As more online platforms support IoT and intelligent applications, what benefits can owners expect and will the savings justify the costs?
Many OSV owners are now embracing digitalisation to help reduce their operating expenditures, streamline operations, reduce headcount and provide integrated logistics solutions.
The strategy is supported by some of the largest players in the maritime sector, including Maersk Supply Services (MSS), P&O Maritime Logistics, Tidewater, Seacor Marine Holdings, Bourbon Offshore and GC Rieber Shipping, all of which spoke at the recent Riviera Maritime Media Offshore Support Journal Conference about their strategies to invest in digitalisation.
MSS chairwoman Henriette Hallberg Thygesen told delegates that OSV owners need to “work smarter and more effectively”. She said MSS has invested in digitalisation on its vessels as part of a strategy to optimise its core business, introduce integrated solutions and diversify into new sectors.
“We have embraced new technology and new business strategies as we think long term,” said Ms Thygesen.
MSS has made technical upgrades across its fleet, such as installing an energy advisory system on some of its vessels to support the crew in their energy efficiency efforts.
In parallel, it has also been adapting to digitalisation technology, changing mindsets and empowering its seafarers and managers.
“The biggest challenge for any player at sea is to strike the right balance between innovating and rethinking their businesses and operating models,” said Ms Thygesen, “while at the same time keeping costs down and providing safe and efficient solutions to their customers.”
There are parallels with the technology changes occurring in sister company, Svitzer, where Ms Thygesen is chief executive.
Svitzer signed its first preventative maintenance agreement, in Q4 2019, with Rolls-Royce, covering MTU Series 4000 high-speed diesel engines on tugs operating worldwide. This focused on improving engine performance and reliability in a frame agreement that uses Rolls-Royce’s experience in condition-based maintenance. It has developed MTU-Go!Act and MTU-Go!Manage services for capturing and processing technical data from engines.
This agreement includes engines on the world’s first harbour tug to be remotely controlled from shore, the 2016-built Svitzer Hermod.
P&O Maritime chief commercial officer Robert Desai explained to delegates at the conference how digitalisation technology will disrupt offshore logistics, improve performance, reduce costs and build sustainable business.
“We started to digitalise our business and build algorithms to optimise our supply chain, resulting in efficiencies,” said Mr Desai. “We are reaping the benefits and so are our customers.”
Digitalisation enables energy companies to track their cargo and monitor operations.
“It is a platform for end-to-end logistics, as customers want real-time monitoring of cargo delivery,” said Mr Desai. “The key is to have reliability of cargo deliveries with no disruptions.”
P&O Maritime Logistics head of HSSEW Ian Trebinski said the vessel owner would launch a free, open-source and web-based platform for data storage and analytics later this year. “Our current version is displaying our live HSE data, anonymised safety statistics, incident locations, types of injuries and where the injuries occurred,” he explained.
In the coming weeks, the owner will add technical data related to its machinery conditions, breakdowns, manufacturers and OEM data.
“This will help us all change the industry, share data, share ideas, identify trends and efficiencies, and drive sustainability for the industry’s benefit in years to come,” said Mr Trebinski.
He expects other vessel owners will want to be involved in this data sharing platform to identify engineroom system problems.
“The more data we have on the open-source platform, the more we have to analyse and the more we can cut, slice and dice to generate value,” said Mr Trebinski.
“From an owner/operator perspective, it is our data,” he said. “We pay for the machinery, vessels and people to operate them safely. But, let everybody in the room have access to that data because 100 operators sharing data is more than one engine manufacturer looking at its own data.”
Tidewater president and chief executive Quintin Kneen agreed that digitalisation and data sharing would improve communications between vessels and management centres, enabling more shore management of onboard operations and automation: “We are making information available on tablets for our seafarers. It is about making everything available and continuing to look for ways to reduce costs and higher-grade the fleet,” he explained. “We need to improve our efficiency and the skillset of shore staff to reduce headcount.”
Bourbon Offshore chief executive Gaël Bodénès told delegates that cost controls were required while his company was undergoing corporate transformation and adopting technology: “We have to adapt and use technology to reduce the number of people on board and to connect our fleet so we can transfer more offshore functions to shore.”
Bourbon is upgrading satellite communications on its fleet by migrating to Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress service. This involves installing Ka-band satellite connectivity hardware on more than 100 vessels by 2021.
Mr Bodénès expects this connectivity to be used to support predictive maintenance, automate more onboard operations and improve crew welfare. “The time has come for operational intelligence and connected vessels,” he said. “Automation of onboard systems is already a reality for our seafarers and we must all innovate at speed to re-invent our business models.”
Bourbon has started deploying its smart shipping action plan, which is structured around a new vessel operational model. It includes onshore support from a new remote monitoring centre and leveraging digital and connectivity tools to reduce fleet operating costs.
Fleet Xpress is a hybrid satellite communications system, combining higher bandwidth of Ka-band from Inmarsat’s Global Xpress constellation and L-band services from Inmarsat’s fourth- and sixth-generation satellites.
Seacor Marine is also using digitalisation and satellite communications for data monitoring and intelligent operations. “We will need to work more intelligently to reduce manning on and offshore,” said president and chief executive John Gellert. “We are getting data to support business and using tools to be less labour intensive,” he said while welcoming a platform for global data sharing. “It is an industry-wide challenge,” he said.
GC Rieber Shipping chief commercial officer Chirstoffer Knudsen believes OSV owners can adopt technology and sell their capabilities to energy company clients. “We need to sell these capabilities and not just the ships,” he said. “We need to adapt and use technology as this will be a key element. And we will need to attract smart people to our industry,” Mr Knudsen said.
OSV owners and charterers can use an increasing array of internet-of-things (IoT)-enabled platforms for data sharing, analysis and to access intelligent applications. These platforms need remote internet connectivity, which explains the growing links between VSAT providers and platform developers – for example, KVH Industries’ collaboration with Kongsberg’s Kognifai platform and Vessel Insight service. The first sea trial of their combined integrated maritime IoT system began in Q4 2019 on Norwegian research vessel Simrad Echo. The trial bundles KVH Watch connectivity with Vessel Insight for IoT vessel-to-shore data transmissions over Ku-band and monitors critical operational systems.
Kognifai is also linked to class society DNV GL’s Veracity platform, offering digital class and assurance services.
DNV GL chief executive for maritime Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen explained that Veracity exists in an ecosystem of various platforms, enabling collaborative data sharing and optimisation. Wärtsilä and DNV GL have also agreed to explore digital technologies, collaborative data sharing and standardisation for IoT applications.
DNV GL chief executive of digital solutions Kenneth Vareide said Veracity has 188,500 activated users in 17,700 registered companies. Of these around 20,000 are actively using the 184 services hosted on Veracity. “It is a development space and a marketplace for buying and delivering services,” said Mr Vareide, adding, “We are connecting stakeholders – manufacturers, owners and shipyards – who benefit from these applications.”
Inmarsat has an alternative IoT platform and connectivity package. It has signed up several partners to its Fleet Data IoT platform, which enables data to be uploaded to a central cloud-based database and accessed through an application process interface. ABB Marine & Ports, Ascenz and Nautilus Labs became partners on Fleet Data in Q4 2019. Class society Bureau Veritas granted approval in principle for the system.
Elsewhere, Marlink developed its BridgeLink IoT platform to securely connect onboard systems to sensor networks and satellite IP connectivity. Its subsidiary, Telemar, will use this application for performance analysis and data collection.
“BridgeLink will dramatically enhance our efficiency in bridge electronics maintenance,” said Telemar Italy general manager Giorgio Santantonio. “It allows our technical team, remotely and in real time, to access the equipment on board the ship, run specific fault-finding diagnostics, update software and analyse efficiency.”
Software cuts emissions by 10%
Digitalisation helped Opsealog cut vessel greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10% in 2019. It used performance management service, Marinelog, over a fleet of more than 400 vessels worldwide to trim GHG for energy companies.
The cloud-based platform enables oil and gas operators to improve fuel efficiency, fleet utilisation, environmental impact and cost control.
Marinelog integrates data from multiple sources such as weather information, fuel monitoring and vessel tracking; Opsealog then analyses the data and provides recommendations.
Opsealog chief executive and co-founder Arnaud Dianoux said: “We have reduced fuel consumption, enhanced vessel productivity by reducing idle time and ensured the use of the fleet is optimised.”
Amazon develops vessel IoT cloud infrastructure
Amazon is developing cloud infrastructure for maritime and offshore vessel IoT applications. In January, Amazon Web Services (AWS) combined with satellite operator Iridium Communications to launch a multi-sector IoT and connectivity service.
Iridium CloudConnect uses Iridium’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and Amazon’s data stores to host IoT applications. It mixes industry-standard cloud protocols with short-burst data transmission capacity, enabling any IoT device connected through the LEO network to speak natively with AWS IoT services and other value-added elements available in AWS Marketplace.
Iridium operates a constellation of 66 crosslinked LEO satellites that provide global connectivity, including over the polar regions. In February, it expanded vessel-to-satellite communications on its Iridium Certus service, and over the LEO satellites, from 352 kbps to 704 kbps by introducing a firmware upgrade for onboard terminals manufactured by Cobham Satcom and Thales.
AWS is also working with Speedcast International to deliver cloud-based services to vessels. The solution will enable operators with Speedcast VSAT on board to access AWS resources, e-learning and media services.