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Ex-Bremerhaven ocean-going tugboat on the move as a luxury yacht

Former employees of the Schichau shipyard in Bremerhaven and sailors from the Bugsier shipping company still recognize the former German ocean-going tug “Arctic” from the silhouette of the luxury yacht “Arctic P”. She was last seen in New Zealand. Other tugs also operate as yachts today.

Today’s luxury yacht “Arctic P” was produced as a tugboat over 55 years ago at the shipyard at the former location at the New Harbour in Bremerhaven with the construction number 1746.

Today, however, the ship with the oversized radar mast and the large satellite systems no longer tows damaged ships or oil platforms through the world’s oceans, but serves as a floating vacation paradise for an Australian millionaire, in recent years mainly in the South Seas. The “Artic P” is currently moored in Auckland, New Zealand, where shipspotter Paul Milller was able to take photos of the unique yacht.

With a bollard pull of 179 tons and towing wires with a breaking strength of 380 tons, the two ocean-going tugs “Oceanic” and “Arctic”, built at the Schichau shipyard in 1969, were the most powerful and strongest salvage tugs in the world at the time. They were used by the Hamburg-based Bugsier shipping company.

As the Suez Canal was closed to shipping for the second time by Egypt in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War, and all crude oil transports from the Arab oil-producing regions to Europe and America were routed around the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, for several years, Bugsier, under the leadership of Heinrich Schuchmann, realized that the ever-growing tankers of the time required much larger salvage tugs in the event of accidents. At the same time, towing orders for drilling rigs in the newly developing offshore oil production sector, for example in the North Sea, were already emerging.

As a result, “Oceanic” and “Arctic” were stationed along the tanker route at the southern tip of Africa for some time after delivery. In 1972, the “Arctic”, which was built with an ice-strengthened hull, also took on a special assignment in the Antarctic, where it salvaged the “Lindblad Explorer”, a cruise ship that had run aground. In the mid-1980s, the ship received two new Deutz main engines with an output of 4,853 kW each at the shipyard.

But even at this point, there was less and less work for the two powerful ocean-going tugs. This was because technical improvements in shipbuilding led to fewer and fewer accidents and thus a reduced need for salvage tugs. The increased use of so-called anchor handling tugs in the offshore industry also led to longer and longer lay times. At the beginning of the 1990s, for example, they were laid up for long periods in Bremerhaven at the so-called Schuchmannpier in Kaiserhafen I.

The Australian billionaire Kerry Packer acquired the tugboat “Arctic” from the Bugsier shipping company via an Irish investment company and had it extensively converted into a private yacht at Malta Shipyards from 1994, based on a design by Kusch Yachts from Hamburg. New cabins were added to the aft deck. Since its completion, the former tugboat now bears the name “Arctic P” and is registered as a yacht.

In the years that followed, the “Arctic P” was rebuilt again and again and now has a 4-D cinema with surround sound and vibrating chairs, a heated pool protected from the elements, a fully equipped gym, a library and a professional diving center. After Kerry Packer’s death in 2005, her daughter, Australian businesswoman and philanthropist Gretel Packer, acquired the yacht in a settlement with her brother James Packer. It now offers space for up to 12 guests and 25 crew members. The top speed of the “Arctic P” is given as 18 knots.

More tugs underway as luxury yachts

Due to its history as a salvage tug, the yacht also has a few special design features compared to today’s classic yachts. For example, the bunker tank holds 1,400,000 liters of fuel, so that even longer sea routes can be covered without stopping to bunker. Thanks to the ice-strengthened hull, the “Arctic P” undertook a voyage to the Antarctic in 2013, heading for the South Pole. It was last 677 nm from the South Pole. No ship had ever sailed so close before, and an entry in the Guinness Book of Records followed.

Incidentally, the “Arctic P” is not the only former Bugsier salvage tugboat that now sails the world’s oceans as a yacht. In 1993, almost at the same time as the “Arctic”, the former “Simson” 1973, also built at the Schichau shipyard in Bremerhaven, was sold to a Swiss industrialist via the Hamburg yacht agency Claus Kusch. This conversion was also carried out at Malta Shipyards. The 77.7-metre-long ship now trades under the name “Lone Ranger” and has been at Blohm+Voss in Hamburg several times in the past for conversion work.

The former “Oceanic”, sister ship of the “Arctic”, which was initially chartered out to the German government from March 1996 as an emergency tug for use in the North Sea, was sold by Bugsier eleven years ago to a Turkish shipping company under the name “Osman Khan”. The tug has now been lying in a shipyard in Malta for eight years, awaiting a yacht conversion, which has already been announced several times. It remains exciting to see what will happen to the old salvage tug, as observers have not yet been able to identify any conversion work there. (CE)


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Copyright: Paul Miller / Eckardt

Caption: © Paul Miller / Eckardt