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New tug boats part of Rio Tinto capacity expansion

Rio Tinto have invested $90 million in an upgrade to their tug and line boat fleet as part of a planned 290 million tonnes capacity increase at its Pilbara operations.

Rio Tinto Pilbara Supply Chain chief operating office Clayton Walker said the tugs would add to the capability of Rio’s existing fleet.

“These new tugs are bigger, stronger, faster and more stable in the water compared to their predecessors, and this delivery heralds a milestone in the history of Rio Tinto’s port operations as the biggest tug build the company has undertaken,” Walker said.

The new tugs feature many design improvements and upgrades.

They have an 80 tonne bollard pull compared to the existing vessels-rated at 64 tonnes, a different hull shape which increases stability and a variable pitch propeller enabling greater control.

Each tug is worth around $15 million, and built in Turkey.  They travelled 29,000kms by sea, taking 70 days to reach Australia.

On average Rio Tinto tugs assist four or five ship loadings a day across Cape Lambert, Parker Point and East Intercourse Island terminals – around 1500 ship movements a year.

To house the new tugs, Rio Tinto has also built new tug pens with the capacity to berth four vessels.

Senior Rio executives took delivery of the first tugboat to arrive in the Pilbara last month, and officially opened the Yigara Bridge situated between Cape Lambert operations and the town of Wickham.

Rio Tinto’s managing director Expansion Projects David Joyce said the bridge was built to ensure the safe passage of road users as they cross the eight line railway network coming in and out of Cape Lambert. 

Rio Tinto announced last week the construction of another bridge on the North West Coastal Highway which will also provide safe passage across this same rail network.

“Yigara Bridge is an impressive structure that was named by the Ngarluma elders and means “Mangrove”, and we are very proud to feature artwork panels on the bridge that were designed and painted by Roebourne Art Group artists,” Joyce said.

The bridge on average is 10 metres high from the top of rail formation to top of road surface and the pre-cast reinforced concrete beams and concrete abutment panel walls were manufactured in Perth and transported by road to site.

The expansion to Cape Lambert port is part of the Robe River Iron Associates joint venture consisting of Rio Tinto, Mitsui, and Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal Industries.

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