Serco takes over from historic family tug firm

Tugs in action
Tugs in action

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THERE has been a change in shipping within Portsmouth harbour, as a fleet of new tugboats are hard at work.

They belong to Serco, which has taken over the towage of large ships leaving and entering the harbour.

As previously reported in The News, the job had been done by J Butcher & Sons, latterly run by Colin Butcher and his sons Gary and Paul, which had run the business for 200 years.

The company decided to shut up shop as Colin reached retirement age.

Now commercial vessels using the port are helped in by the same state-of-the-art tugboats used by the Royal Navy ships.  

Serco’s Marine operation is built around six hi-tech towage vessels equipped with Azimuth Propeller drives, which mean they are more manoeuvrable.

All ship movements related to business at MMD Ltd, the Portsmouth City Council-owned import firm, will use the new towage service.

There are five regular ships that come in and out of the port every week, operated by Geest, Seatrade, Fyffes, NYK and Del Monte.

Some larger cruise ships may also need to call on the new tug service, dependent on the weather conditions for arrival and departure.

Rupert Taylor, cruise manager at Portsmouth International Port, said: ‘J Butcher & Sons have provided a first-class service to the port over the years. While we are sad to see them go, we are also looking forward to working with Serco.

‘They have provided towage services to the Royal Navy at Portsmouth since 1996, and their crews have excellent knowledge of the local waters and procedures.’

Stuart Laidler, Serco’s senior service manager in Portsmouth added: ‘We are delighted to be working with Portsmouth International Port to assist the commercial vessels move in out of the port safely using our tugboats.

‘Serco has been providing a high class towage service to the Royal Navy at Portsmouth for 17 years and we hope to continue the legacy of J Butcher and Sons in providing a high-class commercial towage service to the port.’