With a global pandemic wreaking havoc on budgets, surveys, access to vessels, shoreside operations and yard availability, our webinar panel of industry leaders tackled the tricky to predict future of vessel operations in a post-pandemic world from the shipowner, yard, OEM and class perspectives
The webinar examined How Covid-19 will transform your vessel operations over the next 24 months and was part of our ongoing multi-week series of webinars.
Developed in partnership with Rolls-Royce Power Systems, the webinar offered views from Majestic Fast Ferry managing director Max Tan; Damen Shipyards Singapore managing director Michel Goedegebuure; director, application engineering and automation marine & defense business, Rolls-Royce Power Systems and 118th president of the IMarEST, Kevin Daffey; and Bureau Veritas director, strategic sales marine & offshore Francis Tang.
Kicking off the discussion, Mr Tan and Mr Goedegebuure both expressed doubt that an economic recovery was imminent.
From the shipowners’ side, Mr Tan said he expected a "Nike-swoosh recovery" as opposed to the V-shaped recovery that many in business, industry and government had hoped for as a best-case scenario.
"Before the Covid-19 crisis, we were ferrying 2.5M passengers a year with 80 daily trips. And now we are only running two trips daily. Going forward, it will all change for the global travel indusry," Mr Tan said.
"With the new world requiring safe distancing, we expect ROI to be further extended three to five years... As you can see, we expect the Nike-swoosh recovery," he said, pointing to "after Q4 2021" as a point where international travel will pick back up.
"International travel will definitely not be the first to reopen any time soon for fears of another wave of Covid-19. Jobs and salaries will be on everyone’s mind as all industries are not faring well."
Mr Goedegebuure concurred with Mr Tan, saying the short term looks rocky but that "silver linings" remain.
"The economy is not going to bounce back [quickly]," he said. "The V-shaped recovery that was very popular a few weeks or a few months ago is now less popular in the narrative. People have lost their jobs. And people who do have their jobs will be very careful."
"Demand... will stay at a very low level for the foreseeable future. On top of that, supply chains could be broken," Mr Goedegebuure said. "But on the other hand there are also silver linings."
Mr Goedegebuure said five months ago the industry would have "jumped" at the chance for some of the opportunities the coronavirus crisis has presented and suggested the industry look for "opportunities to harvest", listing the lowest oil price in 18-20 years, low interest rates for borrowing or funding new investments and the job market brimming with talented people looking for work.
"Companies are open for change where in the past, they would have been more resistant. And this is the time to redesign your product or your business model based on the developments with working from home... and you also have the time to think about that. And this is the time to upgrade your staff and your hardware," he said.
Mr Daffey picked up on the themes of recession and industry change in his presentation, noting the impact on his company’s customers including the transport, offshore, tug and yacht markets where "customers were feeling the pain".
"That means lots of new projects and investments in vessels have been deferred or cancelled," he said.
To position itself and its clients to deal with the post-pandemic landscape, Mr Daffey said his company was looking to its capabilites in diagnosing engine problems and applying those diagnostic techniques to developing predictive prognoses for engine problems before they impact engine operations.
"Ultimately, we want to move to where we can provide condition-based asset management based on how an engine actually is operated," he said.
To achieve this, Rolls-Royce Power Systems is using machine learning techniques, specifically a neural network trained on "about three months of good engine data" from a testbed with sensors to detect anomalies. Corresponding alerts are set for the anomalies and if the machine learning model has previously classified the cause of the anomalies, it provides the alert which then triggers action from a remote operating centre and provides advice back to the engine operator.
When a new anomaly pops up, experts use the data to classify it, aiding the predictive maintenance software’s progress and building a library of potential issues for recognition and diagnosis by the software.
"That means we can update the models for all the engines and all the operators," Mr Daffey said. "And this means our body of knowledge is continually updated and captured forever not only for that particular customer but for all customers of a particular engine class," he said.
Rolls-Royce Power Systems is using the approach to develop a holistic diagnostic system covering engines, gear boxes, waterjets and key parts of the powertrain – a full powertrain health mangement solution, according to Mr Daffey – that can be linked to the company’s shore-based service for providing advice and intervention. Ultimately, that data can be combined with external data and real-time data on conditions and vessel positioning to offer operational insights to optimise fuel consumption and other critical aspects to help operators make timely decisions.
Mr Daffey said his company sees the combination of all of these data-driven elements as ’enablers’ for remote operations where decisions are taken from shore, leading eventually to autonomous operations where ships (or the software that powers and monitors them) "take decisions themselves".
Mr Daffey said the development project is called the Artificial Chief Engineer. The programme is at "technological readiness level four," he said, and the company hopes the programme will "become a reality over the next 24 months to enable automous technology of the future".
Remote operations are already beginning to feature heavily for Bureau Veritas (BV), as the class society grapples with the same travel restrictions and social distancing requirements facing much of the rest of the world.
As Mr Tang explained, BV has seen a significant uptick in discussions around remote surveys and inspections as the pandemic has set in.
"My colleagues on the offshore side... have actually seen, I can’t remember the exact numbers, but something like a four- to five-fold increase in terms of inquiries for remote inspections and surveys for offshore platforms and offshore rigs... So we’ve seen tremendous interest in this aspect as well," he said.
Mr Tang said the key for remote surveys is "how you see remotely and how you actually decide" elements of the survey without being physically present.
"BV is one of the first classification societies to have done a pilot (drone) remote survey that is actually accredited," he said.
As a testament to how recent the advent of remote surveys is, a poll of webinar attendees revealed that fewer than 20% of respondents had experience with remote surveys. For full poll results, please scroll further down the story.
Additionally, Mr Tang highlighted the comprehensive way in which BV has been involved in 3D modelling for digital ship classifications.
"When it comes to 3D classification, no longer do designers and shipyards have to conceptualise and design a ship from a 2D perspective," he said. "With 3D classification, we do a direct analysis on the 3D model. And from our past experience, we have witnessed cost and time savings of up to 40% using this methodology."
You can view the webinar, in full, in our webinar library.
And you can sign up to attend upcoming webinars on our events page.
Webinar panellists (left to right):
Michel Goedegebuure, Managing Director, Damen Shipyards Singapore
Kevin Daffey, Director, Application Engineering and Automation Marine & Defense Business, Rolls-Royce Power Systems & 118th President of the IMarEST
Max Tan, Managing Director, Majestic Fast Ferry
Francis Tang, Director, Strategic Sales Marine & Offshore, Bureau Veritas
Are you preparing for operations after Covid-19?
2% I do not know what to do
21% I am waiting for the situation to be more stable
65% I am preparing but must do more
12% I am/will be fully prepared
Have you engaged the vessel and equipment OEM in preparing for post-Covid-19?
2% No and I will not
58% No, but I will
13% Yes, they could not help me
11% Yes, successfully
16% I engaged my regular repair and survey yard
What is the number one thing hindering your preparations?
11% Availability of parts
11% Yard availability/capacity
34% No access to the vessels due to lockdown
How has the global lockdown affected your survey process?
14% Most of our surveys could not be completed (in excess of 80%)
36% A significant number of our surveys could not be completed
45% Some of our surveys could not be completed (less than 30%)
5% We are not affected at all and all our surveys are completed
Have you or your company had any experience with remote surveys during the past 12-months?
79% No experience at all with remote surveys
19% Have experience with 1-2 remote surveys during the last 12 months
2% We have experience with more than five remote surveys during the last 12 months