TowWorks Offers Application Demo At IMX

With crewing, billing, fleeting, maintenance, vessel documentation, internal and external audits, inspections and more, maritime companies and their shoreside and vessel crews have a lot to keep track of.

In days gone by, much of that documentation was kept on handwritten forms. But as safety protocols and business operations have become more complex over the years, companies have increasingly turned to web-based technology to stay on top of documentation.

John Cox, vice president of client services for TowWorks LLC, spoke to Inland Marine Expo attendees September 30 on web-based solutions his company offers maritime companies. TowWorks started in 1991 and is based in Lake Jackson, Texas. It provides subscription-based logistics support software to maritime companies, both in the United States and abroad.

TowWorks is hosted on Amazon Web Services, Cox said, with multiple backup locations, meaning companies can be sure they will not lose access to data. Data is stored either on a private server or on a shared server stack.

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TowWorks is individualized according to the operational and organizational profile of each individual company.

“We do a two- to three-day on-site discovery meeting,” Cox said. “That’s where we gather your information. We use it to set up a staging site for your site development and testing.”

After that initial discovery time, TowWorks spends four to six weeks on a CRP, or “conference room pilot,” during which the company conducts on-site and online training, loads data, configures the interface and conducts testing.

“We will also, during that timeframe, discuss any custom requirements and set a timeline for their development, if any are needed,” Cox said.

Cox, again and again, stressed the customization potential of TowWorks, which is currently used by more than 80 companies—covering more than 800 boats and more than 7,500 barges—in the United States, Canada, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina.

During his IMX presentation, Cox offered a snapshot of various tabs within TowWorks, including a traffic tree and trip board, which track vessel, fleet and tow data.

“The trip board is a real quick snapshot view of the vessels and locations of the vessels,” Cox said. “It’ll show any loads, empties, what barges are with them, whether liquid or dry cargo. It’ll show northbound or southbound.”

Cox also offered an example of a vessel map, which draws vessel locations and tow information from AIS and Rose Point.

TowWorks compiles everything from vessel metrics and reports to vessel logs, tow diagrams, engineroom logs, safety meetings, drills, inspections and more.

“Everything they do, all the events they do, it’s pretty much point, click and verify,” Cox said. “We try to keep the wheelmen’s typing to a minimum. … They’re boat drivers. They’re not secretaries.”

Cox said TowWorks put a big focus on voyage planning, from routes, locks and bridges to forms needed, notices to mariners and internal notices.

“Voyage planning is very big in the TowWorks world, especially now with SubM going and with those of you involved in SIRE reporting,” he said.

There are also tabs for logistics, billing and accounting and maintenance.

“Everything you would normally do paper-based, we can do it and keep track of it without tons and tons of paper,” Cox said. “The advantage here is, literally, we can track every bolt on a boat or barge if you wanted to.”

Besides keeping track of maintenance, audit and inspection needs, TowWorks also helps companies keep an eye on employee credentialing and training and crew scheduling.

And for companies that operate where internet connectivity cuts in and out, TowWorks has developed an offline boat console “that’s very helpful here on the rivers,” Cox said.

“We have a number of customers using it now,” he said. “It basically caches the data on the onboard computer and keeps it for you. Next time it gets a signal it will go back and upload with the server. We’re working on an offline boat console specifically for the offshore vessels that will keep their data for months at a time.”