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The global tugboats market size was valued at USD 16.04 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow from USD 19.17 billion in 2023 to USD 45.85 billion by 2030, exhibiting a CAGR of 13.3% during the forecast period.
Tugboats, also known as tugs or towboats, are specialized vessels designed to provide towing, pushing, or escorting services to assist large ships and maritime operations. These boats are essential for maneuvering large vessels in confined spaces, such as ports, harbors, and narrow waterways, where large ships have limited space and mobility.
Tugboats play a vital role in ensuring safe and efficient navigation, docking, and undocking of ships. They also assist in emergency situations, such as search and rescue missions, marine salvage, and firefighting, contributing to maritime safety and environmental protection. Owing to such activities, towboats are commonly found in major ports and waterways globally to support global trade and various maritime activities.
COVID-19 had a Negative Impact on the Market Owing to Restrictions on Maritime Trade Activities
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted global trade flows with unprecedented speed and scale. During the pandemic, access to essential goods and medical supplies has been largely ensured by the rapid adaptability of the maritime supply chain. UNCTAD estimated that world merchandise trade fell 5% in the first quarter of 2020. The World Bank projected that trade in goods have bottomed in April 2020, down nearly 20% year-on-year, after falling 10% in March 2020.
Additionally, the pandemic halted all shipbuilding, repair, and maintenance work. This had a direct impact on the tugs market. In addition, there have been raw material shortages, disruptions in supply chain, and contract terminations. The pandemic also hampered the trading of tugs in various regions. For instance, in May 2021, two new tugs worth more than USD 12 million remained unused for eight months after docking. The ships were dispatched in September 2019 to replace the old tug fleet. However, the crews were unable to complete their training due to the coronavirus pandemic. Such factors have affected the tugboats market growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key Development in Autonomous Tugboats is an Emerging Trend in the Market
Major players in this market are focused on increasing the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for autonomous and remotely operated tugboats. Removing human operators from potentially hazardous situations during towing operations could enhance safety and reduce the risk of accidents. Autonomous towboats could operate without the need for crew rotations, leading to increased operational efficiency and reduced downtime.
In June 2023, ABB and Singapore's Keppel Offshore & Marine shipyard successfully completed South Asia's first remote joystick control of a tugboat in Singapore's busy port. The test marks an important step in validating the safety and effectiveness of towing operations using digital solutions.
Towboats could be controlled remotely from ports allowing centralized monitoring and coordination of multiple vessels. In April 2022, Singapore's Keppel Offshore and Marine successfully introduced its first self-driving tug, MAJU 510. The vessel is capable of detecting collisions, avoiding and navigating automatically, and can be controlled by joysticks from the base.
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Rising Port Congestion owing to Escalated Just-in-Time Logistics to Catalyze the Global Market
In recent years, the maritime industry has witnessed a significant surge in global trade, driven by just-in-time logistics, economic growth, increased consumer demand, and expansion of international supply chains. Modern supply chains often operate on just-in-time principles, where goods are delivered precisely when needed, reducing warehouse cost. This has also given rise to port congestion challenges worldwide.
For instance, as of May 2022, approximately 29 container ships were waiting in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Port congestion peaked in January 2022, with 109 container ships waiting in front of the port. This sharp increase in congestion was due to disruptions in global supply chains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July 2022, a containership port congestion index accounted for 37.8% of the total box ship capacity at the port. This is above the previous peak in late October 2021 and well above the 31.5% average measured from 2016 to 2019 before COVID-19.
Towboats play a crucial role in assisting larger vessels during docking and undocking operations, navigating narrow channels, and providing escort services in congested waterways. The rise in congestion leads to rise in demand for tugs. Various operators in the market are focused on investments in modernization and expansion of tugs to meet the rising demand.
Emergence of Mega-Container Ship and Ultra-Large Vessels to Drive the Market
The shipping industry has witnessed the introduction of mega-container ships and Ultra-Large Container Vessels (ULCVs), which are capable of carrying thousands of Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of cargo. These massive vessels have significantly larger drafts and higher air drafts, making them more challenging to maneuver, especially in shallow waters. Tugs with high bollard pull capabilities are needed to provide the necessary pulling to control and guide such large vessels during docking and undocking operations.
Moreover, as mega-container ships and ULCV become more prominent in global trade, their transit through the Panama Canal poses challenges due to the canal’s infrastructure limitation. The use of tugs become critical in resolving these issues and ensuring safe maneuvering through the waterways. Owing to such factors, it is anticipated to drive the market growth globally.
High Operational Cost and Stringent Environment Regulation to Hamper the Market
Tugs are specialized vessels designed to assist larger ships. They require powerful engines, advanced navigation systems, and skilled crew members to handle various tasks. These expenses contribute to their high operational costs. Tugboats also consume significant amount of fuel due to their powerful engines and continuous operations. Fluctuations in fuel prices can directly impact operating expenses. Additionally, tugs experience considerable wear & tear due to their demanding operational nature adding to the operational costs.
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on environmental protection and sustainability across the maritime industry. This has led to implementation of stringent regulations that impact tugboat operations. For instance, India has signed the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The MARPOL Convention has six annexes and deals with the prevention of pollution from ships by oil, hazardous liquids, dangerous goods in packaged form, wastewater, garbage, and pollution.
Any diesel engine regulated onboard the U.S. flagged ships must have an International Engine Pollution Prevention (EIAPP) certificate issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), attesting that the engine meets annex VI NOx standards. Some ships are also required to have an International Air Pollution Prevention (IAPP) certificate, issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Vessel operators are also required to keep records on board of their compliance with emissions standards, fuel requirements, and other Annex VI regulations. Compliance with these regulations often require costly upgrades to engines or adoption of cleaner fuel. Such factors hamper the global tugboats market growth.
Towing Segment to Dominate the Market owing to Increased Usage of Large Vessels in Confined Infrastructure
By application, the market is segmented into ice breaker, search & rescue, patrolling, towing, and others. With more vessels operating due to rise in maritime trade within limited port infrastructure, there is a rise in towing activities to avoid accidents. Due to such reasons, the towing segment is anticipated to dominate during the study period.
The patrolling segment is anticipated to grow at highest CAGR during the study period. With the rise in security threats in certain regions, there is an increased need for patrolling to safeguard against potential risks, including piracy smuggling, and illegal fishing. These issues contribute to the rise in the patrolling segment.
Conventional Tug Segment to Dominate the Market Due to its Versatility and Adaptability in Busy Ports
On the basis of type, the market is segmented into conventional tug, tractor tug, azimuth stern drive tug, reverse tractor tug, and others. The conventional tug segment dominated the market in the base year and is expected to be the fastest growing during the forecast period as it can handle a wide range of tasks from assisting large ships in busy ports to offshore operations.
The Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) tug segment is predicted to witness significant growth during the forecast period. The rise of ASD tugboats is driven by their exceptional maneuverability, towing performance, and reduced crewing requirements.
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1000 to 2000 kW Segment to Dominate the Market Due to the Compact and Efficient Tugs
The market by capacity is segmented into upto 1000 kW, 1000 to 2000 kW, 2000 to 3000 kW, and above 3000 kW. The 1000 to 2000 kW segment dominated the market during the year 2022. The growth in the segment is owing to the rise in demand for efficient towboats along with compact engine size for improved performance.
The upto 1000 kW segment is projected to be the fastest growing during the forecast period. Such tugs are commonly used in busy ports and coastal regions for application such as docking and undocking.
In terms of geography, the market is divided into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Rest of the World.
North America Tugboats Market Size, 2019-2030 (USD Billion)
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North America held the largest tugboats market share and was valued at USD 5.66 billion in 2022. The rising demand for tugs in the region is driven by robust maritime trade, offshore energy projects, and development in the cruise industry. In March 2023, a new tugboat is under construction for the Shell-led LNG Canada. The project is expected to be ready in 2024 to accommodate a fleet of dual-fuel and electric tugs.
Europe held the second largest position in the tugs market share in 2022. Europe is a major hub for international maritime trade, with several significant ports handling various types of cargo. In May 2023, Damen Shipyard and Boluda Towage announced that they have teamed up to bring zero-emissions tugs to Europe. Damen is currently developing a methanol-powered tug as part of its mission to be the world's most sustainable shipbuilder.
Asia Pacific is the fastest growing region during the forecast period. The fast growing economies in China, India, and Japan have led to a surge in river tugs for maritime activities, which further increases the demand for tugboats. In March 2023, the Indian Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways (MoPSW) announced the Green Tug Transition Program (GTTP) to reduce pollution by marine vessels by 2030. GTTP is anticipated to convert tugs into green hybrid tugs.
The Rest of the World is anticipated to witness moderate growth in the market during the forecast period. Increasing investment in the towboats market is projected to drive the Middle East & Africa year over year growth 2023-2030. The region has been investing in offshore oil & gas exploration projects. With this, the market is projected to witness high growth opportunities in the region. In July 2023, Svitzer renewed its contract with APM Terminals Bahrain to operate two routes serving ships at Bahrain till December 2027 - two lines serving coastal tankers and small ships, including tugs and barges. These kinds of developments boost the market across the region.
Leading Players Focus on Digitalization and Automation of Tugboats along with Improved Propulsion System
The global tugs market is relatively consolidated with key players such as AMSBACH MARINE (S) PTE LTD., BOURBON Maritime Services, Cheoy Lee Shipyards Ltd., Crowley Holdings Inc, Damen Shipyards Group NV, DSB OFFSHORE LTD, Duclos Corp., Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc, and others. Major players focus on technological advancements such as integrating digital technologies and automation systems to enhance towboats performance and optimize operations. Moreover, companies have been equipping their tugboats with azimuth thrusters, making them highly effective in assisting large vessels and handling complex towing tasks.
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The report provides a detailed market analysis. It comprises all major aspects such as R&D capabilities, supply chain management, competitive landscape, and optimization of the manufacturing capabilities and operating services. Moreover, the report offers detailed analysis of the market trends analysis, market size, global market share, and primarily highlights key industry developments. In addition to the above-mentioned factors, it mainly focuses on several factors that have contributed to the global market growth in recent years.
CAGR of 13.3% from 2023 to 2030
Value (USD Billion)
By Application, Type, Capacity, and Geography
As per a study by Fortune Business Insights, the market size was USD 16.04 billion in 2022.
The market is likely to grow at a CAGR of 13.3% over the forecast period (2023-2030).
Towing segment is expected to lead the market due to increasing towing applications for safety factors.
The market size in North America stood at USD 5.66 billion in 2022.
Rising port congestion owing to escalated just-in-time logistics to catalyze the global market.
Some of the top players in the market are AMSBACH MARINE (S) PTE LTD., BOURBON Maritime Services, Cheoy Lee Shipyards Ltd., Crowley Holdings Inc, Damen Shipyards Group NV, and others.
The U.S. dominated the market in 2022.
High operational cost and stringent environment regulation to hamper the market.
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