically-driven waterfall towing winch with a one drum capacity of 1000 tonnes. Gladiator features FiFi 1, water spraying and oil recovery capabilities, 65 tonne bollard pull, one fore winch with split drum escort type winch Kraaijeveld SW-80, and one after winch Kraaijeveld including double drum KA-30 1500 knots brake.
Managing director Riccardo Vitiello talks more about the way in which these tugs have addedto the company’s capabilities: “The tugs have been specially designed to carry out berthing and unberthing of vessels at harbour premises, pull and push during vessels’ mooring manoeuvrings, escort, open sea and harbour tug services from stern, and fire fighting activities. Gesmar Group has always opted to invest in port-sized tugs that also have the capability both in terms of power and bunkering capacity to perform ocean towage, offshore services, and salvage operations as well. We believe that a certain degree of flexibility in naval construction is of the utmost importance.”
Though both tugs were only recently delivered, Gesmar Group already has two further vessels under construction: a 51-metre fast support intervention vessel (FSIV) and 38-metre fast crew boat. They are the first of their respective types in the group’s fleet and were chosen to satisfy the demand for reliable high performance support vessels. The FSIV will carry up to 70 passengers and the fast crew boat up to 60; both will transport fresh water, marine diesel oil, and equipment for platform supply. They will also offer assistance to perforation and production installations offshore. “We want to concentrate on the development of the FSIV market with the intention of participating in any forthcoming tenders taking place in West Africa and the Mediterranean Sea,” explains Riccardo. Both vessels are expected for delivery in July 2013.
Italy remains Gesmar Group’s stronghold and busiest region. The group provides harbour towage services to eight ports throughout the country – Trieste, Ravenna, Ancona, Falconara Marittima, Pescara, Ortona, Vasto, and Termoli – where it works in oil, container, dry bulk, and chemical terminals as well as with SPMs, FPSOs, and many other types of vessel. Nearly 30 years of investment into technology, developing the capability and flexibility of the organisation, and achieving low unit costs in the Italian sector have made Gesmar Group one of the best respected in the country. To maintain its position, the group demands high safety standards of its services and so has become ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004, ISM Code as per SOLAS Convention, and OHSAS 18001 certified. It is currently working on gaining SA-8000 for social responsibility toward human rights, working rights, and occupational health and safety.
With these qualifications, Gesmar Group is ready to spread its presence even further internationally. Apart from the Mediterranean and West Africa, the group is looking at Central and South America as an avenue of growth. With previous experience in Venezuela, it already has a foothold in the region that it can build upon. “Through one of Gesmar Group’s branches – Corporación Maritima Sagitario S.A., its headquarters in Caracas – we have managed to co-ordinate towage and escort operations in six Venezuelan oil terminals,” Riccardo says.
“The company operated primarily in Maracaibo and Puerto La Cruz with three modern tugboats providing towage to and support to tankers up to 130,000 tonnes, carrying out services for PDVSA. Our tugs left Venezuela in 2008 but thanks to this past experience working with the state-owned oil and gas company, we have broad knowledge and experience of the country’s offshore and terminal operations. We are currently in close contact with brokers around Europe and are in the process of organising encounters with the main operators in West Africa (Angola, Congo), North Africa, Brazil, and Venezuela. It has come to our knowledge that there will be forthcoming tenders in these areas, for which we are already preparing.”
Apart from its towage and support work Gesmar Group is a founding member of and a majority shareholder in the Castalia Consortium, founded in 1987, which comprises 35 Italian maritime companies working in pollution control. The consortium gathers more than 35 naval units that are specially equipped to carry out the collection, transportation, and disposal of liquid and solid pollutants along the Italian coastline. It is currently involved in the recovery of Costa Concordia, and it carried out cargo removal and pollution remediation on the Hanife Ana, which ran aground on the Adriatic coast, for example. One-third of the fleet are vessels with high oil recovery capacity and advanced remediation technology intended for deepwater operation, whilst the remaining ships are suited for shallow waters. Apart from emergency response, Castalia Consortium also commits to environmental monitoring, training, and awareness campaigns aimed at marine protection.
Gesmar Group has encountered slower markets since the recession, impacting most significantly on charter rates. However, the group is financially secure, has a high workload, and as illustrated is making strides to gain business internationally. “Gesmar Group will continue to focus its efforts on consolidating a leadership position in Mediterranean towage whilst driving forward expansion abroad in regions such as South and Central America, West Africa, and the Middle East. We are confident that our years of experience in the towage sector, assistance to offshore oil and gas platforms, proven efficiency, and top of the range technology obtained in the last few years of investment will help us achieve these short-to-medium term objectives,” concludes Riccardo.
Services: Towage, offshore support and pollution control