Tanker owners can cut operating costs by 20% by monitoring performance and using data analytics technology
Owners of medium-range (MR) product tankers can increase earnings by US$1,000/day per ship by optimising vessel speed, according to Lean Marine chief executive Mikael Laurin.
During his presentation at Riviera Maritime Media’s Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference in London on 27 November, he explained that owners could achieve around a 20% reduction in fuel consumption by optimising propulsion.
But, to achieve these reductions, owners must monitor and analyse tanker performance more frequently than the traditional daily report. “You need to have the right hardware, you need to have the right preparations, you need to have right culture and more importantly, the people with the right mindset,” he said.
Lean Marine is a technical and software solution that helps save fuel. It does so by taking control over the engine and propeller, controlling variations in throttle and pitch of the propeller, automatically and dynamically increasing efficiency.
“We’ve made a very good calculation showing that we saved about 146M kilos of CO2 per year, which is fairly substantial,” said Mr Laurin.
“If you want to learn something more you need to be able to measure it,” he continued, but most ships are not equipped with the necessary sensors. It is very difficult to accurately measure fuel consumption using the traditional rotary gauge. Mr Laurin urges owners invest in onboard sensors, data transmission and analytics to understand how effectively they are reducing operating costs and emissions.
“If you can measure it, you can manage it,” said Mr Laurin. “You need the right tools on board and to educate people on how to use the technology … Once crew can see the positive change, then they will respond.”
Errors may be introduced by crew, if recording data on pen and paper. Automating the collection of data removes those errors. The automation software should also identify when data is out-of-bounds or has gaps. Mr Laurin thinks big data analytics should also include artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify more performance information to reduce operating costs.
Another aspect of using big data at sea is recruitment. For many young people entering the industry the culture of a company is as important as the salary and being environmentally aware is an important consideration for many potential employees. An adjacent factor is the timeline of compliance. “Don’t wait for regulatory pressure before applying the tools required,” said Mr Laurin, “The regulations will come anyway, and many of the investments have very short-term paybacks.”
The next stage is to combine big data from a ship with big data from elsewhere. “If you have enough different data, such as weather date, then you get all sorts of new information and then all of a sudden you can learn a little more,” he said, “this is something where a lot of people in industry are starting to move.”
GreenSteam is a machine learning company and describes the technology as training a computer to make incredibly accurate predictions of what will happen next. The larger the volume of data and interactions the more accurate the predictions become. GreenSteam’s head of performance management Jonas Frederiksen described how a model is made of a ship using all available data. A performance model is created using vessel operational data and AIS, weather and sea-state data. Using machine learning the minute flaws in the action of the vessel and voyage are assessed to identify where small gains can be made.
French company Gaztransport & Technigaz (GTT) is well-known in the LNG transportation market as a designer and provider of LNG containment systems. GTT product line manager Pascal Ta presented a paper at the conference on how tankers can be converted to burn LNG. This is something of a radical concept. So far, tankers burning LNG have been constructed from new. Typically, the tanker has an en electronically-controlled two-stroke engine, marine fuel oil as the pilot fuel and LNG tanks on the deck, or in the case of an LNG carrier, the vessel may burn cargo boil off.
But under pressure to meet forthcoming IMO greenhouse gas limits, owners and operators may consider converting VLCCs to LNG dual-fuel vessels.
One concern involves creating space for the LNG tank. GTT’s proposal is to convert one of the main cargo tanks into an LNG fuel tank. The LNG tank is constructed between two longitudinal bulkheads and is surrounded internally with GTT’s Mark III propriety insulation. The primary barrier prevents the steel hull from contact with the LNG and carries the structural loads. On the internal tank side of the insulation is the GTT waffle structure, which reduces the sloping of the cargo and carries the stresses from the cargo during the voyage.
The converted tank is midway of the hull of the converted tanker to reduce hull stresses. For a tank of 14,000 m3, the tank will be around 27-m long. The converted tanker would also require piping and all the other ancillary equipment associated with LNG dual-fuel.
The GTT proposal would extend the life of a VLCC, but eventually every vessel requires an end-of-life solution. The task of scrapping a VLCC or any large tanker has become complex, due to regulations that attempt to limit the environmental impact of such action.
From 31 December 2020, all EU-flagged and non-European ships at an EU port or anchorage must carry a verified inventory of hazardous material (IHM) certificate. Non-EU ships coming to EU ports must carry a verified IHM report. The IHM lists all hazardous materials onboard that represent a potential risk to people or the environment, from asbestos used in construction materials, to heavy metals and ozone-depleting substances found in equipment. It also details their location and quantities.
Bureau Veritas solution marine and offshore manager Robin Townsend explained some of the difficulties this present to owners. Mr Townsend noted that this is an extremely detailed document and will require months of preparation. “If you have not started planning now, it is going to be too late,” he told conference delegates. Port State Control (PSC) will be responsible for checking the IHM, but it is not clear what will happen if there is a mistake or if the PSC finds asbestos on board. According to Mr Townsend, the PSC guidelines are not specific on the matter. Will the vessel be detained; will PSC ask a third party to check the asbestos?
Having a valid IHM will be another level of compliance that will effectively be a ticket to trade in the EU. This will impact vessel values and create another layer of bureaucracy for the vessel operator.