Founded in Papua New Guinea in 1977 with just one tugboat, Pacific Towing (PacTow) is now firmly established as Melanesia’s marine services market leader.  Part of the Logistics Division of the iconic Steamships Group of businesses, PacTow has a fleet of 21 vessels and operates in PNG’s five main ports as well as in Solomon Islands.  The company’s predominantly Papua New Guinean workforce is central to its expanding service portfolio both domestically and internationally.

Although harbour towage is PacTow’s core business, the company is increasingly engaged in long-distance open ocean and coastal towage services.  Numerous non-towage services are also provided (e.g., salvage, commercial diving, life rafts [sales, leasing, servicing], and most recently, in-water surveys). 

Several of the new services PacTow has introduced over the last decade cater to PNG’s growing oil and gas sector.  These include oil spill response and prevention, video pipeline inspections, PLEM valve hook up and release, and a range of niche, as well as project-based customised solutions.

Specific to the PNG-LNG project, are the installation of current sensors, inspection of navigational piles/systems, and sea water intake inspections.  Additional support services provided to downstream clients include mooring inspections and repair, annual pressure testing of fuel transfer sub hoses and seabed survey and sampling.

General Manager, Neil Papenfus, reports that “PacTow’s strategy of ongoing safety improvements and certifications has helped achieve its goal of increased service provision to the oil and gas sector.”  PacTow achieved ISO certification early in 2022 (9001: Quality, 45001: Occupational Health & Safety, and 4001: Environment) and is in the final stages of achieving International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) certification for its dedicated tug base in Port Moresby.  Its camp, also located at the tug base, is HACCP certified.

Significantly, PacTow is Melanesia’s only full member of the International Salvage Union and a member of the International Spill Control Organization.

Recent Projects & Activities

PacTow has completed numerous significant projects in the last few years, with its Australian trained and certified commercial dive team playing a central role in many of these, such as:

  • A pipeline project for Mobil Oil (Fiji).  PacTow divers helped install liner material inside twin subsea pipelines used to receive fuel into a bulk storage facility.
  • A deep-sea tailings project at St Barbara’s Simberi Gold Mine.  PacTow divers worked in zero visibility at depths of up to 6 metres connecting the outfall pipeline to the shore connection. 
  • Nearly 20 different salvages, including the salvage of a passenger and roro catamaran which had run aground on the Bismarck Archipelago. 
  • Six in-water ship surveys with a live feed to international survey technicians.  PacTow introduced this service during border lockdowns when marine surveyors could no longer travel to PNG.

In addition, PacTow continued its core business of harbour towage, delivering on 100 percent of all bookings, despite the challenges associated with COVID-19 restrictions, staff shortages, and supply chain failures.

PacTow’s commitment to training and developing PNG’s next generation of seafarers includes two cadetship programs.  Its in-house program has been ‘home growing’ engineers and officers for nearly 20 years, and its Women in Maritime scholarship program (i.e., a partnership with the Australian Government, Swire Shipping, and Consort Express Lines) has been fast-tracking the maritime careers of young PNG women for five years.   

One of PacTow’s significant recent activities has been its multi-million kina re-fleeting program.  Two dedicated harbour tugs to better service the increasingly large vessels utilising PNG’s main ports (i.e., Lae and Port Moresby) were introduced in 2022.  Additional tug purchases are planned prior to 2025. 

Looking to the Future

PacTow’s re-fleeting programme positions it for further growth.  “We’ve got the right assets to undertake larger and more complex projects, whether they be ocean tows or salvages further afield than previously” says General Manager, Neil Papenfus.  “At the same time, we’re uniquely attuned to the needs of our PNG clients, and this includes developing additional niche services, as well as providing customised solutions pretty well on demand and often in an emergency.”

PacTow will continue to enhance its safety systems and maintain significant safety certifications.  Early 2023 will see the company secure its ISPS certification.


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:

Top image caption: Two of Pacific Towing’s ASD tug fleet assisting a tanker in Port Moresby’s Fairfax Harbour.