The Prince Rupert Port Authority’s ongoing conference series, ‘Trade Talks’ featured its newest participating business last week, and it’s one that not only has a presence here in town but across the globe.
SMIT Marine, a harbour towing and salvage company, had Gregory Malcolm, Northern B.C. assistant operations manager, and Jeff Melegrito, operations manager, speak in front of a sizable crowd at the Port Interpretive Centre on Thursday night to shed some light on the company’s operations and plans for the future.
“Globally, SMIT operates in 15 countries with 40 port locations and we have around 250 vessels,” explained Malcolm.
“We have three main operations worldwide – so that’s salvage, towage and external operations and management.”
SMIT Marine, a division of Royal Boskalis Westminster since 2010 and a marine service company for 170 years, has made Prince Rupert home as one of its seven B.C. ports and the transitional phase locally is paramount to its success in the future.
“[Prince Rupert’s] Capt. Mike Stevenson is retiring after 50 years and we’ve got big shoes to fill with Mike,” said Malcolm.
“He’s seen it all and luckily Jeff and I have been able to shadow him for a couple years and gain as much knowledge as possible. Hopefully we can bring that [expertise to the company].”
Melegrito added in the presentation that many of the business’ young skippers are in their 20s and 30s to replace the pilots and captains retiring in the next 10 years.
“We also hire deckhands who are currently going to school now and will try for their captain’s licenses,” said Melegrito in the presentation.
“Ten vessels service Northern B.C. – two 1800s [horsepower ships] in Kitimat and we currently have a new build in Vancouver – it’s another tractor tug that should be ready by Aug. 2015 and maybe we’ll see it up here,” he added.
Currently, the company operates at several different terminals in Prince Rupert and its fleets have transformed as the decades have gone by.
Gone are the smaller, less-powerful crafts and in vogue are the much larger, more efficient tractor tugs that can carry far more weight and have less of an impact on the environment, said Malcolm.
“For trends in the shipping industry, ships tend to be getting bigger with larger economies of scale. [They’re] more efficient and more environmentally-friendly. They can bring over more cargo on a [single] ship versus multiple ships, so with larger ships we need larger tugs to do our assists,” he said, adding that the technological and industrial advances have come so far that tractor tugs with 6,000 horsepower are replacing some with mere hundreds.
As for the liquefied natural gas industry, SMIT is well-versed in towing capabilities for those ships not in Northern B.C. but around the world.
“SMIT provides tug assists, escort services and terminal operations expertise to LNG terminals in 16 countries right now,” said Malcolm.