Fuel savings have been realised by monitoring tug propulsion systems and using digitalisation tools to optimise operations
Svitzer is rolling out digital applications across its fleets to reduce fuel costs and emissions by combining sensor data with automatic identification system (AIS) information from its tugboats.
The Maersk subsidiary has been monitoring tugs in four regions and will expand this to other nations to extend the operational and environmental benefits.
Svitzer Australia head of innovation David Bartnik explained how the group was working to meet its sustainability and environmental goals through digitalisation during Riviera Maritime Media’s Fuel monitoring to achieve vessel optimisation webinar, held on 9 August as part of Riviera’s Vessel Optimisation Webinar Week.
Mr Bartnik said Svitzer is using Port Tracker online to analyse data from AIS and other sources to monitor and manage fuel use during tugboat transits to and from towage jobs. The system was initially developed by Svitzer in the UK and is now installed on tugs operating in Europe, Australia, Africa and South America.
“AIS data is provided by a dedicated network of receivers,” said Mr Bartnik. “Ports are then mapped to identify berths and other key locations.”
Port Tracker is a cloud application that identifies parameters for tug mobilisation, including berth, job start, job end and demobilisation events. It “estimates emissions and fuel used for mobilisation and demobilisation and operations not under pilot’s orders,” said Mr Bartnik.
In addition to providing detailed emissions reports by port, region and fleet to Svitzer management, this information will also be available to crews and managers on mobile phones in the future. “We are trialling a mobile version of Port Tracker to enable people to manage their operations.”
Port Tracker has uses beyond emissions reduction. Svitzer uses it for incident investigation and training, checking time stamps for operations and invoicing.
This software can provide an overview of daily operations and transit times between critical areas in ports and can also be used for monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions.
Mr Bartnik said its modern fleet of tugs has hardware and software for monitoring systems. “Modern vessels have computerised vessel management systems,” he said. “Critical data can easily be extracted, stored and exported in real-time.”
Svitzer could retrofit vessels to bring them in line with the modern tugs. “As the fleet is upgraded, these capabilities will be incorporated into the fleet,” said Mr Bartnik.
Vessels require devices to monitor main engines and generators and can review winch performance and tank levels.
Data from these tugs can be transferred to cloud services over 4G cellular networks at a rate of around 200-300 MB/d. In the future, data could be transmitted over satellite communications. “Tugs in ports have good connectivity. 4G is cheap and quick for data transfers to the cloud, but the costs of satellite communications are coming down,” said Mr Bartnik.
Once in the cloud, data is analysed using proprietary and third-party applications, which are integrated with existing management systems.
“Data is displayed in formats on a single platform and commercial interface so management continue to be updated,” he explains. “They can identify operational trends, best practice and take corrective actions.”
Svitzer’s achievements also involved its seafarers and shore managers. “People influence operational performance,” said Mr Bartnik. “It is critical to get buy-in from crews to focus on reducing fuel and then to switch into emissions reduction.”
Other forms of marine pollution also need to be considered. Svitzer is looking at using alternative fuels and lowering plastic waste.
“With IMO’s 2050 goals, alternative fuels will be important,” said Mr Bartnik. “We have looked at alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, but there are issues as it is difficult to procure these fuels in volume.”
“There are also potential issues coming about, such as waste management. There are initiatives in Australia and internationally where we work with groups raising awareness of plastic waste.”
But the key changes coming in shipping and the tug sector will be from digitalisation and the opportunities digital applications generate. “There are opportunities from disruptive technologies, such as in digitalisation that we need to keep abreast of,” said Mr Bartnik. “These will prevent pollution and allow us to gain a competitive advantage.”
Mr Bartnik was joined on the webinar panel by Steel Ships chief executive Ranjan Varghese, who expects sustainability and emissions reduction to be a top priority as shipowners will need to comply with IMO’s carbon intensity index requirements.
“Regulators are trying to trigger requirements from 2023 to reduce net carbon emissions,” he said. “But there is no proper clarity among owners and managers on how to achieve zero carbon.”
One of the key issues is whatever tug owners select as their sustainability option it will be costly, so Mr Varghese thinks it should also achieve higher profitability for companies.
“A vessel can reduce its carbon intensity by a combination of measures,” he said. This can include reducing speed, optimising operations and logistics, implementing energy efficiency technologies and using alternative fuels.
The least costly of these are moderating tug speed, using weather routeing during tows and using digitalisation to optimise operations and lower emissions. Tug owners and port operators can work together to pool resources and implement digitalisation solutions.
Tug owners can also consider introducing motors and battery systems or retrofitting vessels for IMO Tier III requirements.
“Decarbonisation is possible,” said Mr Varghese. “Key to this is cross-industry discussions. Owners need to step in when solutions are available for their fleets – to improve vessel efficiency and profitability.”
Webinar attendees, in a poll, agreed with Mr Varghese’s conclusions as 87% said yes, decarbonising shipping is possible. In another question, they were almost evenly split on the statement that IMO’s decarbonisation goals are within easy reach. Some 38% agreed and 6% strongly agreed, while 36% disagreed and 7% strongly disagreed; 13% remained undecided.
Alternatives to marine gas oil will be important for decarbonising the shipping industry. Options being considered and tested include use of hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, renewable natural gas, bioethanol, biodiesel and bio-dimethyl ether. Webinar delegates were asked if alternative fuels were the only viable means of achieving decarbonisation goals. 31% strongly agreed, 33% agreed, while 15% disagreed, 4% strongly disagreed and 17% were neutral on the subject.
Another poll asked attendees: how challenging does your organisation find it to comply with existing emissions monitoring, reporting and verification requirements? Overall, 13% of respondents said it was extremely challenging, 46% said it was challenging, 34% said it has its challenges but nothing that marks it out and just 7% said it was not a challenge.
Asked how they would rank the priority of sustainability monitoring and emissions reporting, 23% of attendees said it was the highest priority of their organisation, 61% thought it was a priority, but that it ranks equally with two or three other priorities. Another 13% said the issue was on their radar, but that the organisation prioritises other aspects of operations. And just 3% said the issue was not a priority.