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Towboat firm expands fleet

Tom O'Leary Nov 11
Towboat firm expands fleet
Thomson Towboats undertake a varied workload, from moving super yachts to towing barges.

Coming up to 30 years in business, Auckland’s Thomson Towboats has expanded from one boat providing harbour towage and workboat services around Auckland, to now four boats providing coastal and ocean towage, salvage, stores delivery, fuel and fresh water delivery, emergency services, pilot and crew transfer, and dredge support.

Thomson Towboats also provides a comprehensive marine consultancy service covering tug, workboat, and barge design, marine engineering and systems design, risk assessment and pre-marine siteworks for tugs, workboats, and floating plant, as well as a range of other marine related operations.

Thomson Towboats was established in 1988 by father and son team Jim and Mike Thomson.

Jim’s daughter Virginia Brown and her husband Lance took over the family business in 2011 and focused on broadening the company’s scope of work.

Today the company undertakes a huge variety of work from towing over-dimension loads, moving homes by water, launching super yachts, and even supplying barges for the Rugby World Cup fireworks display in Auckland Harbour.

One of Thomson Towboats’ tugs has the ability to go offshore, with Thomson Towboats taking on its first offshore contract six years ago, towing two 28m long nickel barges to Noumea for Whangarei Engineering, and bringing back a 53m barge which had been damaged on a reef in New Caledonia to Whangarei for repairs.

The successful delivery of this contract led to more offshore work throughout the Pacific in the coming years.

“This year we’ve had some enquiries for work to French Polynesia and around the New Zealand coast,” says Lance.

“One is a tow to New Caledonia, and one is a tow to a group of islands north of Tahiti. We’ve had experience with a number of tows up through the Pacific and we know what’s involved.”

With one tug available for offshore work, service and maintenance of the Thomson Towboats fleet is imperative.

“We can’t just go and hire one like you can a forklift or a concrete mixer; we’ve got to have our boats up to spec and compliant and ready to go,” Lance says.

“If a vessel breaks down at sea, we need to be ready to go right away to have a chance to secure the job.”

The industry is tightly regulated and Thomson Towboats always has to ensure its systems and procedures are fully compliant, and its vessels, crew, and equipment are certified for the area and type of operation they are working in.

This year has been a big one for boat maintenance for Thomson Towboats.

Three boats have been out of the water for survey, one for a week, one for two and a half weeks, and one for a month.

“You have to have your boat out of the water for survey at certain dates from the day it’s built, and that follows right through its life.

Next year, we won’t have any of them out so we’ll be able to keep more control of our cashflow.”

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