Investing in IoT and digitalisation improves performance, reduces costs and enhances client services
Digitalisation and internet-of-things (IoT) technology are becoming vital to maritime and offshore vessel operations. Shipowners, operators and managers can use applications in the digital toolbox to monitor vessel performance, machinery condition and crew, to optimise operations, mitigate under-performance and reduce operational expenditure.
BW Offshore non-executive director René Kofod-Olsen spoke of the importance of collating and analysing data from vessel operations during Riviera Maritime Media’s Offshore Industry Leaders webinar on 24 June 2020.
Mr Olsen, who was formerly chief executive of P&O Maritime Logistics and Topaz Marine, said vessel owners can use data to understand how to adjust their operations to survive tough market conditions in offshore.
“Know the real data in your business and which levers to push,” he said. “Look at the digital toolbox and use machine learning and digitalisation wherever possible,” he said, adding there should be targets for this innovation. “Know what you client needs and is willing to pay for,” said Mr Olsen.
Sensor data can be collated on vessels and sent to shore either in real-time data streams or in periodic packages to be analysed for trends that can influence operations and business. “We are fast moving towards new technology,” said Mr Olsen. “Innovation waves are moving at breath-taking speeds.”
He says technology advancements and how they enhance business needs to be discussed at board level. “Operators need to be innovative,” he said.
Van Oord director for digital transformation Mare Straetmans* said vessel owners need to be agile and selective in their digitalisation adoption and consider working in partnership with start-ups and technology providers. “It is understanding where the opportunities are and how to go about grasping them,” he said. “We need to find partners that are technology-wise better and together we can offer an enhanced solution to our clients and resources for our operations,” said Mr Straetmans.
“I see being agile and able to test and build digitalisation for operations as crucial aspects,” he continued.
“Some companies have mastered developing new pilots or proof of concepts with digital technology in their operations within three months. These capabilities should be developed quickly and to do this, it is about leadership and understanding what digital technologies are needed.”
Van Oord works with partners to pilot digitalisation and IoT projects and scales these up to significantly increase in efficiency or reduce operating costs.
“Digital transformation must make an impact,” said Mr Straetmans. “We can start small and, if it works and if the client is happy, we can scale up. But it is crucial to fail-fast,” he said. “If it is not working or if it is not bringing any value, we will kill it. We do not keep pet projects going for a long time.”
OEM predictive maintenance
Owners and OEMs can use IoT technologies to predict potential failures in ship machinery from performance data. Digitalisation enables equipment manufacturers to diagnose issues before they become problems on vessels, said Rolls-Royce Power Systems director for application engineering and automation marine and defence business Kevin Daffey*.
“We want to move to where we can provide condition-based asset management based on how an engine 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. If the machine learning model has previously classified the cause of the anomaly, it sets off the alert which 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. “Our body of knowledge is continually updated and captured forever, not only for that customer, but for all customers of a particular engine class,” he said.
Rolls-Royce Power Systems is using this approach to develop a holistic diagnostic system covering engines, gear boxes, waterjets and other components for a full powertrain health management solution. This could be linked to the company’s shore-based service for providing advice and intervention.
That information can be combined with external 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, said Mr Daffey.
He expects data-driven elements will be 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 Rolls-Royce Power Systems’ Artificial Chief Engineer development programme is at “technological readiness level four” and the company hopes it will “become a reality over the next 24 months to enable autonomous technology of the future”.
These prognosis solutions require packages of sensors. A propulsion monitoring system integrates real-time fuel consumption and maritime condition monitoring with cloud storage and analysis applications, according to VAF Instruments director of research and development Erik van Ballegooijen.
By installing fuel monitoring sensors on ships, owners can replace noon reports with real-time monitoring. “It is good to go for automatic data collection, to show this data on board and to store this information in the cloud,” he said.
Data can be displayed on board for crew to make immediate performance improvements before being analysed by VAF, a third party or the owner to identify trends across the fleet.
“Once in the cloud, you can do a lot of additional things, like data enrichment, creating key performance indicators and long-term trend visualisation,” said Mr van Ballegooijen.
Shipping companies and technical experts can access cloud-stored data to analyse fuel consumption across fleets of ships and add information from other sources.
“You can get external data, like weather data, or you might also have your own business intelligence tools,” he continued.
These resources can be connected to propulsion management tools or sent to charterers for analysis. “Exchanging and combining data is valuable for analysis,” said Mr van Ballegooijen. “It is also important to find the quick wins and know which data is immediately relevant.”
For propulsion performance management it is important to have a minimum dataset, including real-time measurements of fuel consumption from flow meters on the fuel supply lines. Other measurements could include speedlogs, GPS and ship draught. External condition information can include wind, wave and current data from onboard sensors or external databases.
This information can be fed into a cloud system such as VAF’s IVY propulsion management solution that uses Microsoft Azure for data cloud storage and applications.
“With this minimum dataset, you can create ship-speed and fuel consumption curves,” said Mr van Ballegooijen. Shipowners and operators can “create baselines and see improvements or why things are going wrong” to decide how to optimise operations further.
Kongsberg Maritime is introducing a Health Management application to its Vessel Insight portfolio of services. This can be used to monitor onboard equipment via one unified interface allowing operators to use the data to predict failures through detecting abnormal behaviour early.
It will initially support Bergen engines, Kongsberg’s low-pressure hydraulic winches, rotating machinery, third-party thrusters, pods, shaftlines and auxiliaries.
Kongsberg intends to add more equipment to the system in a planned roll-out during the rest of this year and into 2021.
Health Management will use a continuous flow of machinery condition and performance reports to facilitate intelligent maintenance planning to increase reliability and reduce operational expenditure and equipment downtime.
Kongsberg Maritime vice president for analytics and fleet operations Jan Chirkowski said this application extends equipment lifetime and keeps vessels working.
“By continually appraising machinery condition, Health Management allows customers to spot the early onset of a failure and continue operation with the affected equipment under observation,” Mr Chirkowski said.
“Maintenance needs can be planned in advance when most convenient for the customer, spare parts ordered, and vessel downtime scheduled as necessary,” he said. “Any downtime is minimised, and the vessel is returned to operation as swiftly as possible. The net result is to maximise profitability.”
ABB Turbocharging has introduced a continuous evaluation function to add to the insights delivered by its Tekomar Xpert engine performance diagnostics software.
The software uses engine data and edge computing for monitoring, reporting and advisory capabilities.
“Continuous evaluation allows for the cloud-to-cloud transfer of engine data from edge computing platforms to Tekomar Xpert,” said ABB Turbocharging product manager Pascal Reolon. “The result will be faster access to more engine data from which to draw even quicker insights to optimise engine performance.”
This enables ABB to offer remote continuous performance evaluation, with instant comparison of an engine’s current performance with its digital twin, from which Tekomar Xpert draws advice for optimising performance, for greater accuracy, additional reporting and reduced crew workloads.
Mare Straetmans (Van Oord) presented his views during the ‘How to develop and implement a digital performance strategy to optimise vessel performance’ webinar on 14 May
Kevin Daffey (Rolls-Royce Power Systems) spoke at the ‘How COVID-19 will transform your vessel operations over the next 24 months’ webinar on 20 May.
Connectivity enables real-time IoT solutions
Connectivity between ships and shore is vital for IoT applications and the more bandwidth set aside for this the better. KVH Industries has expanded its VSAT-based maritime IoT service with new offerings for remote monitoring and real-time intervention. It has added to its KVH Watch IoT connectivity as a service, which was unveiled in 2019, with a remote expert intervention service.
KVH Watch is an independent conduit for data to flow outside of the vessel’s primary satellite communications system. Its new remote expert intervention is an optimised video collaboration application, designed to enable on-demand high-throughput remote support sessions between crew and experts on shore.
This enables seafarers to access real-time guidance from equipment experts for troubleshooting, repair, and identification of replacement parts.
“Remote expert intervention goes well beyond simply monitoring the performance of onboard equipment,” said KVH senior director for IoT business development Sven-Eric Brooks. “It enables maritime equipment manufacturers to take action and provide real-time support via video, voice and text, even when the equipment is on a vessel in the middle of the ocean.”
Inmarsat is adding more partners to its ecosystem of applications and opened more capacity over Fleet Xpress Ka-band service for IoT solutions. This is through Fleet Data, Fleet Connect and Fleet Edge. Inmarsat vice president for merchant shipping Gert-Jan Panken said Fleet Data enables operators to “offload IoT data so shipowners and managers can improve operations of vessels through fuel efficiency, chart updates and compliance in regulatory zones”.
Fleet Connect provides bandwidth for third parties to remotely connect to vessels. “It is for video conferencing with chief engineers, used for remote access to IT and for monitoring,” said Mr Panken.
Fleet Edge is a service gateway on the vessel for hosting virtual machines and deploying software on vessels. “This reduces the need for investing in IT services,” said Mr Panken. Shipping companies and application providers can host services on this onboard server.
“Coronavirus has accelerated the application of digitalisation and IT services, of remote surveys and video calling – this is the new normal for data use,” said Mr Panken.
KNL Networks has partnered with Flicq Inc for remote vessel monitoring through radiocommunications. This combines Flicq’s SmartEdge sensors that are attached magnetically to equipment for real-time condition monitoring. These sensors collate data and process it using algorithms to extract actionable insights.
Information is transmitted to KNL’s Connect device, which then transmits these insights to the crew via the onboard network, and to fleet owners onshore via KNL’s pole-to-pole network.
Marlink introduced a simplified IT monitoring tool in May, enabling shoreside teams or administrators to view the IT system status and availability, providing visibility on compliance with regulatory and charterer requirements. This is part of Marlink’s full ITLink suite of services for remote fleetwide monitoring of shipboard servers, computers and operating systems.