One hull of a ship

With its origins dating as far back as the 1880s, family-owned and operated Tor Group began as a small wooden boat manufacturer in the Rize provence of the Eastern Black Sea region. With Mustafa ‘the carpenter’ Torlak at the helm, the group slowly grew from its humble beginnings into a major international shipbuilding and maintenance group that delivers a diverse range of services to both Turkish and global clients. Within the organisation is Tor Marine, the business segment that focuses on the manufacture of vessels such as OSV’s PSV’s AHTS’, cargo ships, mega yachts and tankers, Lemmar, which carries out ship conversions, maintenance and repairs; Tor Construction, the segment that plans and executes offshore projects, and finally Torgem, which owns and operates shipyards, group offices and workshops that are used by the associated firms Tor Marine and Lemmar.

Strategically based in Tuzla Bay, Istanbul, the 19.186 m2 facility is protected by a waterbreak against challenging weather conditions and boasts modern facilities and technology in line with the demands of the market. Today the shipyard has the capacity to handle the building, repair, maintenance and conversion of up to 20 vessels per year, which includes cargo ships, mega-yachts, chemical tankers and tug boats. However, when the economic crisis hit the shipping industry, the company diversified its services further and noticed opportunities in the port and oil and gas industries, as Mustafa Kemal Torlak, chairman and fifth generation member of the family business, discusses: “In the past we were very much focused on chemical tankers and bulk carriers, but after the global crisis we made the strategic decision to step away from ship owners and to instead move our customer base more towards port operators/managers and oil and gas operators as we believe they are more inclined to invest money in vessels.”

Indeed, this adaptability has proven fruitful for the flexible company, as Mustafa discusses further: “We have been successful in developing our customer portfolio and have grown a very small share in the Middle East Market where there is demand for tug boats, private boats and offshore security boats between 45-70 metres to be built. In 2012 we were awarded a contract in Saudi Arabia from ATCO to send 19 boats to their owner, Saudi Sea Port Authority. These boats are of various sizes and types, and include six tugboats, four pilot boats, two oil recovery vessels, garbage collection and dive boats.” Designed by Macduff Ship Design and built by Torgem, the seven initial newbuilds within the contract have completed successful trials and been delivered to their owners, while the remaining 12 ships are currently at different design/production stages.

“At the moment we are concentrating on the construction of an offshore security vessel, which we aim to launch in September 2014,” says Mustafa. “This security boat is very unique in the market because it is also a speed boat, with a displacement of 360 tonnes, a steel hull of 45 metres and a speed of 35 knots; I have researched other companies, including the navy, and no other vessel of this type has this speed.” The innovative, high-speed patrol vessel was designed in Aberdeen, tested in Poland and built in Turkey for operations in the Middle East, where it will patrol offshore installations in Arabian waters. Advanced features include a quadruple engine installation and four fixed pitch propeller systems, which will be supplied by Kort Propulsion.

Due for launch in September 2014, the unique vessel is certain to generate attention as a game-changer in the industry and further cement the future of Tor Group following the economic crisis. “We have an excellent reputation as Turkish ship builders but we can’t compete with foreign markets any more; this is why we searched for another source of income as a way to continue building high quality vessels without the cut throat competition from shipyards in areas such as China,” says Mustafa. “Although we are launching the vessel in four to five weeks, we are much more interested in publicising the vessel during sea trials and after name day. We may also have a special guest come on board and have a small tour, which will allow them to see the high tech equipment and quality of the boat.”

Having worked with Macduff Ship Design for approximately six years, Torgem has developed a close and mutually beneficial relationship with the company over this period that feels more like a partnership. In addition to the security boat, the two organisations are working together on the second batch of vessels in the ATCO contract, as Mustafa discusses: “Right now we are building some more tug boats; these types of ships aren’t particularly unique but we are using the Macduff design on all of our vessels, which in our opinion is superior to other tug designs and gives us a competitive edge over other shipbuilders.”

Known for its tailor-made design and production services, Torgem looks to have a prosperous future ahead as it continues with its ATCO contract and develops a stronger presence in the oil and gas industry. “We have between five to ten years of experience in the tug boat market and two to three years in the offshore industry; we aim to spend the next decade gaining more experience in this area, which will enable us to survive in a challenging market,” concludes Mustafa.

Torgem Shipyard
New-build, repair and maintenance specialist
Expanded into the port and oil & gas markets
Currently building a unique security boat