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Towage and Pilotage

Orkney Towage Company Ltd. was formed on 21 April 1976 to primarily to provide towage services for the then Occidental Oil Terminal on Flotta. Since this time, Towage services, (now as a division of Marine Services with in the framework of Orkney Islands Council) is now primarily engaged in providing the towage services for the Oil Port of Scapa Flow. Their duties include assisting in the berthing and sailing of oil tankers and gas tankers from the Jetty and Single Point Mooring operated now by Talisman Sinopec (UK) Ltd plus the berthing and sailing of oil tankers involved in Ship-to-Ship operations and escort duties for oil tankers arriving and departing Scapa Flow.


Towage Services is signatory to the CAST agreement (Coastguard Agreement for Salvage and Towage), and under the CAST agreement the MCA may call upon their services (subject to availability) to assist in salvage operations were a vessel is in danger of causing pollution, danger to other shipping or to assist in counter pollution duties. On occasions when the service of a tug is not required in Scapa Flow, Towage Services are available for third party usage within the area of the North of Scotland.

The three 55 tonne bollard pull tugs and their crews are also a key part of the Oil Pollution Response Contingency Plan for Scapa Flow, each tug has a knuckle boom crane which can be used for deploying pollution equipment as well as transporting equipment to the location of a pollution incident. Tug crews are involved in regular oil pollution training exercises with the Orkney Islands Council Department of Marine Services. The crews employed onboard the tugs are highly skilled and experienced personnel and are all certified to STCW ’95. In 2003, Towage Services achieved full compliance with the requirements of the International Safety Management Code (ISM code).

In recent years, Towage Services as played a major part in the installation of Renewable Energy Devices in Orkney. The installation of the Openhydro tidal device at the Falls of Warness and the further installation of the EMEC wave testing device on Orkney's west coast demonstrated the versatility and experience of the towage crews at their best.

For further details on Towage Support services please contact:

Capt. John Taylor, Towage Superintendent, Harbour Authority Building, Scapa, Orkney, KW15 1SD

For further details on Pilotage services please contact:

Capt. Alistair Wylie, Depurt harbour Master Operations, Harbour Authority Building, Scapa, Orkney, KW15 1SD

Technical Information

Orkney Towage operates a 24 hour towage service in Scapa Flow with 3 azimuth stern drive tugs, Einar, Erlend and Harald. The crews serving on board these vessels are certified to STCW 95 standards. Orkney Towage is ISM code compliant.

The tugs each develop a total of 4000hp through twin stern 'aqua-masters'. This equates to a bollard pull of 55t ahead and 47t astern. Each tug is equipped with towing equipment capable of withstanding loads in excess of 120 tonnes. Tug lines are used for most of the operations carried out in Scapa Flow.

Each tug is also equipped with fire fighting monitors and can also be used for counter pollution duties. On occasion, the tugs assist with general port services such as supplying fresh water or gas oil.

M.T. Harald

Tug Availability

The following table outlines the number of tugs available for specific ship movements in Scapa Flow.

MovementShip GroupNumber of Tugs
Berthing / unberthing at LPG Jetty< 5,000 tonnes DWT1
Berthing at LPG Jetty> 5,000 tonnes DWT3
Berthing at LPG Jetty>5,000 tonnes DWT
(capability class 2 DP vessels or higher)
Unberthing at LPG Jetty> 5,000 tonnes DWT2
Berthing / unberthing at SPMsAll ships2
Berthing / unberthing STS operationsAll ships3

During emergency situations and in exceptional circumstances, additional tugs may be called on for assistance. On occasion, the harbour tugs may be available for assisting vessels manoeuvring in other areas around Orkney and for salvage work. These services may be subject to operational requirements in Scapa Flow.

Orkney Harbour Authority requires that certain vessels (primarily loaded tankers) navigating in the Hoxa Sound / Scapa Flow areas are escorted by tugs. The requirements are based on the quantity of pollutants carried and are outlined in the table below.

Area*Quantity of PollutantsNumber of TugsMode
A>5,000 tonnes1Standby
B>5000 tonnes1Passive
B>15,000 tonnes2Minimum 1 active
B>170,000 tonnes3Minimum 1 active
C>15,000 tonnes2Passive
C>170,000 tonnes2Minimum 1 active
*see map below (the above table also applies to LNG vessels).

The master and pilot have the authority to dispense with a tug escort in area 'C' should they consider it appropriate. It is also recommended that ballasted tankers are accompanied by a tug escort as follows:

  • Area A 1 tug standby
  • Area B 1 tug on active mode
  • Area C 1 tug on passive mode

For the purpose of tug escorts, a pollutant is defined as crude oil or heavy bunker fuel.

Tug Escort Areas Within Scapa Flow

Tug escort areas within Scapa Flow

Orkney Towage Accounts

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Orkney Islands Council, Marine Services, Harbour Authority Building, Scapa, Orkney, KW15 1SD