On maritime vessels, we have the last decades seen an increasing amount of digitalization of key systems. This has been further accelerated by the adoption of hybrid or electric power and propulsions solutions. There is a huge amount of insightful information that can be retrieved from such systems. However, it can be easier said than done to utilize it properly.
Yet, this can be a goldmine of information. Deep insights into your vessel’s performance, and on your operations, have some major positive implications, like reduced fuel consumption and prevention of costly downtime.
In this article we will explore how digitalisation of your vessels, combined with flexible software solutions, can increase efficiency and optimize your operations.
Let’s first look at optimisation of fuel and energy consumption, together with your emissions. Once upon a time it might have been sufficient to loosely monitor the speedometer and the flow meter, compare the two, and you would get a “good enough” indication of how hard you should run your engines to achieve desired speed.
Today, the equation is much more complex. You find a large number of systems and sensors spread across the vessel, all producing data which you can use. It´s here you find the information needed to optimize specific operations, specific routes, your service schedule, and communications.
Let’s look at some of the systems that provide this data:
- Automation and alarm system
- Hotel power and batteries
- Temperatures and vibrations throughout the vessel.
- Weather information, like wind direction/speeds/temperatures/pressure/waves etc.
- Operating staff (captain and crew)
A challenge is that these different sources rarely speak the same language or communicate with each other. Different data protocols and proprietary data solutions can hinder consolidation of this information. The data often is unstructured, meaning it is not contextualised with other systems. The goal is to align all datasets, contextualising them in one platform.
This is how you harvest the value of data. Your engine performance and fuel consumption alone tell only part of the story. When combined with additional variables, like weather conditions, engine strain, propeller pitch and navigational data, methods of optimising every aspect of your operation will appear.
How it works
In short, all the raw sources of data are connected to an intermediary IPC - EDGE device. The data is pushed to a cloud environment, where you can create an asset-model for the vessel. The cloud provides the storage and computing power needed to structure, align and aggregate your data.
- Every metric from a vessel can be compared with other vessels. Routes can be compared with one another.
- Information from 3rd party sources can be added/aligned, like detailed weather/tidal cycles.
- Reports can be automatically distributed.
Through open and secure APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), your results can be forwarded to other systems. It can be fed back to the ship, actively advising on its operation. You can also run it through your own or partners data-analysis platforms for more specialised analysis.
You may start to see the potential of how this data can be used for optimisation. The more data that is being collected, the more detailed your report will be.
Let’s explore some areas of application that emerge with such a resource:
The power of visualisation
Once you get your data visualised, you see how things overlap and correlate. You will get some immediate results, quickly noticing deviation and patterns in an operation. You might see that fuel consumption is higher or lower with a specific crew or captain, even though the vessel and route remain the same. Or alternatively, that an established route consumes more energy under certain wind and weather conditions, suggesting a better alternative.
Now that you have the tools and data at your fingertips, you can begin to see trends over time. This can improve efficiency, reduce downtime and give you a better understanding of your operation overall. With time, you will find which vessel-configurations are optimal under specific conditions.
Certain areas of your route might reveal where adjustments should be made, like a certain pitch of the propeller, combined with a certain effect from your power system based on navigational data. There is a lot to be gained in granular adjustments.
With all your ships systems centralised in one place, you will start to see the vessel’s service-needs, down to the component level. Operational profile, ship-specific systems, and regional conditions all play a role on when a component or system require service. Even within the same class and design of vessel, there are differences depending on the strain its under. Knowing this intimately, you can better plan downtime and service cycles and maximising your uptime without added risk.
This information in a cloud solution can also relive the need for coordination between the ship’s operator, its manufacturer or service provider, and the vessels crew. To cut cost on maintenance, good communication and follow-up is key. Much of this can now be automated.
Simulation and uptime guarantee
With time and enough data, complex simulations can be run. This can be used to create more accurate predictions of your production and operational cost. This also lies the foundation for a manufacturer to confidently provide more extensive uptime guarantees. Proactive service recommendations and repairs will reach a whole new level, down to the component level. With these types of analysis on hand, both you and the manufacturer can feel assured that parts you need are always on hand, while unnecessary service and repairs become a thing of the past.
Modern ships have a lot of sensors, producing a lot of data on your vessel’s performance. However, there has been a challenge of consolidating it all for more extensive analysis. Modern vessel-to-cloud solutions are making this possible, and leading operators and system integrators are embracing the technology.
Digitalisation and software solutions in the maritime sector is expanding and we need to adopt the tools available to make use of the information your vessel can provide. It has the potential to reduce emissions and increase the efficiency of your vessel in the short term. In the long term, it can have a major positive impact on your entire operation using a digital operating model across your entire fleet.