Small improvements in the cargo control and monitoring process can help tanker operators lower fuel consumption and reduce emissions
Traditionally, the cargo control and monitoring systems used on crude oil and product tankers involve a collection of components from different manufacturers. Until quite recently, it was not usual for a newbuilding to be specified with a particular tank radar because the same system was used on previous vessels and the company’s engineers were familiar with it.
But the pursuit of fuel savings and emissions reductions has shown that this approach rarely achieves the best results. As such, major manufacturers in the sector have moved towards integrated solutions, although their approaches still differ.
One such solution is an all-in-one monitoring system offered by Scanjet, which covers the cargo and provides data on the system. Scanjet’s ITAMA system applies the latest intelligent technology to address the complexity of equipment requirements, simplifying the cargo handling process and reducing costs.
Scanjet managing director Niklas Falkmer says: “ITAMA is a comprehensive monitoring solution that covers all aspects of cargo tank management. It was developed to provide reliable operation in harsh marine environments and the system’s modular design is driven by the industry’s need for flexibility, bringing together embedded proprietary software, operating system and hardware to create a fully integrated solution.”
Mr Falkmer says that these systems reduce the pressures on crew time and increase visibility and control: “Further savings are achieved by discrete elements within the ITAMA system. P/V valves minimise the loss of inert gas, reducing overall usage, as well stabilising pressures in cargo tanks, while VOC emissions control helps meet environmental obligations. Scanjet’s tank cleaning machines enable a faster turn-round between cargoes, with minimal cleaning times and maximum coverage.”
Mr Falkmer says that integrated cargo control and monitoring systems on a newbuilding reduce the possibility of obsolescence and compatibility problems from the outset, while offering the added benefit of automation and seamless integration. The same could be said of retrofitting a fully integrated cargo control and monitoring system.
Integration has also been shown to minimise lifetime maintenance costs, with single source supply providing a faster response for spares and evidence of compliance with all recognised class requirements.
“The future of digitalisation, however, lies in continual progression,” says Mr Falkmer. To this end, Scanjet has recently updated its radar-level transmitter for tank gauging. Purpose-designed for marine applications, the SC8R radar-level transmitter operates at a frequency of 80 GHz, enabling focused measurement at narrow angles, useful for narrow slop tanks, with no deflection plates or still pipes required. “It incorporates the latest technology and the new radar measurement system has been well received by the market, with several orders secured on tankers and offshore installations,” says Mr Falkmer.
Elsewhere, Kongsberg Maritime’s aim is to promote a holistic view of cargo control and monitoring across the tanker industry. It has developed systems that interconnect the machinery, propulsion plant, power plant and cargo plant into one integrated automation system called K-Chief.
“From Kongsberg Maritime’s perspective, the cargo control and monitoring system is the ‘brain’ of any vessel,” says the company’s tank monitoring sensing solutions, sensors & robotics product manager Marta Gjestvang. “For a tanker, the cargo control and monitoring system is a big part of the vessel’s operational purpose and should be favoured with the intelligence it deserves,” she adds.
Ms Gjestvang is concerned that the process plant running the operation consists of numerous stand-alone sub-systems, resulting in it living a “sub-optimal life”. She says: “Our perception is that the bigger the brain, the smarter the vessel operation. In an environmental context, taking a holistic approach to the vessel’s processes can reveal a better insight and understanding of the total plant performance.”
The company has a series of sensors and data points available for integration and says the Kongsberg K-Gauge tank monitoring system offers purpose-built maritime sensors and transmitters, together with dedicated and certified monitoring applications for cargo operation. Integrated with Kongsberg K-Load loading computer, the system can track all tank contents and inventory at any time. Ms Gjestvang says: “We are focusing on applications that increase the efficiency onboard, indirectly meaning the overall vessel can be operated more optimally.”
She lists the various stages of the initiative as:
Ms Gjestvang continues: “Synergies only become available by investing in smart systems and reliable sensors onboard the vessels, integrated with the knowledge and advisory services provided by a long-time maritime partner. The trend where vessels become connected and online connection is a commodity, where sensor and cargo data is available in the cloud for further analysis, will open many doors.”