An innovative Norwegian project uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help seafarers optimise vessel performance and energy efficiency
The Decision Support System (DSS) project aims to use AI to help officers on vessels make decisions that will result in optimised performance and energy efficiency. The overall project goal is to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions in complex offshore operations and streamline fleet maintenance.
Norwegian offshore support vessel (OSV) operator DOF joined technology specialist Kongsberg Maritime, research organisation SINTEF Ocean and the Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE), a government agency, in the project.
Explaining his company’s decision to get involved with the project, DOF senior project manager Lars Christian Larsen says “Our aim is to be the most environmentally friendly ship managers within the offshore segment.”
OSVs such as platform supply vessels, anchor handling tug supply vessels and offshore subsea construction vessels operate in many different modes depending on the operation being performed, explains Mr Larsen, with some having as many as seven different operational modes.
“We know that our operators on board consider a lot of variables [when optimising operations] but we also recognise there is a difference between shifts, personnel and vessels in how they choose to operate,” he adds, noting that this has been backed up over the years through fuel measurement statistics and feedback from seafarers.
“With this project we are aiming to develop a DSS capable of intelligently advising the captain and chief engineer about the best theoretical way to run the vessel in the most energy efficient manner,” says Mr Larsen. He adds that as it will be installed on screens both on the bridge and in the engine control room and act as an objective advisory system it will be helpful in discussions between bridge and engineering officers.
SINTEF Ocean’s maritime energy systems research manager Anders Valland says “Information is power, and when that information relates directly to power consumption, it can revolutionise vessel operations, from onboard electrical load management to route optimisation for passage by sea.”
Kongsberg Maritime’s director of energy projects integration Eirik Mathiesen explains how the DSS will gather data to inform its guidance. “Encompassing IoT, new smart sensors on board will stream accurate data to the cloud-based DSS, where deep analysis with intuitive presentation and application will drive equitable and predictable operational performance.”
Mr Larsen adds that the DSS will also factor in “historical big data” and weather information into its recommendations, which will include what can be done to achieve optimal efficiency and forward-looking advice for the next four to eight hours, including percentage figures for operational and fuel efficiency improvements.
DOF will make make two different types of vessel available for developing, testing and trialling the DSS, said Mr Larsen, adding that anchor handling tug supply vessel Skandi Vega and offshore subsea construction support vessel Skandi Acergy are likely to be selected as project testbeds, although this may change depending on contract situations in the northern hemisphere autumn period.
‘Smart’ operations are key to DOF’s strategy, explains Mr Larsen. “Smart is not just deploying the right technologies.
“Developing our culture to focus even more on sustainable operations with minimal environmental impact will be as important as the technology we create.”
DOF hopes the DSS project will act as a catalyst for the company’s transition toward adopting existing and future solutions based around digitalisation where synergies exist, such as condition monitoring, says Mr Larsen. However, adopting any technology is contingent upon considering all risk and safety factors, he adds.
“For the DSS there are elements of AI incorporated in the advanced algorithms based on historical data, which will improve over time,” he says, but emphasises this is based around providing advice rather than automating processes. “We trust our operators to make independent final decisions, taking local at-site elements into account.
The project has received financial support from Norwegian national development bank Innovation Norway, and is targeted for completion by the end of 2020, with Kongsberg aiming to have a commercial project based around the DSS ready for market within the first half of 2021, says Mr Larsen.
Using AI to optimise port operations and tug dispatch
AI is being applied to a harbour docking management tool to cut costs and make operations more efficient.
PortX’s OptiPort tool is being integrated into Helm Operations’ Helm CONNECT, a harbour docking management system. Based on historical studies and pilot projects, the technology could result in savings of US$1M per port and US$200K per tug.
“Our initial pilots focused primarily on optimising fuel consumption by prioritising the use of the most efficient tug for each job, as well as identifying the optimal departure time and most efficient speed for mobilisation and demobilisation between jobs,” explains Helm Operations chief executive Ron deBruyne.
“We found that about 50% of the savings come from fuel cost reduction from optimising speed, and about 50% comes from using more efficient tugs for specific jobs.
“As we implement the revenue optimisation part of the project, we see additional savings of 25-50% are possible as companies use Optiport to increase the use of their own tugs and reduce work chartered out to other operators.”
OptiPort uses data from AIS, weather and other sources to recommend schedules based on job requirements, wind speed and wave heights, as well as criteria defined by customers. These recommendations will include departure and arrival times, as well as the most fuel-efficient speeds to move to and from vessels as they dock.
Dispatchers can test a range of scenarios before assigning work to vessels, and the system can also make updated recommendations in real-time that the dispatchers can confirm or reject.
“This makes it possible for operators to greatly reduce fuel costs, while also ensuring vessels arrive and depart their berths on time,” adds Mr deBruyne.
The system was launched in Rotterdam and is currently being used at four ports around the world, covering more than 40 vessels, and is being rolled out to a further two ports and additional 15 vessels.
Helm Operations will roll out the full OptiPort feature set in its September release as a paid upgrade to its existing services.
PortX managing director Vincent van Os says OptiPort can be implemented through Helm Connect “without adding hardware on the vessels or in the dispatch control room”. It can assist owners to make better use of their fleets.
“This leads to real cost savings that can improve operators’ bottom lines almost immediately upon implementation,” says Mr van Os.
Kotug International uses PortX’s OptiPort software to optimise in-port vessel operations for towing. This Netherlands-headquartered tug owner has achieved a significant reduction in mobilisation miles and subsequent fuel reductions using the software.
“It all comes down to the smarter dispatching of tugs,” explains Kotug International chief executive Ard-Jan Kooren. Kotug has applied OptiPort big data analytics to integrate available data sources, such as port management and agency information, with actual vessel positions. “This integration allows us to provide the most optimal schedule for any given situation in the port,” he says.