Tug Owners and Pilots Collaborate for Energy-Efficient Towage: Recommendations for Improved Harbor Operations

The ETA Nautical Technical Committee and EMPA have developed a set of recommendations for tugboat captains, pilots, and harbor masters to enhance the energy efficiency of tug and assisted vessels during harbor operations. These recommendations are based on three principles: planning, cooperation, and communication, and take into account other stakeholders in ports worldwide.

Stakeholders, including tug masters, pilots, ship captains, and other port operators, must consider weather, tides, safety, vessel traffic, expected cargo operations, and availability of tugs, pilots, and berths. This necessitates stakeholders working together during the port call, arrival, and departure of the assisted vessel to plan safe operations.

Communication technologies can be utilized to increase the engine outputs of tugs and assisted vessels, and pilots and tug masters should collaborate to design training and operations that combine energy efficiencies from escort and harbor operations.

Safe harbor towage must be coordinated in advance with all involved parties to enhance the energy efficiency of the operations. “Plan early, as that allows the towage operator to choose the best available tugs for the operation,” recommends ETA and EMPA in a report. “Create the towing plan together with other parties so the sideways movements of the vessel can be minimized. Share relevant information with the other parties involved.”

Information to be shared includes when cargo operations will take place, whether there are traffic restrictions, and when the pilot, mooring party, and tugs are available. Clear communications are required between pilots, captains of assisted vessels, and tug masters before and during harbor towage operations to avoid unnecessary use of propulsion forces on tugs or assisted vessels.

Changes to planned operations should be immediately communicated with all involved parties to prevent incidents, and better cooperation is required between pilots, tug masters, port authorities, vessel operators, mooring parties, shipping agents, and vessel traffic services.

“By clear communications and advanced operational planning, the harbor towage will be safe and energy efficient,” notes ETA and EMPA. They recommend improving knowledge sharing between stakeholders and conducting cooperation meetings with all involved players in harbor towage operations to minimize the environmental impact of operations.


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