The Path to Decarbonization: Tracking CO2 Emissions from Tugboats

Maritime co2 emissions from Ships Decarbonisation for Tugboats - LionRock Maritime
Photo by Anton Khatkevich

Decarbonization Journey: Monitoring Tugboat CO2 Emissions in Ports

Tracking the journey towards reduced shipping emissions, through tugboats.

The effects of climate change are increasing the urgency of all sectors to curb their emissions, including the maritime industry. Organizational bodies and governments are increasing the pressure and incentive to do so. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set net-zero greenhouse gas emission goals by 2050, and the EU-ETS system has enacted fees for excessive maritime CO2 emissions. With these high goals, smaller pieces of shipping, such as tugboats, are often overshadowed by larger vessels. Yet, tugboats are an opportunity for substantial reductions in shipping emissions.

CO2 Emissions in Ports Example
Relative emissions by vessel type based on a study Levelton in 2002 on the emissions of vessels in British Colombia and Washington State

A Critical Path to Sustainability: Measurement and Monitoring

International waste requires an international approach. That’s why organizations such as the IMO have instated the 2050 goal, with checkpoints along the way. The soonest checkpoint is 2030, with a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to 2008.  In addition to international commitments, local ports have also become focal points for emissions reductions.  


Achieving these goals has its own set of challenges between operational, technical, and financial barriers. For ports, these challenges often center around upgrading infrastructure and implementing advanced emissions-reducing technologies, while being transparent about the success of these efforts. 


The unique challenges for towage companies in this respect include issues of operational efficiency and cost barriers. Energy-efficient technologies typically come with high upfront costs, making it challenging to align with short-term business objectives.


While facing these barriers, tugboat companies must also comply with new 2023 regulations. These operators are required to track their Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) ratings, though only for their tugs exceeding 400 GT. Moreover, offshore vessels over 400 GT (which a selection of tugs will fall under) operating in the EU will also be subjected to the EU-MRV scheme to measure and report emissions.


Accurate measurement and monitoring of tugboat decarbonization is crucial for carbon reduction. In order to reduce emissions from ships, they need to be tracked, recorded, and monitored to accurately report numbers and define the best reduction practices. 


The unique characteristics of tugboats and their varying operations make compliance with standard regulations like EEXI and EU-MRV challenging. These systems often look at the power used per the size of the vessel. Tugboats, however, are typically comparable in size, but have strong variance in power (and fuel consumption) which means a GT to fuel consumption is meaningless for this class.  For tugboats, transitioning to lower emissions requires detailed understanding of these ships’ unique operational profiles. Tugboats operate in short bursts of high-intensity, meaning that traditional metrics meant for long-distance vessels are not entirely transferable. To ensure this data is relevant and actionable, it must be tailored to the tugboats themselves.

Certification and Compliance: Ensuring a Sustainable Legacy

Validating Green Milestones

Certification allows for proof of sustainable progress. This means standardized metrics for emissions measurement and reporting are essential. The industry relies on tools like the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Data Collection System for fuel oil consumption of ships to guide this process. These systems ensure that emission reductions are not just claimed, but verified and recognized globally, contributing to a transparent and accountable shift towards greener operations.


Adhering to a Greener Code

Compliance with regulations, such as the IMO’s upcoming EEXI and CII metrics, anchors sustainable practices in legality. Tugboat operators are required to keep pace with these regulations, which act as both directives and benchmarks for the industry’s environmental efforts. The EEXI serves as a measure of a ship’s energy efficiency, while the CII tracks the operational carbon intensity. These regulations form a framework that compels operators to invest in cleaner technologies and operational practices that reduce emissions, ensuring a collective move towards a greener maritime future.

Decarbonizing Ports: Overcoming Challenges in Tugboat Emission Tracking

Tracking emissions is a necessary step towards a greener shipping industry. However, tracking emissions on tugboats is certainly not an overnight process. Operational, financial, and technological barriers have all slowed down the process at one point or another. 


Certain equipment used to track emissions can be bulky or expensive. With a 25-year average lifespan, there may not be a lot of incentive to spend the money, or have a tugboat out of operation, for an older boat. This slows down both port decarbonization, and reaching the IMO goals. 


Not all tugboat technology has been able to combat these issues, while ensuring accurate and beneficial information for the company. Spending time and money on soon-to-be outdated technology isn’t an attractive company decision. However, as the shift to greener ports quickens, so have technological adaptations. The barriers to emission tracking are all connected. By improving one area, technology, the other burdens, financial and operational, become easier. 


To comply with the regulatory guidelines, tugboat companies need access to quality technology. Luckily for them, it’s easy to access. 

LionRock Maritime's Vanguard Role in Green Towage

New emission goals cannot be met with old methods. To meet the IMO’s 40% reduction target by 2030, tugboat operators must improve their EEXI and CII metrics as fast as new technology allows them too. This is why new, advanced data is an essential part of reducing port emissions for towage companies. 


Companies such as LionRock Maritime are paving the way in maritime decarbonization with data-driven solutions. They use technology, algorithms, and data in tailor-made offerings for towage companies, providing operations with the necessary data analytics to establish accurate emission baselines. Their packages, such as “Waste Free Shipping” help towage companies by lowering costs, and help the environment by lowering carbon emissions. No initial devices or investments are needed to obtain it, meaning that company tugs don’t have to sit out of operation. LionRock Maritime helps lower a financial barrier to emission tracking by using their new technology. With them, companies are able to align their strategies with IMO standards with a transparent data-driven approach. 

Innovative Solutions for Enhanced Operational Efficiency

Understanding the distinct energy patterns of tugboats is critical for achieving emission reductions. LionRock Maritime understands this importance in their “Port Exploration” package. The goal of this package is to reduce fuel consumption, specifically in tugboat services. Using LionRock developed algorithms and predictive models, optimal route planning and fuel consumption analytics are made easily accessible. This tool empowers companies to make real-time decisions that can drastically reduce emissions. When integrated into a towage company’s existing operational framework, the technological tool encourages more efficient tugboat sailing behaviors without imposing a burden on management teams. LionRock Maritime works with tugboat companies, to take the path to lower emissions and save costs together.

You can schedule a meeting with our representatives and get a consultation on how you can achieve a better operational efficiency: Schedule a Call now.

Strategic Compliance and Market Competitiveness

Compliance with evolving regulations is not just about adherence in business, it’s’ about a competitive edge. LionRock Maritime’s insights into towage markets and operational benchmarks empower operations to exceed regulatory standards, enhancing their market position. By providing a clear roadmap for sustainable growth and operational excellence, LionRock Maritime’s services support tugboat sector operators in forming a legacy of sustainability.

Navigating Towards a Greener Maritime Future

Maritime decarbonization needs to be addressed from all angles. This means that ports, and the role that tugboats play in international shipping, are as important to the environmental movement as any. By using and supplying companies with the data and technology they need to track and lower their carbon emissions, steps are taken to meet the IMO’s goals. LionRock Maritime helps with their “Waste Free Shipping” Report to do this through their highly developed and easily accessible packages, setting a sustainability standard within the maritime sector, through tugboats.


If you want to take your tugboat operations towards a more efficient, eco-friendly horizon, contact LionRock Maritime to chart your course towards maritime decarbonization.  


Frequently Asked Questions

What role do emissions from ships play in global climate change?

Ship emissions contribute significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, with maritime transport emitting around 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually. This represents about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a critical sector to target for decarbonization efforts to combat climate change.

How can maritime CO2 emissions be measured and reduced effectively?

Maritime CO2 emissions can be measured using tools like the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII). Reducing these emissions can involve adopting cleaner fuels, improving operational efficiency, and investing in new technologies such as alternative propulsion systems.

What is maritime decarbonization, and why is it important?

Maritime decarbonization refers to the industry's efforts to reduce carbon emissions from ships, aiming for a more sustainable future. It's significant because the maritime sector is a significant contributor to global emissions, and reducing these emissions is vital to meeting international climate goals and preventing environmental damage.

Can you explain the regulatory framework guiding maritime decarbonization?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) leads the regulatory framework for maritime decarbonization, setting ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping to net-zero by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. Compliance with these regulations is enforced through measures like the EEXI and CII, which promote energy efficiency and lower carbon footprints.

Related Posts

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.

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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.”