Just two of the island’s fleet of three tugs, the Powerful, pictured, and the Edward E Stowe, are being used at the moment. *File photo
Just two of the island’s fleet of three tugs, the Powerful, pictured, and the Edward E Stowe, are being used at the moment. *File photo

Government has played down concerns over the number of tugboats that are fully operational.

Just two of the island’s fleet of three tugs, the Powerful and the Edward E Stowe, are being used at the moment.

As a result, the arrival of the tanker Astrid Lady to the Oil Docks in St George’s had to be delayed by several hours last week.

Large tankers require two tugs to be on hand when they come into the Oil Docks in the East End.

However, last week one of the tugs had to be in Dockyard as the Riviera cruise ship came alongside.

As soon as the tug had finished its duties in the West End, it moved up to St George’s to oversee the tanker docking.

The lack of an operational third tug has prompted concerns that the extra cost incurred by delays will be picked up by the taxpayer in Bermuda.

A Government spokesperson said: “A ship’s arrival or departure is adjusted according to the availability of tugs and sometimes even a berth, which is typical of any port in the world.

“In Bermuda, passenger ships are given priority, while a tanker or other cargo vessel is asked to adjust speed via the ship’s agent or Bermuda Radio so as to take pilot and proceed into port no earlier than a tug will be available (with sufficient notice the ship then is able to save fuel by reducing speed).

“Also, weather may be a factor whereby high winds necessitate use of two tugs for the berthing and unberthing of two different ships and again the arrival/departure times of each ship must be staggered to suit availability of tugs.” The Bermuda Sun understands that there could be a similar situation next week when the arrival of a car carrier, which also requires two tugs to be on hand, will clash with the arrival of cruise ships into Dockyard.

The spokesperson added: “Concerning the April 22 arrival of multiple ships, arrival planning for tankers and car ships (that typically originate in the Caribbean) can also vary dramatically given the nature of their routing between multiple cargo discharge ports — combined with delays due to weather on their final inbound leg to Bermuda.

“Cruise ships tend to be very much more precise in their voyage itineraries for obvious reasons.

“What appears to be a scheduling conflict presently may resolve itself due to many other factors given that it is not unusual for tankers and car ship arrival ETAs to vary not only by hours but possibly many days.

“On occasion, the ship’s requested arrival/departure time cannot be precisely accommodated given pilot/ tug availability.

“From a ship movement planning standpoint, the far bigger consideration in port operation terms is the limitation of only being able to transit our channels in daylight (as opposed to the issue of tug availability solely), which is one of the reasons that night pilotage is a component part of the current channel dredging study.”