Protection without the hefty price tag
Hiring fenders offers the double whammy of reduced capital expenditure and increased flexibility. Dave MacIntyre explains
Fenders are certainly a core component of the operational hardware for ports — you’d find few people arguing against that fact. But perhaps less appreciated is that it is not always necessary to make a long-term capital investment to furnish berths with the required equipment — particularly if it is for a short-term need.
Ports which need to equip for a project or special contract can keep capex investment costs to a minimum and ensure flexibility by opting for the hire of fenders. Some mainstream fender manufacturers advertise fender-hire, while some third parties purchase fenders and then hire them to others. An example of the latter is COMAP in Italy, which hires Yokohama fenders to private terminals, shipowners and shipping lines specialising in heavy-lift transport.
COMAP reports that customers make the decision to buy or rent depending on the period of use required and the possibility of easily stacking the fenders when they are not being used. Often, the hire period may only be a week or two.
UK-based Fendercare Marine, part of the James Fisher and Sons group, is an international fender manufacturer which also deals in the hire market. Examples of ports which have rented from Fendercare include ABP Southampton, Dover, Teesport, Bristol, Aberdeen, Peterhead, Rosyth, Jurong Port (Singapore), Johor Port (Malaysia), Sepangar (Malaysia), Batam (Indonesia), Muara (Brunei), DP World and Abu Dhabi Ports, plus agencies including GAC, Inchcape and Kanoo.
Lara Griffin, product support director for Fendercare, says the company’s range of hire products include Yokohama pneumatic fenders, Fendercare’s own brand of Hippo foam fenders and also Mooreast offshore anchors for short and long-term duration hires.
They can be used for berthing alongside quays, ship-to-ship cargo transfer, in conjunction with bunkering operations, and in the handling of large project cargoes. They can also be used for double/triple banking, where to save room in busy ports for mooring or during ship-to-ship transfer operations, vessels are moored next to each other and fenders are used to keep the hulls apart.
“Fender hire is mainly to vessel agents, ports, rig-repairing companies and offshore vessel owners, bunkering companies, naval contractors and shipyards,” says Ms Griffin.
Rental contracts can be tailored to include some kind of specialisation for the port’s needs. “Sometimes we would tailor-make for a longer-duration rental,” says Ms Griffin, adding that contracts can vary from one week to one year. “It just depends on the length of job – we offer flexible rentals to meet the needs of clients. Any duration can be accommodated.”
Ms Griffin adds that fender rental can fit the needs of certain clients: “It is ideal to rent if the project is only short-term. It saves money and [the customer] is not left with the asset.”
Fendercare protects itself from misuse of rented fenders through protections in the contract, which clearly states the terms and conditions of hire. Customers also have an option to pay for insurance for the duration of hire.
One port which has discovered the benefits of hiring fenders is Forth Ports, the UK-based multimodal ports company which owns and operates eight commercial ports in the UK.
The company’s chief harbour master, Captain Alan McPherson, says hiring is usually out of necessity rather than choice and almost exclusively Yokohama-type fenders are chosen.
Asked if a rental fender would imply operational limitations for a specific port, due it not being tailor-made, Capt McPherson says Yokohama fenders are general use and as such don’t pose too many restrictions.
Forth Ports usually hires fenders mainly for berthing ships on quays, but also for bunker operations and double-banked berthing. The rental term varies but a hire for a few weeks or months is the norm to deal with specific vessels.
“Renting avoids capital outlay for an asset that is maybe only used a few times a year for specific vessels,” he says.
Another port which benefits from renting fenders is Singapore’s Jurong Port, which has grown over the last 50 years to become a main point of entry to the island state. It prefers to hire pneumatic fenders in the 1.5-metre to 3-metre diameter range, for tasks such as berthing alongside quays, ship-to-ship cargo transfer, bunkering and the handling of large project cargoes.
Walter Lin, senior manager of commercial, urban solutions and projects at Jurong, says that hiring fenders can complement a port’s existing on-site fenders. “Most ports would already have rubber fenders installed. Pneumatic will only be deployed when required, e.g. for ship-to-ship transfers.”
He advises that different rental terms are needed to suit different tasks, and ports would need to hold an inventory of fenders of different sizes that would cater for different needs.
“It really depends on the nature of business activities,” says Mr Lin. “For a layup, the rental period will be longer. For project-based, the rental lease can be on a weekly basis.”
He also stresses the benefits of ports avoiding capital expenditure on fenders which may only have limited deployment.
“Capex involvement might not see a positive ROI (return on investment) due to the frequency of usage. The maintenance and storage will add indirect costs as well.” Whereas by hiring “... pay per use will help the port to reduce investment. Relying on fender rentals allows the port to choose a wide range of specifications available ...” compared to being committed to a single purchase.
Restrictions to consider
Leading shipping agency GAC also sees benefits in fender hires. Ashan Welagedara, senior general manager – shipping and business development, GAC Sri Lanka, says that in that country, GAC is partnered with a reputable ship-to-ship service provider to support their operations in the region, providing logistics and rigging services. “Most of the fenders are Yokohama and are 3.5 x 6.5 metres or 1 x 1.5 metres.”
Gary Stewart, logistics manager of GAC UK, says that in Aberdeen, fender use varies according to the needs of the job in terms of size, number of fenders, their condition and classification. “We have a range of 2.3-metre and 3.2-metre fenders available to our clients.”
Given that a rental fender would not be tailor-made for a specific port, GAC says there could be restrictions on their application.
“Size, age, certification for specific use – for example OCIMF standard for ship-to-ship operations – are factors to be considered when looking at renting fenders that haven’t been tailor-made for a specific port,” says Neil Godfrey, group sales director, GAC Group.
In GAC’s experience, hire is most commonly for a proposed number of days, either at a lump sum or on a per-day rate.
“The benefit to us as a client of the port, and to our clients, is that we do not have to make the capital investment for equipment that we only need on an occasional basis,” says Mr Godfrey.
“That said, if we have business in hand in which our client has a regular and time-definite requirement for fendering, it would make sense for us to look into investing in our own fenders to better support the client.
“However, it’s not just a matter of cost. There are also the storage, depreciation, insurance, testing and certification aspects to consider. But if it benefits the client and we can add value to our operations to buy our own fenders, we’d do it.”
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