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The role of tugs at the Port

Tugboats are small but extremely robust. They have powerful engines and a very solid frame. “They’re the tractors of the sea,” said Philippe Filion, Director of Public Affairs at Ocean Group. The  tug Ocean Pierre-Julien for exemple has a 4,000 BHP engine, but the strongest tugs have 8,000 BHP engines. They are equipped to clear a path through the thick ice that blankets the St. Lawrence River. Tugs are also equipped with powerful water cannons, ready to intervene if ever a fire breaks out aboard ship or close to the water’s edge.

Tugs also provide ship refuelling services and support services to ships in difficulty. Smaller tugs taxi St. Lawrence pilots to and from vessels taking the river channel.

Ocean Group has 34 tugs. Five are at the Port of Montreal. The rest of the fleet is stationed in various ports in Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland-Labrador. Tugs may be named after family members of the owner, Gordon Bain, or people who work at Ocean, such as Executive Vice-President – Special Projects, Pierre-Julien. “Mr. Bain likes to honour the people he loves and respects,” said Philippe Filion.

In addition to tugboats and shipbuilding, Ocean Group leases specialized equipment to dredge the riverbed and remove sediment. It also owns several barges that are mainly used for fireworks on the river, and on projects such as Champlain Bridge. In total, the Group employs 750 people in four Canadian provinces of Canada. Of them, 90% are in Quebec and 34 in Montreal.

Committed to the environment

Ocean Group is electrifying its berths in Montreal, as it did in Quebec City. As a result, tugs that are docked but on call, in other words ready to leave at a moment’s notice, can now connect to the hydroelectric system instead of using diesel fuel for heating, lighting and other accommodation needs on board. The project is both ecological and economic. Hydroelectricity costs less and does not pollute as much as diesel in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “Our thinking is to twin our own development with sustainable development,” said Philippe Filion.

Furthermore, all the tugs are certified by Green Marine, a voluntary sustainable development program adopted by North America’s shipping industry.

It is worthwhile to build tugs to be more environmentally friendly, because they will be in the port landscape for a very long time. Ports simply cannot do without these hardy little workers.

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