In the first of a week of webinars, How digital technologies are driving smart shipping in Asia, a panel of industry experts examined Asia’s progress towards smart shipping from three standpoints: what is working, what is needed and what is next
Riviera Maritime Media’s How digital technologies are driving smart shipping in Asia webinar was sponsored by Aquametro Oil & Marine and forms part of the Asia Maritime & Offshore Webinar Week supported by the Hong Kong Shipowners Association and Intermanager. On the panel were Aquametro Oil & Marine sales manager Brandon Yeo, CyberOwl chief executive Daniel Ng, and Inmarsat director, strategy & business development Alberto Perez.
Mr Yeo talked about how onboard fuel-related equipment can measure and monitor data output and provide information for shore-based assessment. The flowmeters are not just positioned in the main engine fuel system, but throughout the ancillary engines and boilers throughout the ship. The data is collected and monitored throughout the ship and on the bridge, with a feed to the satellite communication system reporting on fuel treatment and fuel management.
Speaking about the Aquametro system, Mr Yeo said, “The system is very easy to understand, can be managed by ship crew or shore personnel and allows better understanding of the fuel performance. The data can be compared across the fleet, so that fleet management can make the necessary adjustments,” he said.
In a poll, when asked which was the most important feature in a vessel performance monitoring system, 34% wanted real-time data, 25% reliable measurement sensors, 22% preferred artificial intelligence, machine learning predictions and actionable insights. The remaining 19% wanted a user-friendly interface.
Mr Yeo presented a case study where an offshore support vessel client found the system was reporting an imbalance in the fuel consumption of the port-side main engine. A diver was engaged to check the propeller and found it was damaged. This might not have been found without the alarm being raised through the fuel monitoring system. Not only did the system save fuel, but it also prevented the potential higher cost of propulsion system repairs.
In a poll, when asked which data is considered the most important to be sent ashore, nearly half (46%) chose daily fuel oil consumption and 27% special fuel oil consumption. Another 27% preferred consumption per nautical mile. Regarding consumption data, 37% wanted the data every five minutes, with 32% preferring every two hours and 31% once a day.
What was the motivation for installing a monitoring system? While the vast majority (86%) regarded it as a tool for fuel consumption optimisation, an alarming 14% used it as a tool to prevent fuel theft.
Mr Perez gave the satellite operator’s view of the last 12 months. “The average volume of data downloaded per ship has doubled in less than six months. The average in April 2020 was 4 GB and in October 2020 this had doubled to 8 GB. A lot of this growth has been driven by welfare, but also the increase in digitalisation,” he said. In a poll, 73% felt digitalisation had been instrumental in helping their organisation to navigate the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“The big question is ’Do we (Inmarsat) have the capacity to support this growth?’ and this answer is yes: we are fully committed and we have seven more satellites to be launched,” said Mr Perez.
Inmarsat has recently conducted a research programme ’Digitalisation uncovered: what’s next for shipping?’ which can be downloaded here. The research identified some of the reasons shipping companies were adopting digitalisation. Savings were a key driver, but there are challenges, too. The main one being a fear of a cyber attack.
Mr Perez said the results of the research showed there is a need for a secure, cost-effective, and scalable platform to deploy and use digital applications.
“With that in mind, Inmarsat has developed solutions for third-party application providers that allow them to be their best in providing a service,” said Mr Perez.
This solution includes Fleet Connect, which is a first-in-class dedicated bandwidth cyber-secure connection to an application provider. The second is Fleet Data, where Inmarsat takes care of the data collection and the hardware. Fleet Edge is a scalable hosting solution.
These seem to be the what systems operators require: in a poll, 57% quoted lack of cost effective, scalable and easy to deploy solutions as the main barrier to adopting digital solutions in the maritime environment. Lack of connectivity and lack of evidence of added value both scored 17% with security only a consideration for 10%.
However, when asked about the key drivers for adopting digital solutions, cost reduction was the favoured element (57%) followed by commercial gain and competitive edge (32%). Just 6% chose crew welfare and 5% compliance.
Mr Ng took the time to focus on cyber security with the message that “smart ships are not smart unless they are secure.” CyberOwl is a cyber security and analytics monitoring system focusing on the maritime sector and working with fleet operators across Asia, the Pacific and Europe.
“A lot of fleet operators tell us (CyberOwl) their IT and OT systems are ’air-gapped’ and therefore secure,” said Mr Ng. This is meant to ensure that if there is a cyber attack on an OT system, such as a loading computer, the damage is limited to the loss of emails and functionality but the attack does not cross over the air-gap into the rest of the ship or even be transmitted ashore.
“Sadly, this is not the case,” said Mr Ng. “In about 80% of the cases we have monitored, the OT systems are connected.” The three OT systems most at fault of being interconnected are the loading computer systems, engine monitoring and alerting systems and CCTV systems. In some cases, the systems are connected in a way the shoreside teams were not expecting.
Mr Ng said while it is difficult to imagine all the cyber-security issues, there are three basic questions ship operators should ask themselves: Is remote access, updating or control enabled? If yes, is there a level of integration with critical vessel systems? Is there any evidence of cyber-risk mitigation?
At this point, Mr Ng noted, it is very important to engage a cyber-risk expert to assess the systems. He also offered two pieces of advice to operators to improve the security of smart ship systems. The first is to update the change management procedures to include consultation with OT teams. The second piece of advice was to monitor smart ship dataflows and connections.
Regarding the first piece of advice, in a poll 45% included change management procedures for OT equipment, 14% did not and 41% did not know.
From left to right: Aquametro Oil & Marine sales manager Brandon Yeo, CyberOwl chief executive Daniel Ng, and Inmarsat director, strategy & business development Alberto Perez