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Revolutionizing Tugboat Fuel Consumption with LionRock

Tugboat Fuel Consumption
Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

Decoding Tugboat Fuel Consumption: How LionRock Maritime's Data-Driven Model is Revolutionizing the Maritime Industry

Understanding and managing fuel consumption is a critical aspect of tugboat operations. Efficient fuel usage not only helps to reduce costs but also contributes to the wider goal of environmental sustainability. However, accurately quantifying this variable cost remains a significant challenge in the industry. Fuel efficiency impacts both the financial bottom line and the environmental footprint of tugboat operations, thus making it a key factor in the industry’s drive towards more sustainable practices. Furthermore, as reported by Professional Mariner, fuel costs can represent up to 30% of a tugboat’s operating cost, making it a prime area for potential cost savings and efficiency improvements. (1)

Speed Distribution Data of Tugboats by Week

Explaining the Variables Affecting Ship Fuel Consumption

Fuel consumption in tugboats is influenced by a myriad of factors, including environmental conditions, tugboat specifications, job execution methods, and characteristics of the assisted ship. Environmental conditions such as wind speed, direction, currents, and wave height can significantly alter fuel consumption. According to an IOP Conference Series study, environmental factors could increase fuel consumption by up to 20% (2). The tugboat’s specifications, such as engine type and efficiency, hull design, and displacement, are also crucial considerations.

Discussing Traditional Tug Boat Fuel Consumption Calculation Methods

Traditionally, operators attempt to quantify fuel costs by dividing total fuel expense by the tugboat’s running hours, yielding a rough average. Sophisticated monitoring systems installed on vessels are also used, but these bring high costs and the complexity of their implementation and maintenance. While these systems provide real-time fuel consumption data, their high upfront costs and the need for continuous monitoring and maintenance make them less accessible and appealing to many operators. As reported by the Professional Mariner, installing such systems can cost up to $25,000 per tug (1).

The Shortcomings of Current Techniques and the Need for Innovation

These traditional methods fail to provide a comprehensive view of fuel consumption, unable to account for operational fluctuations or the complex interactions between influencing factors. Hence, the maritime industry requires a more sophisticated, cost-effective, and user-friendly method to estimate fuel consumption. A more nuanced understanding of fuel consumption can also provide insights into the operational efficiency of tugboats, aiding in decision-making processes related to maintenance, operations planning, and fleet management.

LionRock Maritime's Predictive Model: Operational Data for Fuel Efficiency

LionRock Maritime presents an innovative solution with its predictive model for estimating tugboat fuel consumption. The model leverages operational data, taking into consideration not just free-sailing scenarios, but also the more fuel-intensive periods during job execution. The model has been developed with a focus on practicality and ease of use, eliminating the need for expensive equipment or specialized technical knowledge. Moreover, LionRock Maritime uniquely employs AIS data, which streamlines the implementation process, allowing businesses to start benefiting from data insights almost immediately.


The predictive model, developed by a multidisciplinary team at LionRock Maritime, effectively incorporates the numerous variables influencing fuel consumption. By utilizing operational data, it facilitates a more accurate prediction of fuel usage, thus supporting operators in their cost optimization efforts. The model uses machine learning algorithms to analyze the collected data, identifying patterns and relationships between different variables to accurately predict fuel consumption. This utilization of AIS data not only simplifies the implementation process, but it also promotes captain engagement, encouraging crews to actively participate in fuel consumption reduction efforts.

The Benefits of LionRock's Approach to Fuel Consumption and Decarbonization

Besides enabling precise ship fuel consumption calculation, LionRock’s approach significantly contributes to the decarbonization of the maritime sector. By providing a clear understanding of fuel consumption, it empowers operators to make data-driven decisions for improved fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions. Furthermore, the model’s predictive capability allows operators to anticipate and plan for future fuel needs, enabling more effective budgeting and resource allocation. This leads to fast and effective decarbonization of operations, aiding the maritime industry in meeting global carbon reduction targets.

Conclusion: Embracing Data-Driven Solutions in Maritime Operations

The tugboat industry wants to get transparency on the fuel consumption and emissions of its operations. Fuel consumption meters are not always economically viable, so the industry is looking for innovative, data-driven solutions. LionRock Maritime stands at the forefront of this transformation, driving cost-efficiency, and contributing to the sustainable future of maritime operations. As the maritime industry continues to evolve and innovate, embracing data-driven solutions such as LionRock’s predictive model will become increasingly essential in navigating the path to sustainability and operational efficiency.

Optimize Your Operations with LionRock

Visit LionRock’s CO2reduction Calculator to understand how much you can save on fuel and reduce carbon emissions. Schedule a meeting with our experts to explore how our predictive model can help optimize your tugboat operations. Discover the power of data-driven insights and equip your business with the tools needed to achieve sustainability and cost-efficiency in an increasingly competitive industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors influence tugboat fuel consumption?

Several factors can impact fuel consumption in tugboats, including environmental conditions like wind speed and direction, wave height, and currents; tugboat specifications such as engine type and hull design; the job itself and the way it is executed; and characteristics of the assisted ship.

What are the limitations of traditional ship fuel consumption calculation methods?

Traditional methods often provide a rough average of fuel consumption by dividing the total fuel cost by the tugboat's running hours. These methods fail to account for the numerous variables influencing fuel consumption, leading to imprecise assessments. Other methods involve more sophisticated fuel consumption monitoring systems installed on the vessels, which are frequently expensive and complex to maintain.

How does LionRock Maritime's predictive model improve upon these traditional methods?

LionRock Maritime's predictive model leverages operational data, including AIS data and engine data, to provide an accurate estimate of fuel usage. This approach not only provides a comprehensive understanding of fuel consumption but also promotes captain engagement, encouraging crews to participate in fuel consumption reduction efforts.

What benefits does LionRock's approach provide data to the maritime industry?

By enabling accurate ship fuel consumption calculation, LionRock's model empowers operators to make data-driven decisions, leading to improved fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions. This not only aids in cost optimization but also contributes significantly to the decarbonization of the maritime sector. Visit LionRock's CO2 Reduction Calculator to understand your potential savings and carbon reduction. Then, schedule a meeting with LionRock's experts to explore how the predictive model can optimize your tugboat operations. LionRock's approach only uses AIS data, so the implementation process can start virtually any day.

Related Posts

Value of tugboat speed optimization when using alternative fuels

Is tugboat speed optimization still relevant when using alternative marine fuels?

Tugboat operators are (gradually) transitioning to using alternative marine fuels than traditional diesel. Propelled by a call for urgent action to avoid climate change, the maritime industry as a whole is evaluating various options as a source of marine fuel. At LionRock we often get the question whether speed reduction to ECO speed for tugboats is still relevant once this transition to alternative fuels has been made in full. We asked 4 students (Arend Bijleveld, Benthe Kleinbekman, Daniel Mertens en Ante Simic) from the Rotterdam Mainport Institute to help us evaluate this question for a few of the main alternative fuels. We asked them to look at it from the view of cost, GHG emissions and practical considerations such as energy storage constraints. Here their conclusions for Hydrogen tugs, full electric tugs, Methanol based propulsion and finally LNG powered tugs.

Value of tugboat speed optimization when using alternative fuels


When looking purely at a Mega Joule per kilogram value, hydrogen comes out on top. With an energy density almost three times that of diesel, this would mean that much less hydrogen would be needed to do the same work. In addition, the carbon emissions of hydrogen, provided it is so-called “green hydrogen”, are zero. Theoretically, the emission of nitrogen oxides should also be zero, but in practice a certain amount is a certain amount is emitted anyway. The downside, however, is that storing hydrogen presents many challenges; in order to store it compactly in liquid form it must be stored under high pressure or extremely low temperatures. Furthermore, the cost of hydrogen is currently about two to six times the price of diesel. When the costs of hydrogen and diesel are compared with their energy densities, it can be concluded that saving is still relevant from a financial point of view. A major additional driver for speed optimization is the storage constraint.

Full electric

Sailing electrically means that the electric motors are powered by a battery pack that is charged from the shore when the tug is alongside. When using the energy from the battery packs, no emissions are released and an electric ship can easily sail within the future regulations. How sustainable it ultimately is, however, remains to be seen as it depends on how the electricity was previously generated. The cost will be somewhat lower than running on diesel, and therefore there the financial need will be low. However, again, a major driver for speed optimization is the limited energy storage capacity in batteries.


Methanol has an energy density value about half that of diesel. In addition to the fact that the energy density of methanol is lower, the volumetric density is also lower compared to diesel. The combustion of methanol releases a similar amount of carbon dioxide as with diesel. However, the emission of nitrogen and sulfur oxides is drastically lower. As a result, methanol-fueled ships will meet future emissions regulations. One disadvantage of methanol is that it requires a larger fuel tank for the same endurance of the ship. Hence taking up more space on board. With the expected prices for methanol in the future, it is possible that sailing on methanol will become cheaper than sailing on diesel.


LNG possesses the highest energy density of the fuels discussed after hydrogen. In comparison with diesel, LNG has a higher energy density but a lower volumetric density. Storage of LNG must also take place at low temperatures because otherwise it would evaporate. LNG requires a number of modifications to the ship, the main ones being larger fuel tanks and a new fuel tanks and a new or rebuilt engine. The cost of one kilo of LNG is comparable to that of a kilo of diesel. Because the energy density is somewhat higher, the cost of LNG are slightly lower, the margins on fuel savings are smaller compared to diesel. However burning LNG also emits N20 which is a greenhouse gas 265 times more potent than CO2 so operators do well by keeping speeds as ECO efficient as possible.

Slowsteaming remains relevant. Contact us

From this review that the need for speed optimization remains relevant. Depending on the type of fuel used, the driver for speed optimization becomes different. It might be cost, the emissions or simply the energy storage space constraint.


RMIPIP01 – ADVIESRAPPORT by Arend Bijleveld, Benthe Kleinbekman, Daniel Mertens en Ante Simic

A captain has to take responsibility for the profitable operation of the tug

Arnold: “Mob and Demob is where a tugboat uses most fuel during the day. Sailing speed during that time is one of the most important factors driving consumption. A captain has to take responsibility for the profitable operation of the tug; he/she sails fast if required to be on time, but reduces speed and thereby fuel consumption if you can. I think it makes no sense to sail full speed and then lie still at the tow for 20 min because you’re early for the job, or stay in bed for 10 extra minutes and then having to rush the tug to the job.”