ITS 2018 Marseille | Report

ITS 2018 saw the future arrive while also looking back fondly, and with some sadness, at the past 50 years as more than 1,300 attendees gathered in Marseille – the first time the event has been held in France.

For Nigel Brunton-Reed, chairman of The ABR Company, officially welcoming delegates to the 25th convention in “the southern gateway to Europe” was a bitter-sweet moment as that had always previously been done by his older brother Allan, who died towards the end of last year.

Nigel used his welcoming address to announce the ABR Memorial Award set up in Allan’s honour to provide grants and sponsorship to students associated with the tug, OSV and salvage industry – and was able to report at the Gala Dinner just four days later that an initial £60,000 had been pledged towards the target of £250,000.

Nigel said he was delighted to welcome around 100 new delegates to the event along with long-term attendees, some of whom had been at our first convention in 1969.

Key themes to emerge over the week-long event included environmental impact and sustainable growth, admirably illustrated by keynote speaker Christine Cabau Woehrel, Présidente du Directoire Port de Marseille-Fos, the largest port in France. Addressing delegates on the first day of the conference about the importance of the shipping industry to the city, she said: “I have seen huge changes in the past 25 years and there will be further huge changes in the future – and Marseille will be a big part of that.

“Sustainable growth will be one of the biggest challenges for us – we will have to be greener and more efficient.”

Those themes – along with others covering hybrid technology, digitalisation, innovation, automation and safety among many others – were significant features in many of the 26 papers presented at ITS 2018 and in the discussions among delegates, visitors and exhibitors. For those with a specific interest in salvage matters, there was a dedicated session featuring five presentations focused on issues facing that sector.

Robert Allan’s scene-setting presentation to kick things off looked back at how ITS conventions have helped shape tug design over the past 50 years – as well as sparking forthright debate.

The advent of remote-controlled and autonomous vessels has been the subject of ITS discussions for many years – indeed, Allan’s paper and presentation identified 1988 as the first mention of them – but in Marseille delegates were literally able to get their hands on two examples now in operation.

Visitors to the combined stand of renowned innovators Rotortug and Alphatron Marine stood behind a Kotug captain as he operated the Kotug training tug RT Borkum situated in the Port of Rotterdam 1,200km to the north – although many of them initially thought they were watching a simulation rather than actual, real-time tug operations.

Meanwhile, at the stand of Rosetti Marino/Purple Water, a remote bridge command console was in use manoeuvring the tug Giano around Marseille port where it was berthed throughout the convention and exhibition.

Also berthed in the port – and making a dramatic appearance at the Damen-sponsored harbour-side welcome reception on the first day of ITS 2018 – was the Dutch shipbuilder’s Bis Viridis, a hybrid variant of its new RSD 2513 tug.

“It was an excellent event as always, a fantastic opportunity to catch up with all of the right people. I remain convinced that ITS and Tugnology are the best conferences in the industry, always the highlight of the year.”
Paul Jamer, Breakwater Group


While ITS has earned a reputation for the quality of the papers and presentations in the convention, it is also a place to do business – and the expansive exhibition hall played host to a steady stream of contract signings and presentations throughout the three days, with major industry players Novatug, Damen, Uzmar, Sanmar, Robert Allan Ltd, Ibercisa, Logan Clutch and TTC all celebrating significant announcements.

“An extremely good show, a great location and well attended. Well done to the ABR team, they did a fantastic job.”
Mark Gambell, Samson Rope


Also in the exhibition hall, former tug master and author Capt Henk Hensen, got a taste of the rock-star treatment as the launch of a comprehensive new edition of his book Tug Use in Port (published by The ABR Company) saw dozens of requests for purchased copies to be signed.

Out of the ITS spotlight, but still an important element alongside it, the Parc Chanot venue also played host to the latest bollard pull JIP meeting, which saw further progress on technical issues around this subject.

“Again, a great performance by the ABR team, excellent preparation resulted in the ITS quality that we now take for granted.”
Baldo Dielen, EDDY Tug


No review of an ITS event would be complete without mention of the varied and popular social events that form such an important part of the whole experience. As well as Damen’s welcome reception, an evening reception two days later, sponsored by Cashman Equipment, was held on the rooftop of part of Marseille’s extensively redeveloped harbour area, while the Caterpillar-sponsored Gala Dinner the following night took place in a former warehouse that perfectly captured the city’s vibrant reputation.

“It is always valuable to share news and ideas with others in the industry. There were excellent opportunities for meeting friends and networking.”
Robert Allan, Robert Allan Ltd


Back in the exhibition hall, end-of-the-day happy hours sponsored by Armon and Sanmar gave delegates and visitors the maximum opportunity to see exhibitors – including some with the brilliant strategy of switching video screens to live World Cup coverage. Delegate lunches throughout the event were sponsored by Uzmar, while all the tea and coffee breaks were sponsored by Rolls-Royce and MTU.

Delegates were delighted with this year’s smart conference bags, sponsored by Samson. Moteurs Baudouin sponsored a relaxed meeting zone within the exhibition hall, and the ITS web app was sponsored by Wärtsilä. Outside the conference centre, the IMS Run Club organised daily early-morning runs and walks around the streets of Marseille, and The Shipowners’ Club hosted an enjoyable boat trip and lunch on Friday, which rounded off the week in true ITS style.

“Yet another well organised quality convention bringing the ‘family’ back together again, well done and thanks.”
Brendan Cooley, IMS

ITS has been a revelation. We would definitely exhibit again.”
Darren Rowlands, NRG Marine