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Photo Vincent van Os, Co-Founder and CEO of PortX standing over desk in his office
Vincent van Os, Managing Director at PortX-OptiPort. (Photo; Foto; Freek van Arkel/Hollandse Hoogte)

Innovators: PortX estimates that it can make client port operations 25-40% more efficient

PortandTerminal.com, April 14, 2019

Rotterdam, Netherlands – Two weeks ago PortandTerminal.com had the opportunity to speak with Vincent van Os, co-founder and Managing director of PortX-OptiPort.

Founded in 2017, PortX is a joint-venture built on the maritime operational experience of KOTUG International and the big data analytical capabilities of Marana.

PortX joint-venture partner KOTUG International is a leading Towage Services provider, with a fleet of 100+ tugs active across the globe

Building upon Kotug’s operational experience of running a fleet of more than 100 tugs and some very clever algorithms, PortX has developed a product it calls OptiPort, which is able to provide port performance reporting and real-time optimisation of port movements.

How it works – AIS, The Big Picture

Most of us in the maritime industry are used to seeing AIS data and some of the amazing visualizations it produces of vessel movements around the world. AIS stands for “Automatic Identification System“. AIS is intended, primarily, to allow ships to view marine traffic in their area and to be seen by that traffic to avoid collisions. Information provided by AIS equipment, such as unique identification, position, course, and speed, can be displayed on a screen. When you combine that with satellites that monitor and record the AIS data you get videos like the sample above.

How it works – AIS, The Little Picture

When analyzed on a much smaller scale, for example, the size of a port, AIS data provides a detailed picture of the operations of vessels within the port right down to the movements of an individual vessel as they move about. When you combine the ability to “see” the movement of tugs for example, within an individual port with the operational experience of Kotug and some very smart data algorithms, systems like PortX’s OptiPort becomes possible.

What can PortX’s OptiPort do?

The startup is able to track vessel movements across almost every port in the world which allows them to offer comprehensive performance reporting, port call benchmarking, and strategic advice to their clients. As well as benchmarking performance, PortX is able to proactively optimise the dispatch of port-related assets like tugboats, pilot boats, and linesmen in real time using proprietary forecasting algorithms.

Port operations are no longer a secret to us. We know exactly what vessel took bunkers, we know what, where and how much a vessel has been loading

When you add to the system knowledge of vessel ETA’s and ETD’s to the mix, customers are able to make better real-time decisions on how they can optimally make use of their assets such as tugs, pilot boats etc. PortX estimates that it can now make its clients’ port operations about 25 to 40% more efficient using its system.

Q&A with Vincent van Os, Managing Director at PortX-OptiPort.

Vincent van Os, Managing Director at PortX-OptiPort. (Photo; Foto; Freek van Arkel/Hollandse Hoogte)

When we first spoke, I asked you what you could tell me about the operations of a port using OptiPort even if they refused to share any information with you. Your answer was “Everything!”. Would you please expand upon that.

As we are collecting global AIS data at a relatively high frequency, we know a lot about vessel positions in ports. The algorithms we have developed around this data are quite exciting. We are able to see where vessels received their last bunkers, which ports and jetties they visited, and which tugs assisted them to their berths. We also know what other jobs these tugs did on the same day, the same port or at the same berth. So based on all of this information we could create timelines per port, per vessel or per tug.

How would you report your company’s progress to our readers if you were just using a few key numbers or stats?

PortX has started its journey with the OptiPort dispatch optimization solution around two years ago. It began with a great idea, a database of high-frequency vessel positions and some bright econometrists. Now, two years later, we are extremely proud to have clients in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. The number of connected assets has been growing from zero to 48 and still counting since last year. In the meantime, we are cooperating with the leading provider in operational ship management software, which allows us to even grow faster in the nearby future and let more clients benefit from the good stuff OptiPort has to offer.

You alluded to your partnering with Helm in your previous response. Please describe in a sentence or two why the partnership with Helm?

We are finalizing a cooperation agreement with Helm Operations, the leading provider of operational ship management software. This agreement allows PortX to get access to Helm’s clients in a much more structured way, while we would also be able to increase our software rollout capacity in the global market.

You mentioned during our first discussion how progressive and open you find it dealing with some of the players in North America.  Our belief was the opposite! We thought that the European ports are much more progressive. Could you expand a bit on your experience in dealing with both?

I would like to adjust that slightly. The clients we have spoken to in the US seem to be more adapted to software technology and are more aware of how that could be beneficial to their companies. I believe that we should really make the distinction between ports and nautical service providers. There are quite some European ports, which have digitization of their ports high on their agenda and they are spending lots of money to achieve their challenges and make their ideas come to life. The industry itself though is with all due respect, a conservative one and seems to be much more cost-conscious.

However, we see some traction now, however often this traction has a different focus. For purposes of safety and cost savings autonomous sailing is high on the agenda, the same for IMO Tier 3 and technical innovations in hull shapes, engines, drive trains and winches. All great innovations of course, but we if we still see innovative hybrid tugs to not being used to what they have been designed for, long mobilizations at their most economical speed, there is a lot to gain in terms of operational efficiency of towage fleets.

A smart shaped hull or a fuel efficient engine is off course a first step to save fuel, however if you dispatch smart you really start to save money, simply by avoiding unnecessary mileage, by dispatching a cheaper tug or don’t overdeliver in terms of power requirements. Our OptiPort solution helps our clients with exactly that! OptiPort dispatches that hybrid tug in such way that it will be used to its full extent and it will sent the proper tug for the job. As a result our clients start saving money the day after the implementation.

The European market, especially in harbor towage is extremely competitive. Financial results are under pressure due to the increasing buying power of the large container liners. We tell our clients that they don’t make money on dispatching, but that they will definitely loose value here if it’s not done properly. We see operators with a very diverse fleet of assets, both in age as well as in power. Dispatching seems an easy job from a distance, but I can assure you that it is extremely difficult. It is a real challenge to dispatch such variety of assets always in the most cost effective way, while at the same time making sure that the crew is not making overtime, taking care of weather influences, lock openings and ever changing ETA’s or ETD’s. Such complex jobs require proper decision support tools, and that is what PortX provides with its OptiPort product range.

The benefit of OptiPort is that it is quite independent of the ports data infrastructure. When our clients knows an estimated ETA or ETD, and the IMO number of the vessel to be assisted, OptiPort knows which tug should be assigned, including when to start the engine of the tugs to benefit most from riding the tide.

Learn more

PortX website: http://www.optiport.nl/

Kotug Press Release: https://www.kotug.com/newsmedia/portx-will-optimize-port-asset-utilization-optiport

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