Pacific Basin looks Down Under for towage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 August, 2010, 12:00am

Pacific Basin Shipping is targeting Australia's burgeoning oil and gas sector and infrastructure development in the Middle East to drive expansion of its fledgling towage business.

Through its PB Sea-Tow subsidiary, the firm is already providing tugs and staff for the Gorgon gas project being developed up to 200 kilometres off the northwest coast of Western Australia.

PB Sea-Tow is one of three companies in a joint venture supplying marine vessels and labour for the Gorgon development under a A$350 million (HK$2.44 billion) contract awarded by Chevron Australia last year.

'We have had a very successful start on Gorgon. We hope it will lead to more projects being awarded to us,' said Klaus Nyborg, chief executive of Pacific Basin Shipping.

He said that while there had been a 'poor result from towage' in the first half of the year, the company had since 'got a foothold and platform in Australia'.

Nyborg said the company had been 'spreading its wings', operating exclusively in more ports including three bulk cargo ports that were added in the first half of this year.

Senior executive Charlie Kocherla had been transferred from Hong Kong to Australia to head PB Towage as managing director.

PB Towage has operations in seven ports in Australia, the most recent in Townsville, and expects them to provide a springboard into New Zealand.

Overall, Pacific Basin has 33 tugs and six barges operating in Australia and the Middle East, partly through a joint venture with Fujairah Bulk Shipping.

By comparison, the firm's core dry bulk cargo business comprised 125 handysize, handymax and post-panamax ships, that include 12 on order, ranging in size between 27,000 and 115,000 deadweight tonnes.

Nyborg said the towage market in the Middle East had picked up substantially after a quiet first half during which Fujairah Bulk Shipping booked US$4 million in interim net profit.

The towage operations in the Middle East are in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Turning to Pacific Basin's ferry business, Nyborg said the company was looking at opportunities in Vietnam, the mainland and Taiwan in addition to Europe where its first ship, the Humber Viking, was operating.

The firm is due to take delivery of two chartered roll-on/roll-off ferries, which typically transport truck trailers, later this year. This 'ro-ro' business generated a net profit of US$500,000 in the first half of this year. Pacific Basin is due to take delivery of three more ferries in 2011.