Fully electric and intelligent tugs are a reality, and they are moving the industry forward according to experts at Riviera’s Smart tugs: the industry’s Tesla, or still on the test bed? webinar
Panellists included Navtek general manager Ferhat Acuner, Schottel sales director for automation and digital products Jan Glas, OptiPort general manager Patrick Everts and Wilson Sons towage division regional manager Elisio Dourado, whose organisations all supported the event.
The panellists were all in agreement that big data analytics, smart ports and the advent of intelligent vessels are redrawing smart tug maritime economics.
The latest tug deliveries have advanced condition monitoring and automation systems and remote supervision, with data enabling informed decision making. Existing tug fleets can be dispatched and scheduled using artificial intelligence (AI) and analysis software.
Mr Acuner said a smart tug energy management (STEM) system was managing power in the world’s first all-electric harbour tug, Gisas Power, in Turkey.
The tug was built by TK Tuzla Shipyard for Turkish owner GISAS Shipbuilding Industry in 2019 to a Navtek Zeetug30 design.
The 18.7-m tug has two 1,450-kW lithium-ion battery packs, supplied by Corvus Energy, and 32 tonnes of bollard pull.
Mr Acuner said STEM uses data from vessel systems and from its operating environment to provide important information for management decisions.
“STEM processes all this data,” he said. “Through a virtual private network data is transferred to a shore data centre.”
Mr Acuner is expecting more Zeetugs with STEM to be built in the future. “Electric-driven, smart ships are the future,” he said. “In five years from now, there will be many more smart electric ships than anticipated.”
Mr Glas said smart tugs should accommodate the needs of stakeholders in the vessel, while investments need to improve their economic performance.
“Smart tugs are here with smart components, network and powerful infrastructure,” he said. “Value is created through data analysis to influence big decisions.”
For example, data from condition monitoring of engines, thrusters, generators and winches can be processed and transferred ashore for trend analysis, benchmarking and diagnostics.
“We can use data for route-cause analysis of issues and remote support from shore, which helps overcome current coronavirus restrictions,” said Mr Glas.
Mr Everts said tug owners should use AI to manage and schedule their existing tug fleets. “Owners need to make these tugs more efficient, safer and greener using data and software,” he said.
Owners could reduce operating expenditure by up to 30% using AI-based software such as OptiPort to manage tug dispatch.
“AI is an additional brain for tug dispatch,” said Mr Everts. “It helps dispatchers make right decisions for smart scheduling to reduce opex costs 25-30% and enable business continuity. Tugs in multiple ports could be dispatched from one location,” he added.
Mr Dourado offered an owner’s insight into the reasons for investing in smart tug operations. Wilson Sons uses internet of things (IoT) for condition-based maintenance and real-time monitoring of tug operations.
“In our innovation journey, we follow technology closely,” said Mr Dourado. “We are investing a lot in AI – it is a game-changer for the whole sector.”
Wilson Sons, which operates more than 80 tugs in Brazil, uses AI to optimise fleet operations, for real-time informed decisions and improved safety.
“In the future, data will be an asset, accounted on company balance sheets,” said Mr Dourado. “We need to deal with data for a greener and safer industry and more cost-effective operations.”
Despite assurances from the panel, webinar attendees thought it would take many years before smart tugs would be widely used. When asked, when will you acquire a smart tug? Only 5% said they already had one and 9% said they would purchase one today. A slightly higher percentage, 17%, expect to purchase one in the next year, whereas 36% said they would acquire a smart tug in the next five years and 33% after five years.
Asked when the smart tug industry will attain maturity, 38% of attendees said within 10 years, another 32% said after 2030 and 30% thought it would be in the next five years.
But the audience agreed there were issues to overcome to enable industry-wide adoption of smart tugs. Asked what is the biggest limitation in terms of smart tug technology uptake, 41% said it was commercial attractiveness, 20% said risk, 17% thought it was legislative, 14% port operations and 8% said workforce planning.
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Panellists included (left to right): Wilson Sons towage division regional manager Elisio Dourado, Navtek general manager Ferhat Acuner, Schottel sales director for automation and digital products Jan Glas and OptiPort general manager Patrick Everts