Sander Bikkers, President, SAAM SMIT Towage Canada Inc.
2019 is promising to be a watershed year for SAAM SMIT Towage Canada Inc. With two new vessels —the most powerful tugs on Canada’s West Coast — now in operation in Vancouver Harbour, another (with equally impressive power) on the way for Prince Rupert and a new President leading the charge, SST Canada is in a good position to be a leader in meeting the demands for docking and escort activities on B.C.’s coast, particularly in the oil and gas sector. Given so much news and activity — including the recently announced sale of partner Boskalis’ equity shares — BC Shipping News was pleased to discuss future plans with President Sander Bikkers in a one-on-one exclusive interview.
Sander Bikkers joined SST Canada officially on January 1, 2019, but was more or less involved with activities since November. With a solid background in the global maritime industry, Bikkers is looking forward to applying the key values he brings to the position. “Although I’ve always lived in Holland, I have been working across the globe since 2003,” he said. “Whether working in Africa, the Middle East, Asia or Latin and North America, I have truly learned that there are four things that are very important to bring to any position: be unbiased, open-minded and respectful, and stay humble. Another key lesson I have learned through my career has been to ‘Think Global, Act Local.’ While this is an overarching credo for SST, adding in local ingredients before applying lessons learned in other areas has served me well.”
Bikkers began his career in the maritime industry after obtaining his MSc, Business Administration, Management and Operations from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “My first experience with the shipping industry was with B&S International as a sales manager for their West Africa market which included providing ship stores to vessels and on-shore projects including assisting clients in setting up supply chains — for example, between Europe and West Africa or the U.S. and West Africa,” he said, adding that the business quickly expanded beyond the maritime industry to the oil and gas sector.
In 2006, Bikkers joined Damen Shipyards where he started in the back office with production and operations before moving into sales management with a focus on South America. “A large part of the job involved tugs and local shipyards and it was during this time that I first came across SAAM as well as SMIT,” he said, noting this was before they merged to create SAAM SMIT Towage. Despite enjoying the job tremendously, he accepted an offer from Dockwise to join as a manager for commercial affairs. Following the acquisition of Dockwise by Boskalis in 2013, Bikkers was promoted to Business Unit Director for Transport and Marine Services which saw him responsible for Dockwise Heavy Marine Transport, Boskalis Offshore Marine Services and Fairmount Marine Services.
Given that much of the work over the past 10 years has been related to the oil and gas sector, Bikkers is used to following a much more stringent set of rules for safety, quality, health and the environment. That adherence to higher standards continues to illustrate his approach to the maritime industry today. “In everything we do, safety is Number One,” he said, further noting that he’s found the team at SST Canada equally committed to the same values. “The safety culture must be lived day in and day out while avoiding the risk of complacency. It is a mindset that continually needs to be kept in focus. And we have the same attitude for our environmental performance.”
Another strength Bikkers brings to his position is his experience with stakeholder management. Seeing similarities around the world in terms of working with governments, indigenous communities, environmental organizations and other industry stakeholders, Bikkers has a straightforward formula that can be applied to all: “As mentioned earlier, if you are open-minded, unbiased, respectful and humble, you are able to make each other stronger and accomplish greater growth.”
Looking specifically at operations on the West Coast of Canada, Bikkers sees great potential for new opportunities. “The energy sector looks promising here,” he said, adding that, with over 100 staff and 24 vessels, including two (soon to be three) of the most powerful tugs on the coast. While already one of the best harbour and escort tug companies on the West Coast, his goal is to become the contractor of choice for oil and gas-related projects as well. “We have acquired four tugs over the last three years and another is on its way from Uzmar Shipyards in Turkey as we speak. All of these vessels were built to meet the future demands on the coast. They have more strength and a greater bollard pull and are able to perform towage work in the most severe conditions. They are also more fuel efficient and designed to meet high environmental standards.”
When asked how the sale of Boskalis’ equity stake in SAAM SMIT Towage would affect local operations, Bikkers didn’t see it as an issue. “SST Canada has roots dating back to the 1930s when the Cosulich’s operated Rivtow. It has always been a company that operates well independently and the boards we deal with as part of the larger umbrella group recognize this.” He also pointed to the significant investments being made in new assets as a sign that the company was strong and committed to growth on the West Coast.
New tugs (I)
In addition to the SST Capilano and the SST Salish, built by North Vancouver’s ABD Boats and delivered in 2016 and 2017 respectively, SST Canada recently took delivery of the SST Orca and the SST Grizzly, now two of the most powerful tugs on the B.C. coast.
In a unique christening ceremony taking into account the February weather, SAAM SMIT Towage Canada hosted industry representatives aboard the Pacific Yacht cruise vessel to witness and celebrate the christening of the new tugs. Guests were chartered over to SST’s docks in Vancouver Harbour where Orene Askew of the Squamish Nation and Helen Xia, President of COSCO, blessed the SST Orca and SST Grizzly respectively. The new vessels arrived in Vancouver following construction at Hong Kong’s Cheoy Lee Shipyards in early November. The tugs are state-of-the-art RAstar 3200 escort tugs designed by Robert Allan Ltd. Both have bollard pulls in excess of 80 tonnes with the ability to generate high, indirect escort forces at speeds of up to 10 knots, namely 82 tonnes in steering, and 130 tonnes in braking.
The tugs are also both equipped with Ibercisa electric towing winches aft, spooled with 600 metres of 54 mm (2-1/8”) diameter 6×36 IWRC steel wire rope towline, thus boosting the capacity of the local tug fleet to rescue vessels and tow them to safety should they become disabled beyond where they would typically be actively assisted by escort tugs.
Specialized fendering systems designed to minimize contact pressures, along with folding masts both act to keep the risk of any steel-to-steel contact with assisted vessels with high flare to a minimum, while also assisting these vessels into terminals as gently as possible. A Fi-Fi 1 standard external fire-fighting system with waterspray and a 16 m3 foam tank, also makes these tugs very useful for terminal standby roles.
Other principal particulars of the new RAstar 3200s include:
Length, overall: 32.0 m
Beam moulded: 12.8 m
Depth, least moulded: 5.4 m
Draft, navigational: < 6.0 m
Tonnage, gross registered: 492 GRT
Speed: 13.5 knots
Fuel: 193 m3
Fresh water: 35 m3
The tugs’ full classification notations are as follows:
Lloyds Register ✠ 100A1 Escort Tug, Fire-Fighting Ship 1 (2,400 m3/hr) with Waterspray, *IWS, ✠ LMC, UMS
The main propulsion machinery comprises a pair of CAT 3516C diesel engines, each rated for 2,525 kW at 1800 rpm, driving 2.8 m diameter controllable pitch Schottel SRP 4000CP Z-drives. This propulsion plant propels these tugs at speeds in excess of 13.5 knots, thus allowing them to comfortably keep pace and manoeuvre into position during high speed escorts.
The electric deck machinery combined with the house loads are powered by a pair of 200 ekW Caterpillar C9 gensets, and the tug is also equipped with a smaller C4.4 harbour genset, rated for 51.5 ekW.
The SST Tsimshian Warrior
Turkey’s UZMAR Shipyard, considered one of the most dominant shipyards in the world, delivered the first IMO Tier III emissions-compliant escort tug to SST Canada. The SST Tsimshian Warrior left Turkey in late February and is expected to arrive on the B.C. coast by mid-spring. The SST Tsimshian Warrior will be used for escort and berthing ships visiting a new energy project in Prince Rupert. The long-term operating agreement also calls for the Orleans, currently operating in the Vancouver Harbour area, to undergo a refit to increase its capabilities and be available as a back-up vessel.
The SST Tsimshian Warrior, designed by Robert Allan, is a RAstar 3200W, is one of the greenest tugs in the world and has been modified to suit extreme local conditions with upgraded systems. She is powered with the new generation Cat® 3516E 2525 bkW engines with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems to fulfill IMO Tier III certification requirements. These engines are driving Rolls Royce US255 CP azimuth thrusters providing 83.5 tonnes bollard pull ahead and a vessel speed of 13 knots.
This state-of-the-art tug is capable of safely performing all ship-handling duties, including berthing, unberthing and escorting in all weather conditions. The tug showcases several other notable features such as gas detection, explosion-proof deck equipment, fully equipped for LNG terminal stand-by roles with a Fi-Fi 1 external fire-fighting system, and a heavy duty escort towing equipment package suitable for rescue towing missions.
The new tug is designed to meet a stringent set of performance requirements that were carefully identified and verified by multiple real-time full-mission bridge simulations in collaboration with British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd., Pacific Maritime Institute, Towing Solutions Inc., Lantec Marine Inc., Robert Allan Ltd. and SST Canada. These requirements include a bollard pull of 80+ tonnes and indirect escort forces of up to 120 tonnes at 10 knots.
These characteristics will make this new addition the largest and most capable escort-rated, multi-mission tug in both SST Canada’s fleet as well as the entire West Coast of Canada. It will significantly increase towing and escort capabilities for marine safety on Canada’s West Coast.