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Tug Technology & Business

Tug Technology & Business

Digitalisation is the future

Tue 29 May 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

Digitalisation is the future

Towage companies need to invest in software and IT or be left behind in the rising wave of global digitalisation, says editor Martyn Wingrove

The towage industry cannot ignore the rising tide of global digitalisation. Tug owners need to be prepared and invest now in new IT and software if they are to compete and help their clients improve safety and the environment.

Digitalisation means better integration between port operations and shipping. It will need investment in software across maritime companies and on fleets of tugs. It means creating more electronic documentation and logbooks and investment in new computers and onboard IT.

When digitalisation is adopted across the towage sector, there will be less paperwork, better communications between tug masters, ship captains, port authorities and pilots. Fleets of harbour tugs can be managed more effectively, which reduces emissions and inefficiencies.

Digitalisation will enable shipping to adopt higher levels of e-navigation and smarter port operations. Because tugs and towage companies are essential elements of port operations they have to be part of the shipping industry’s digitalisation.

This subject was discussed at the European Tugowners Association (ETA)’s annual meeting on 16-18 May in Antwerp, Belgium, where speakers highlighted the need to invest time and resources on the acquisition of digital skills.

IT solutions specialists provided perspectives on how the towage sector might benefit from the early adoption of IT-based technologies.

ETA’s chairman Leendert Muller said the European towage sector had already made important efforts to adapt to new digital realities, including installing software that makes towage companies more efficient. “Installing IT can be also a great tool to increase the safety of towage operations and make the shipping industry greener,” he said at the meeting.

Mr Muller also thinks the towage sector has no other option than to prepare for a digital future and an unstoppable change that is coming to shipping.

I agree, having covered digitalisation across the shipping industry in my other role at Riviera Maritime Media, as editor of Marine Electronics & Communications. Digitalisation is coming to all sectors of shipping, from container ships and tankers to passenger ships, terminals and ports.

All sectors are investing and preparing for their digital futures and tug owners should not get left behind. Tugs are critical to port operations and if they are going digital then towage companies will have to as well. There are no other options than to adopt digitalisation.

If you want to comment on my viewpoint, then please email me at:

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