How’s this for some innovation: a ship-assist tug that has a European-style towing hook on a 360-degree track that allows the hook to travel all the way around the superstructure of the tug. In theory, this makes the tug un-trippable/girtable and therefore much safer for the crew and more effective for the vessel they’re assisting. Take a look at it in action…..
The towing hook, a method that is seen very little in the U.S. (only here and there in the Great Lakes on a few small assist tugs, to my knowledge) appears to be just like the swiveling hooks used for ship’s mooring lines at some docks I’ve seen. A smaller harbour-type (or pelican) hook is also available. These hooks can reliably release the lines even while under heavy tension. So if for some reason you did get into trouble (like the hook assembly jamming on its track due to lack of proper maintenance or overloading-induced distortion, for instance) you could hit an emergency release button and free yourself of the tripping load. There is the option of load monitoring, and even a shock absorber for lessening the effects of shockloading non-elastic towlines made of wire or HMPE like Samson’s Amsteel Blue (a.k.a. spectra).
The design of the system, of course, is meant to never allow the tug to get in a situation where tripping is possible in the first place by allowing the direction of pulling force to find its own equilibrium/path of least resistance. Does it work and will it catch on? We surely don’t know over on this side of the pond yet. But innovation always requires a willingness to take chances and experiment. This gets harder and harder to do with each passing year as our nation becomes progressively more risk averse. Our society has become conditioned to expect and demand continuous advancement at an accelerating pace in all things, but doesn’t much care for, or have a willingness to soberly accept, the inevitable failure side of the equation. That’s where the use of simulators and models can help to a certain extent. But ultimately we can’t know for sure unless and until we try it out for real on the water, which entails risk.
Read all about the whole Dynamic Oval Towing System, which comes from Mampaey Offshore Industries BV in the Netherlands. This isn’t just some lofty concept. The video you just watched is of a working 13-meter tug called the Ugie Runner , based at Peterhead in bonnie Scotland, and there are larger designs as well. They come from Macduff Ship Design which is nearby Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.
Here’s some more video showing a model tug at different speeds…..