Fleet renewal, digitalisation and investing in seafarer training are the main focuses for this expanded division of DP World
P&O Maritime Logistics (POML) was formed following the acquisition of Topaz Energy and Marine by DP World and its merger with P&O Maritime in 2019. It straddles the logistics, offshore and port service sectors.
POML’s newly appointed chief executive Martin Helweg tells Tug Technology & Business how the company will grow its port services through investment and innovation.
Following the merger, POML is ready to benefit from synergies across the DP World group.
It operates more than 200 vessels across its port services portfolio, including 53 tugboats. These have varying propulsion systems and bollard pulls for different operations around the world, such as 30 tonnes in ports handling smaller ships, up to 85-90 tonne bollard pull on tugs operating in Equatorial Guinea. “Each is tailored to the specific region and port it is used in,” says Mr Helweg.
The company provides port services in the Americas, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, across commercial ports and LNG terminals for a wide range of customers both inside and outside the group. POML will grow its business in line with DP World’s expansion and other port operators’ towage requirements.
“This may lead to business opportunities within the wider group or vice versa,” Mr Helweg says. “Our business works better for all parties if we approach the same value chain in an integrated manner.”
Mr Helweg explains how this may work for the whole group. “A recent transaction in Ukraine was initially established by us, after which DP World acquired a container terminal in the country, expanding the inhouse logistics chain.”
He says growth drivers will be rising port traffic volumes and forming long-term partnerships in each country it operates in. These drive POML to continuously renew the fleet, “whether through acquiring new vessels or adapting our existing assets to create optimum efficiency” says Mr Helweg, adding “we must assess each situation as it comes”.
One example is POML’s purchase of a new tug for operations in Somaliland, where a container terminal is being developed as the country improves its economy following years of civil strife and lawlessness.
Another example is a tug being built to handle very large container ships in the Port of Barcelona, Spain. “We have developed an innovative tug concept for our operations in Spain,” says Mr Helweg. DP World’s Drydocks World is building this tug to comply with IMO’s Tier III emission requirements.
This eco-silent tractor tug will be operated by P&O Reyser after its delivery later in 2020. It will have a pair of diesel engines with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) exhaust-gas emissions after-treatment systems to comply with Tier III. This is an asymmetric tractor tug ATT 2020 designed by Cintranaval Ship Design.
“Our port towage will increase along with expectations, but we are also looking at ways to make our existing assets work harder,” says Mr Helweg.
“Our increased use of digital technology assists with this. For example, we are developing a port information service that will provide data on a vessel’s efficiency – helping us to adapt as we learn more.”
This digitalisation drive surges through the whole of the company, including in the offshore logistics sector, where POML has introduced lubricant and fuel oil monitoring and trialled a new class survey regime.
“We are constantly looking at innovations in the industry,” says Mr Helweg, “whether that is the tug of the future, fully electric vessels or fully redundant propulsion – and how digital technology can transform the current system.”
This includes seeking ways to reduce the carbon footprint of all operations. “This may be achieved through adapting our present fleet to reduce emissions or investing in new vessels that use the most up-to-date technology,” he explains.
POML plans to innovate by using proven technologies and building strategic partnerships across the industry.
“Often, we use existing applications and put them in the marine environment for the first time,” says Mr Helweg. “Ultimately, everything we do is led by common sense. We are owner operators who live and breathe this every day.”
He says there should be more co-operation with other players in the sectors POML operates within. “It is vital that we collaborate with fellow industry leaders to evolve our business.
“We strongly believe we must all put our heads together to keep coming up with the best solutions,” he says.
Some of these technologies are adopted first in the offshore support vessel (OSV) fleet and some working practices from tugs can be transferred to OSV operations.
“Firstly, our innovations are cost-effective, reducing blocks in fuel and energy consumption,” Mr Helweg describes. “And secondly, far from focusing all our efforts on autonomous vessels, we genuinely believe our highly skilled craftsmen and women are here to stay. So much of our innovation is around mitigating risk.”
Training and investment
One of the main overlaps between offshore and tug services is the best practices in health safety, security, environment and quality (HSSEQ). “There is a lot of commonality here, either in reducing the higher risk jobs or by decreasing the time spent doing them. Our investment in our people and their training is vital,” says Mr Helweg.
POML strives to source its people from nations and communities it operates in. This includes employing crew from the local area or using local businesses to support training.
“Often one of the initial challenges in a new operation is to upskill the local workforce to ensure they are aligned with our business and HSSEQ standards,” he says. This increasingly includes training crew and shore staff to use digital technologies the company is implementing.
“We need to ensure training gives people valuable digital skills they can use on our vessels,” says Mr Helweg. “The same can be said for our HSSEQ standards. It is imperative our crew are able to work safely, as a matter of operational excellence.”
A lot of effort is put into training new employees in these respects and a long-term commitment is needed to ensure there is time to develop people’s skills.
Future POML investments will see the company operate further within the logistics chain, which comes with additional challenges.
“As we continue to diversify our portfolio and expand further into the supply chain, it is inevitable that we will be exposed to a greater market risk,” says Mr Helweg.
“This is mitigated through operational excellence. But we also benefit from the visibility of the wider group. Thanks to this visibility, we can see where we can add real value for our clients.” And this will lead to further investment in the tug fleet.