Today in Transportation History – 2005: Bee Aware of the Launch of This French Tugboat

The salvage tugboat Abeille Bourbon was launched at the city of Brest on the western edge of France. Abeille Bourbon is owned by Les Abeilles International, a unit of the shipping company Groupe Bourbon, and was chartered to the French Navy for use as a deep-sea emergency tow vessel. The yacht-like Abeille Bourbon was designed by Norwegian naval architect Sigmund Borgundvåg, who specializes in offshore vessels. Abeille Bourbon is one of approximately 600 vessels that he has designed.

Bernadette Chirac, the wife of President Jacques Chirac of France, handled the christening duties for Abeille Bourbon during the launch ceremony at Brest. Others on hand for the event included French Navy Admiral Laurent Merer, maritime prefect of the Atlantic; and Jacques de Chateauvieux, chairman of Groupe Bourbon.

Abeille Bourbon replaced the ocean tugboat Abeille Flandre, which has been in service with the French Navy since 1979, on France’s western coast. Abeille Flandre was reassigned to the French Mediterranean coast. About seven months after Abeille Bourbon made her official debut, her sister ship Abeille Liberté was launched. That vessel likewise assists with maritime traffic on France’s western coast. (Towing vessels in France start with the word “abeille,” the French word for “bee”; this is in reference to how these vessels rapidly make their way to stricken ships in a manner that is similar to bees gravitating towards flowers.)

Since being launched, Abeille Bourbon – measuring 262.5 feet (80 meters) in length — has participated in several key salvage operations at sea. These include towing the United Kingdom-flagged container ship MSC Napoli after she was damaged and stranded in the English Channel by European windstorm Kyrill in 2007, and; towing the tanker YM Uranus (registered under the Maltese flag) after she collided with the Panamanian bulk carrier Hanjin Rizhao off France’s Brittany coast in 2010.

For more information on Abeille Bourbon, please check out and the 1 May 2005 Maritime Journal article “’Abeille Bourbon’ Takes Up Station” at,-towing-and-salvage/abeille_bourbon_takes_up_station.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: