Data flow and digitalisation have significant potential for every link in the tug industry, explained a panel of experts during Riviera Maritime Media’s Smart tug operations: harnessing data and digitalisation webinar, supported by Caterpillar
This webinar, sponsored by LionRock Maritime, OptiPort and Wilson Sons, was held on 31 March 2021 as part of Riviera’s ITS TUGTECHNOLOGY Webinar Week, which was supported by the European Tugowners Association and UK Maritime Pilots Association.
On the panel were Caterpillar services delivery manager Jeremy Hartings, LionRock Maritime founder and managing director Rick Broersma, OptiPort general manager Patrick Everts and Wilson Sons commercial manager Eduardo Valença.
These experts agreed owners and operators, ports, terminals and other stakeholders in the supply chain can gain insight into operations and make better decisions to optimise operations through data analytics. They discussed how unlocking the potential requires the ability to understand and apply data flows and digitalisation technologies.
Benefits identified during this webinar included remote monitoring, improved vessel performance, voyage optimisation, resource planning, environmental and regulatory compliance and enhanced support for seafarers.
Mr Valença provided a tug operator’s perspective while highlighting investments made by Wilson Sons to turn tugs into data miners. The Brazilian tug owner has started using digital twins and collecting bathymetric data in ports to optimise dredging and tug operations.
Wilson Sons has acquired minority equity participation in Israel-based start-up Docktech to gain access to its digital twin technology. It intends to combine this with depth measurements from its harbour tugs to recognise patterns in seabed changes in ports, improving navigational safety and reducing the need for harbour dredging.
“Our tugs are data-mining assets. We are getting real-time hydrographic and bathymetric data in ports using tug echosounders and GPS,” said Mr Valença.
“We believe using tugs to run data could be done to combine port data with vessel and bathymetric data to optimise operations, maintain shipping channel depths and improve port traffic,” he explained.
Wilson Sons has equipped 10 tugs with DockTech’s onboard data collector. It plans to equip up to 40 tugs by May 2021.
Mr Hartings explained how tug owners can use engineroom data to prevent vessel downtime. “It is all about turning data into actions through digital tools,” he said. “By monitoring vessel equipment, operators can identify anomalies and act on them.”
Caterpillar provides asset intelligence and proactive monitoring of tug engines and generators. It can provide data to tug owners for their own analysis and applications, or Caterpillar can remotely monitor and apply its own advanced analytics to provide insights. The engine manufacturer can also provide a support person in owners’ offices to provide advice.
“Proactive monitoring, so we are not constantly fighting fires, is key,” said Mr Hartings. “This helps with scheduling and dockings, lowering lifecycle costs and reducing time to react,” he added.
Mr Broersma explained how data from various sources, including Automatic Identification System (AIS) helps operators to make better commercial decisions and gain competitive advantage. “We use AIS data, add metadata and look at the movement of tugs and ships,” he said. “We use information from ships and tugs – their dimensions and bollard pull – and operational data.”
LionRock uses this data to provide commercial port operations information to tug owners. “We identify tug jobs and use our knowledge about the industry to provide data-driven insights,” said Mr Broersma.
This can include estimating the number of tows and duration of each job, demand for tug services, fluctuations in port calls and potential for future growth. “Data is critical for commercial success,” said Mr Broersma. It can be used for contract renewal negotiations, retenders and future fleet investment.
Mr Everts explained how data enables optimised tug dispatch for towage and berthing work. “We can use data to realise smart tug operations,” he said. “Data supports decision making, asset optimisation, remote monitoring, voyage optimisation and better tug deployment.”
Mr Everts identified two types of data, including static, historic data for trend analysis and live information for immediate actions.
Kotug-owned OptiPort can help owners to reduce operating expenditure by up to 30% using artificial intelligence (AI)-based software and algorithms to manage tug dispatch. OptiPort can identify where inefficiencies are and provide solutions to rectify these.
“There is a lot of sub-optimisation in ports,” said Mr Everts. “Tugs sail much faster than they should, wasting fuel.” This could occur because dispatchers are working multiple jobs with several tugs and are unable to cover all with tugs transiting at optimal speeds.
“Dispatchers need to decide which tug to use when and where,” Mr Everts continued. “There are trade-offs when scheduling multiple tugs. It is important to make the right decisions, supported by data.”
Cloud-based OptiPort provides data, insights and decision advice. “There are huge savings – we have proven 25-40% of operating expenditure savings,” said Mr Everts, “by better scheduling assets and with actionable intelligence providing layers of support to decision makers.”
Attendees of the webinar were asked their opinion in various poll questions. In one they were asked which area of their business they expect data and digitisation to be of highest value. Half of the respondents said it was in operations, 20% said commercial and business development, another 20% said technical, 8% said finance and 2% said none of the above.
They were asked to agree or disagree with several viewpoints. Firstly: In order to make the best decisions and daily manage my operations I am reliant on real-time data flows: 52% strongly agreed, 38% agreed and 10% disagreed.
Secondly, they were asked to comment on: I am concerned about what my competitors can do with data that I cannot commit to new systems: 6% strongly agreed, 40% agreed, 23% disagreed, 6% strongly disagreed and 25% neither agreed nor disagreed.
Thirdly: “In managing and optimising your business, you have adequate and accurate data available to you: 16% strongly agreed, 39% agreed, 21% disagreed, no one strongly disagreed and 24% neither agreed nor disagreed.
Panellist at Riviera’s Smart tug operations: harnessing data and digitalisation webinar were (left to right) Caterpillar services delivery manager Jeremy Hartings, LionRock Maritime founder and managing director Rick Broersma, OptiPort general manager Patrick Everts and Wilson Sons commercial manager Eduardo Valença
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