‘PNG Marine Salvor’s Capacity’

Pacific Towing anticipates an increase in its salvage, emergency response, and spill response services given PNG’s expanding oil and gas sector, as well as the growth in Melanesia’s marine traffic. Pictured are two tugs in Pacific Towing’s 20-vessel fleet assisting a suezmax tanker in Port Moresby.

In addition to its core business of harbour towage, marine services company Pacific Towing (PacTow), provides salvage, emergency response, and spill response services at home in PNG and throughout the broader region. These services have increased in frequency together with the growth of PNG’s oil and gas sector, as well as the increase in Melanesia’s marine traffic.

PacTow is a nearly 50-year-old PNG business. General Manager, Neil Papenfus, reports that the company has been involved in close on 80 salvages in the waters of several countries (e.g., Australia, Fiji, Guam (US), Indonesia, Micronesia, PNG, Solomon Islands) in the last 25 years. PacTow is also Melanesia’s only full member of the International Salvage Union and the International Spill Control Organization.

Although the company typically operates in a ‘sole salvor’ capacity, it has also partnered in lead and co-salvor arrangements, including with some significant international salvage entities (e.g., Fukada, Nippon, Smit, T&T, and Five Oceans).

PacTow has amassed considerable salvage, emergency response, and spill response capacity, in terms of its fleet, equipment, in-house expertise, and relationships. As such, Papenfus reports that they can “manage just about any salvage or spill in the region.” Albeit a particularly serious incident involving an oil or chemical tanker, or a giant container vessel, would require additional assistance.

The provision of a rapid first response, irrespective of vessel type though, is fully within PacTow’s capabilities. Only a few months ago, one of their blue water tugs was deployed to tow an oil tanker stranded in the Coral Sea back to the safety of Port Moresby for repairs.

PacTow’s 20-vessel fleet is strategically deployed across its operations throughout PNG and Solomon Islands. Its dedicated dive workboat, together with the bulk of its spill response equipment, as well as its commercial dive team and salvage officers, are based at the company’s main tug base and headquarters in Port Moresby.

The company doesn’t typically need to import technical expertise to assist them with salvage operations, especially those involving the types of vessels that normally call in to Melanesia. However, it has on occasion brought in expertise from Australia, Japan, and Europe.

In addition to building its own capacity, PacTow is also working with government entities such as the National Maritime Safety Authority to build PNG’s capacity, especially with regard to oil spills. Late in 2022 it played a central role in the country’s National Oil Spill Response Exercise, and in 2023 it has been contributing to the development of PNG’s National Oil Spill Response Plan.

PNG’s need for increased oil spill response capacity, as well as spill mitigation services, is evident. The nation is not only on the cusp of a 10-year LNG construction boom but a massive surge in mining development with the imminent progression of the Wafi-Golpu gold project. Not only will oil and gas exports increase (and therefore the risk of marine spills when loading and discharging tankers), but so too will the marine traffic importing all matter of items for the construction of LNG and mining infrastructure.


PacTow delivers excellent, reliable, and safe marine services through PNG and the broader Pacific. A well-maintained fleet, as well as a dedicated and exceptionally trained team underpin PacTow’s ongoing expansion and success. PacTow is part of a larger sea and land logistics group wholly owned by Steamships Limited.

To learn more about PacTow: www.pacifictowingmarineservices.com

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