Optimise existing fleets rather than ordering new harbour towage vessels to save high capital costs
Installing an application to improve dispatch and operation in a port could reduce fuel consumption and emissions, instead of spending millions of dollars on new hybrid-propulsion vessels. Owners can make fuel and cost savings and ports can demonstrate reduced pollution from harbour vessels, tugs and pilot boats through applying automated planning solutions such as OptiPort.
These applications also reduce pressure on tug dispatchers, improve relations with shipowners and enable more management time on other challenges and issues.
OptiPort general manager Patrick Everts said owners looking to reduce their environmental footprint should consider fleet optimisation. “The traditional approach involves owners buying new, more powerful and larger tugs, instead of deploying the existing fleet in a better way,” he said.
“We have trialled and implemented Optiport for the last three years and without exception we found operators we engaged with all use their existing tug fleet much more effectively, creating more capacity,” Mr Everts added.
“Using our app, means more efficient use of their tugs, no unnecessary mileage or high-speed sailing,” he continued. “Owners make savings on fuel and emissions with better efficiency of their available fleet.”
Owners are coming under increasing pressure from ports to reduce emissions from tugs. There are also changes coming in IMO’s environmental requirements, which owners can meet by retrofitting existing tugs with abatement technology, such as selective catalytic reduction units for capturing nitrogen oxides. This way they do not need to invest in new tugs.
“We make more efficient use of tugs,” said Mr Everts. “OptiPort helps reduce wasted time and energy and reduces emissions. It also means tugs are not sailing outside of their optimal sailing speeds.”
OptiPort uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to optimise tug dispatch for efficient escort and harbour towage and ship docking. It can automatically dispatch tugs from the best berth to meet incoming ships and provide information to operators on the optimised speed for the best calculated arrival time.
OptiPort can also be used to deploy pilots and dispatch pilot boats.
“We developed our IT solution by combining different data sources to calculate the optimised scheduling for a tug fleet,” said Mr Everts. “It knows the ideal speed of sailing and the recommended time of departure to reach the tow, while at the same time taking into account the local port rules, specific company rules, labour agreements, weather, tide and current information, etc.
Its planning capabilities mean OptiPort automatically reacts to operational issues. “If there is a tug breakdown, it can reschedule automatically and if an incoming vessel is delayed, the schedule will be amended automatically because we track all vessels that are due into the port” said Mr Everts. “There are millions of calculations that dispatch requires. For example, the best speed, crew time, tug leaving berth and where to go before towage. All taking into account what is the job, and the job after this job, a tug needs to perform.
He expects solutions such as OptiPort will remove the need for pen-and-paper tug dispatch, which has been the traditional method to date. “We have shown there is lot of potential to automate this, there is an exponential amount of possibilities,” Mr Everts said, adding this would not replace dispatchers and should not be seen as a threat to jobs.
“OptiPort supports dispatchers for better control [of tugs]. If it controls 80% of work by this system, there is more time to work on the unexpected,” he said. “OptiPort saves money for tug operators. It provides information to tug masters to reduce speed and save money for owners,” Mr Everts added.
There are a growing number of ports and owners using OptiPort worldwide. This solution is used in Port Hedland, Australia, to support tug dispatch for dry bulk exports, in Port Arthur, US, and in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, among others.
OptiPort is also widely used in the global workboat sector as it is incorporated in Helm Connect fleet management software, where it is accessed through an application interface.
OptiPort is run in version 2.0. Its creators are continuously improving the solution, said Mr Everts. “We will continue improving algorithms to identify more jobs,” he said. “In the future, we will look to evolve OptiPort into a platform for hosting data across towage, pilotage and other (port-related) operations.”
This platform could be used for wider commercial and port operations. “We could identify jobs for owners and report what is in the port from AIS information. OptiPort would also work with dispatching pilots and pilot boats,” said Mr Everts.
“We are talking with other companies to use our intelligence and technology in this platform – for example for just-in-time port arrival.”
There will be future applications on the OptiPort platform and more tug owners and port operators benefiting from the AI and machine learning.
OptiPort is one of the sponsors of Riviera’s Smart tugs: the industry’s Tesla, or still on the test bed? webinar, on 1 September, which is part of the Tug Technology Webinar Week. Use this link for more details and to register for these webinars