Testing new lubricants ahead of IMO’s cap on sulphur in fuels led Gulf Oil Marine into a partnership with marine technology firm Azurtane, and global technology manager Don Gregory sees the potential for technology to make an even bigger impact across the sector
Gulf Oil Marine global technology manager Don Gregory was unequivocal on the potential impact of a digital revolution in shipping: he said he believes business strategies enabled by technology are a means of rapidly achieving lower emissions throughout the maritime sector.
“From the work we have done, it is very clear that if the maritime sector adopted the Amazon approach and tracked all movements and waypoints to achieve a just-in-time arrival and [optimal] vessel utilisation, the industry could cut bunker consumption overnight by 20%,” Mr Gregory said.
With the industry facing increasing pressures to limit emissions, Mr Gregory said efficiencies generated from technology would help to bridge the gap during the next decade, cutting fuel use and emissions while low- and zero-emissions technologies are developed.
“It would be a gift to the world. In fact, it would be a gift that pays you … as the 20% cut in bunker consumption comes with a 20% savings on fuel. But it needs the actors involved to work together to dispose of the old-fashioned charter parties. Ports need to make their berth management much more professional. Rewards for work done would be based upon achieving the lowest cost of delivery,” he said.
In terms of the technological direction of his own company, Mr Gregory described how the process of testing new lubricant designs for IMO’s sulphur regulations created a product development opportunity outside traditional business areas.
“Gulf Oil Marine began using remote monitoring systems on the ships used for lubricant product development and lubricant approvals by OEMs,” Mr Gregory said.
“The natural progression from our lubricant portfolio-only business has been to use the expertise to become a wider solutions and applications provider.”
The remote monitoring systems Gulf Oil Marine was using during OEM trials were developed by marine technology firm Azurtane, and the business applications for the technology vary from performance improvements to energy and emissions savings.
Gulf Oil Marine recognised that not all businesses can decipher the data from condition-based monitoring systems to make good use of it, so the partnership with Azurtane has created an opportunity to sell a service.
“Azurtane measures parameters such as fuel flow and vessel position to a very high precision,” Mr Gregory said. “But this is just data. Often operators have no time to review the data or to ascertain the meaning of the data. Azurtane converts the data into detailed information with advice on what action could be taken to overcome an identified problem or to save energy costs.”
Mr Gregory said the partnership employs specialists including naval architects and hydrodynamicists to evaluate data, and “spot real prizes that are still available” to cut back on fuel and emissions.
In one example, a VLCC was monitored for 18 months leading up to and following a drydock to show that work done during the drydock helped the vessel to cut its fuel consumption by more than 1,000 tonnes and to save more than US$500,000 in running costs.
“Other information includes real-time performance tracking. This enables the officers to make changes to, say, heading, draft or trim and see within seconds if the energy consumption has reduced or increased,” Mr Gregory said.
Mr Gregory said that, while digital twins and AI-assisted data modelling offered some amount of performance insight, it remained limited in comparison to that offered by human analysts.
“Modelling is a cheap way to get some comparison with the live situation. But nothing beats actual measurement of the live situation; the data is irrefutable, and the data [analyst] picks out unexpected situations which simply cannot be modelled,” he said.