Europe’s towage sector has total turnover of more than €1.2Bn as the sector enables safe and secure trade with the rest of the world
Tug owners demonstrate their importance to Europe’s economy and domestic growth by helping transport more than 1.3Bn tonnes of cargo on over 56,000 ship visits each year.
All this generates €1.2Bn (US$1.35Bn) of turnover for tug owners in the region, averaging €13.7M per tug owning company.
These figures were presented at the Europort exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from a new report written by Ecorys for the European Tugowners Association (ETA).
Ecorys’s report principle author Rick Janse presented the information to tug owners, shipyards and equipment manufacturers during the ETA conference at Europort on 7 November.
He identified there were almost 1,600 tugs operating in European ports, in a region that stretches from Iceland to the Canaries and east to the Ukraine.
The sector employs more than 11,000 people with 83% working on tugboats, said Mr Janse. These generate on average €111,000 per employee. Crewing represents 39% of a European tug owners’ operating costs, followed by 15% on maintenance and repairs, 15% on asset depreciation and 12% on fuel, said Mr Janse.
He said operating costs for the whole sector was around €1.13Bn, which represents around 92% of the total revenues.
This leaves around 8% as net profit, indicating how tight margins are for tug owners, said Mr Janse.
He outlined how global trade changes are impacting European towage sectors. For example, it is anticipated that towage demand will increase in Mediterranean ports, while remaining stable in northern European ports.
Mr Janse also said environmental and technology trends will impact tug operations in the future, resulting in greener towage for cleaner ships.
ETA secretary general Anna Maria Darmanin said these figures indicated the importance of the towage sector to European economies. She also said tug owners should be adapting to business and technology changes to remain in business.
“We need to be acting now otherwise we could lose out,” Ms Darmanin said. “We need to know the trends, what customers want and look at the maritime routes of the future.”
European towage is dominated by main players, such as Svitzer and Boluda, but there are several smaller companies operating tugs in the region.