Kotug chief executive Ard-Jan Kooren explains how his company made 16% fuel savings and is testing remote tug and drone operations
Kotug International is a leader in the towage and offshore sector in adopting digitalisation solutions for reducing fuel consumption and developing remote control technology.
This group provides terminal and harbour towage and offshore support operations through a diverse fleet operating worldwide. And according to Kotug chief executive Ard-Jan Kooren, it has achieved more than 16% fuel savings from fuel monitoring and digital logging.
These savings were gained on eight tugs in its fleet using OnBoard’s fuel management application that logs and reports the average fuel consumption for each activity. “In this way the tugs can see how they perform against a set profile,” says Mr Kooren.
This digital application negates the need to track activities with log sheets. “This is a big advantage for the crew to reduce the administration burden,” he explains. “It has been very successful with 16% average fuel savings on our tugs.”
For Kotug, this is just the beginning of its technical developments, as its management can see the benefits of using unmanned surface and aerial units for tug operations. “Innovation is part of our DNA,” says Mr Kooren. “We have demonstrated remote tug operations and connected towing lines using drones.”
“We have demonstrated remote tug operations and connected towing lines using drones”
During H2 2018, Kotug controlled 16-m training Rotortug, RT Borkum, in the Netherlands using a 360˚ bridge simulator in Marseille, France as a remote-control hub. “The purpose of this project is to gain knowledge in creating situational awareness on a remote bridge,” says Mr Kooren. “Development and testing are ongoing with our focus on being able to remotely control a fire-fighting tug.”
Kotug worked with RT Borkum owner Rotortug and bridge and simulator provider Alphatron on this project. Veth provided the steering and engine control system, OnBoard provided the means to convert the steering and engine control signal to internet protocol and vice versa, and M2M Blue delivered the virtual private network connectivity between the vessel and control hub.
Testing continued during H2 2018 and Q1 2019 using a training simulator in the Netherlands as a remote control centre. Kotug uses real-time sensor technology to monitor the position and surroundings, which provides the remote-control captain with the situational awareness needed for safely operating the training tug.
Kotug has also tested and patented a procedure for using a drone to connect a towline to an assisted vessel. Mr Kooren thinks this will drastically improve the safety margin of tug operations by avoiding the need to manoeuvre a tug close to the fore section of the assisted vessel.
A drone can deliver a messenger line from the tug to a predetermined location on the assisted vessel, instead of the tug picking up the heaving line of the assisted ship. This will allow the tug to safely sail beside the assisted ship instead of in front of the assisted ship.
“Development and testing are ongoing onshore,” says Mr Kooren. “We are optimising the method to deliver the line with object recognition software.” He says the drone components are being upgraded to withstand the harsh conditions of seawater. “When onshore testing is completed, we will do tests on the water, for this we need permission from aviation authorities,” he adds. “The implementation of specific rules and regulations will be crucial to fly in a controlled airspace.”
Kotug is collaborating with PortX by using OptiPort software to optimise in-port vessel operations for towing, bunkering and other harbour activities. This is a cloud-based service for data reporting and analytics. It enables Kotug to dynamically optimise the costs of using its nautical assets, based on the applicable work schedule, weather and tide influences and crewing schedules.
Methods of cutting fuel consumption and costs will be discussed at Riviera Maritime Media's Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference, Awards and Exhibition, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 8-9 May