Tug owners investing in remote monitoring technology will reap economic and operational benefits
Remotely monitoring tugboat performance will pay off for owners in a short period of time. Reduced fuel consumption alone should result in economic benefits to more than offset the retrofit costs.
With this in mind, owners can use technology to deploy smart sensors on board tugs and transfer the information back to shore, then invest in data analytics to convert raw data into valuable operational information, which can be utilised to make more informative decisions.
The benefits that come from this strategy, as witnessed in other shipping sectors, include lower emissions and fuel expenditure from monitoring consumption. Owners can reduce maintenance requirements and costs by deploying condition monitoring of engineroom and deck machinery.
Further economic and safety benefits can be delivered by monitoring navigation and towage operations by transferring information from wheelhouse electronics to shore.
It does not have to be expensive on the communications side as not all information needs to be sent to shore in real-time, but can be transferred in packets directed over satellite communications or, if the tug operates in coastal waters, over a mobile phone 4G network.
The hardware would not be expensive as sensors can be connected wirelessly and have batteries for power, minimising the need for additional cabling. Onboard wifi would be required which crew could also use for communications.
Owners may decide not to refit existing vessels, although this would be possible at low capital cost and high returns.
However, they should consider remote monitoring for newbuldings because tug builders are certainly doing so. This was demonstrated this month when Damen Shipyard and US-based Flicq announced a partnership to deploy onboard sensors and internet of things (IoT) technology for tugboats.
Damen is using Flicq’s remote sensing platform incorporating algorithms, analytics and a sensor package for remotely monitoring vessel operations, performance and providing condition-based maintenance.
Since Q3 2018, Flicq systems have been installed on 45 vessels built by Damen, including tugs. There will be an expansion on deployments this year as sensors will be installed on a further 165 Damen-built vessels.
Damen said the smart sensors and data analytics facilitates performance monitoring of onboard machinery. Flicq explained that not all sensor data needs to be sent as its devices are smart enough to remain silent until there is a change in condition, such as a temperature rise.
With the technology now mature enough for immediate deployment in retrofit or on newbuildings, there are fewer excuses for not adopting IoT technology on tugs.
Benefits such as improved operations, lower maintenance and fuel consumption should be attractive to owners. As should the ability to monitor tug performance versus its design parameters, client expectations and sea trial achievements.
Owners will be able to detect when tugs are not performing as expected and take action to improve this or reduce costs by delaying maintenance until condition monitoring indicates it is necessary. Information from the engineroom will indicate if machinery is performing at optimal levels.
IoT technology is available now for tugs with more newbuildings are being fitted with smart sensors and connectivity to analytics platforms. Owners that do not take the plunge now into IoT technology deployment could be left behind by the early adopters. They do not even have to make a conscious decision, as they can purchase a new tug from shipyards already deploying IoT on their newbuildings.
Technologies for reducing emissions and fuel costs will be discussed at Riviera Maritime Media’s Americas Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference, to be held in Houston on 5-6 March