07 Oct 2019
James Wadsworth
VP Sales and Marketing



Westug & AI Dispatch

Port Hedland, October 4, 2019

Leading Australian towage operator implements AI-assisted vessel dispatching tool OptiPort to optimize and improve safety and sustainability of operations in the world’s largest dry bulk export port

Perth-based Harbour towage operator, Westug Pty Ltd (Westug) today announced their successful start with the Optiport AI-assisted Dispatch system in its new Port Hedland operation to ensure long-term, efficient and sustainable towage services in the port on behalf of KOTUG for Fortescue Metals Group (Fortescue). The announcement was made alongside the official start of Westug’s towage operations in the world’s leading and largest dry bulk export port with an annual export volume of over 500 million tons of iron ore, 35% of which is supplied by Fortescue and is now the fourth port globally to use AI-assisted dispatch in its operations.

The OptiPort solution chosen by Westug uses Helm CONNECT Jobs, the world’s leading platform for harbour towage dispatch and operational management, fully integrated with PortX’s OptiPort AI-assisted dispatch system.

“OptiPort is a revolutionary way of vessel dispatching that combines large amounts of AIS data with all relevant port system information systems resulting in the most optimal vessel dispatching that responds real time to the slightest changes in all available data. It allows us to quickly and easily plan the dispatch schedule for our vessels, and also automatically optimizes our planning, suggesting which tugs to use for which job and the speeds they should travel to ensure we’re not wasting fuel or increasing emissions.” Says Shaun Thomas, Chief Operating Officer at Westug, who was part of the team responsible for implementing the dispatch solution. “It’s an approach that will allow us to greatly reduce wasted fuel and improve efficiency for our client Fortescue, while maintaining the highest level of safety and operational excellence.”

In Port Hedland, Westug uses a two-stage planning solution, creating the initial plan to ensure sufficient capacity and fleet availability in Helm CONNECT.  In the second stage, OptiPort analyses the expected vessel line-up, actual ETA/ETD’s, crew resting hours and other factors and assists dispatchers in assigning the most optimal tugs to each vessel, ensuring the most optimal and efficient schedule is maintained throughout the course of the operations.

“By taking advantage of new technology, Westug has moved to the forefront of the industry,” says Ron deBruyne, CEO of Helm Operations, the makers of Helm CONNECT. “Today, Westug is driving the pace of innovation in the industry, and showing how great towage operators can use technology to improve safety and provide even greater value to their charterers and other stakeholders.”


About PortX

PortX provides optimization solutions under the name OptiPort, for in-port vessel operations (like towing, bunkering and similar activities). The application is based on the latest developments in data science and data analytics: it dynamically cost-optimizes the utilization of nautical assets, based on the applicable work schedule, weather and tide influences, and crewing schedules.


About Helm Operations

Since 1999, Helm Operations has been developing software to help marine companies better manage their vessel operations, maintenance, compliance and crewing. Its flagship product, Helm CONNECT, has emerged as the leading software platform for marine operations and vessel management. Today, more than 190 customers and 4000 vessels around the world use Helm CONNECT, including some of the world’s largest and most respected harbor docking and oil transportation companies. Through its Helm Labs program, Helm is dedicated to bringing cutting-edge technology like AI-based vessel dispatch and predictive maintenance to the maritime industry.



For more information, please contact:

Jacqueline van den Heuvel
PortX BV
+ 31 (0) 629 702 290


Jonathan Cheng
Helm Operations