Voyage and vessel optimisation when making port calls is still largely an ad hoc data affair. The International Taskforce Port Call Optimisation aims to strip out the inefficiencies
One of the companies making inroads into the tricky area of digitalisation and optimisation of shipping operations is Marorka, a division of GTT Digital Services. Marorka director of service Haraldur Orri Bjornsson explained that Marorka was established in 2002 and focuses on helping clients in the transition from manual data entry to automated data collection via sensors.
“Our products are time-saving with reduced administrative burden,” said Mr Bjornsson, “both on board and on shore.” The aim is to give clients actionable insights, such as reducing fuel consumption and the environmental impact of the client’s operation. “Terminal data can contribute to the performance management of port calls in a very positive way,” he said, “if it is placed in the right context.” The resulting performance in port has a subsequent action on the voyage between ports, which emphasises why it is important to have the correct context for the data.
Marorka is an internet-of-things (IoT) data solution, gathering data from a wide range of systems on the vessel, including navigation instruments, shaft power, alarm and monitoring systems, cargo control systems and draft sensors among others.
The IoT platform also receives information from the shoreside. The inputs support the output of the aids for the crew, such as decision-support modules.
“When we started working with our customers 20 years ago, there was no connection to the internet and our support was limited to the data on board and the processing available on board. Modern connectivity has enabled us to take big leaps forward. The connectivity between vessel and port is expected to be another leap forward in performance management,” said Mr Bjornsson.
“Adding the data from the vessel to data ashore from third parties such as weather and sea-state, a process known as data augmentation, allows real-time analysis. Live terminal data would improve the performance and allow port movement predictions,” he said. When data is standardised and optimised, the benefits are clear to see. In a case study of two voyages undertaken by the same vessel on the same regular route, the ship consumed an average of 108.4 tonnes/day. In another voyage, the vessel proceeded at a higher speed up to the point the captain realised the vessel would arrive early at the next port. The vessel slowed toward the end of the voyage but consumed an average of 141 tonnes/day of fuel, a difference of more than 21%.
A key challenge to the development of voyage and port optimisation is ownership of the data. “The industry needs to set up an incentive for shipping and related business to share operational data without risking competitive disadvantage,” he said. “The other key issue is standardisation of the data.”
The International Taskforce Port Call Optimisation (ITPCO) organisation is a group of experts from all shipping sectors, port sizes and geographical locations. It has been instrumental in pushing for standardisation which will allow the industry to take advantage of the optimisation of voyage and port calls. ITPCO chairman Ben van Scherpenzeel said data sharing is burdened by the differing standards and formats present throughout the industry. While standardisation will require co-operation, investments in implementation and cultural change, he said it also involves scoping. Any data sharing process must be applicable geographically as well as across operational types and profiles, and based on international safety, environment and security regulations.
As an example, he noted berth planning in the context of vessels and ports that are not linked by a central database. Most ports are run by a public body while the terminals are managed by private organisations.
“Berth planning is dictated by a terminal. Access to the terminal is through a public waterway, normally organised by the public authority with the help of a service provider for nautical services. That collaboration is key to our customers who arrive at the port," he said. "It is important for ports, terminals and service providers to realise one planning system that allows ships to arrive at port at a safe, sustainable speed."
The very real danger is conflicting or incorrect data. This was highlighted by ITPCO’s representative Captain Abhishek Nair. He pointed out that the paper chart or the ECDIS version is seen by a mariner as the most reliable and important navigational aid.
Capt Nair said, "Now, when ships come to port, the data [a mariner] has on [a] chart or publication does not match the information [he or she is] getting from the port authorities or the agents, so there is a conflict of data. To put that in perspective, just a difference of 10 cm between a chart and the port’s data can mean a loading difference of 2,000 tonnes on a VLCC. And as a master you will probably err on the side of safety," he said.
This margin based on incorrect data has a knock-on effect throughout the logistics chain. The more cargo loaded in a particular ship safely, the better the price for the consumer. Capt Nair also had another important point about providing the ship with timely and accurate data. “The safe port clause is an absolute warranty. That means it is not just the responsibility of the master to take a ship safely inside. It is the responsibility of all parties involved: the charterer, the terminal and the port. The information provided to the entire supply chain must ensure the ship comes to your birth as safely as possible.
Member of International Taskforce Port Call Optimization, Shell Shipping and Maritime’s Captain Kaia Bjerre van de Ven, noted the delays and costs incurred due to a lack of data sharing. "Shipping is not linear; sharing data helps us react in time. If we know when the vessel can be at the terminal or at the jetty, we can plan for that. It is important for rest hours for the people on the vessel and the safety for the people on the terminal to ensure they have the right number of people ready to receive the vessel.”
Failure to share data has clear negative consequences. Capt van de Ven said, “We still see container vessels up to 20,000 TEU waiting alongside for bunker barges that are delayed. This is about being aware of how different parts in the chain are active,” she said. Capt van de Ven said she expects standardisation will be driven by IMO and supported by industry bodies such as BIMCO and Intertanko.
The consensus is it is important to incentivise change in addition to creating a standard. Noting that “incentives work better than regulations”, Mr van Scherpenzeel said by modifying contracts, masters can be incentivised to share data without fear of breaching the contract.
Capt Nair said the process involves changing work culture and that PortXchange is conducting an ongoing pilot programme with the maritime chemical cluster in Houston, Texas. Recognising that companies have widely varying levels of digital maturity, he said, “You have to work with them slowly, find what works best for each user and finally bring them towards one common standard.”
Mr Bjornson said Marorka places emphasis on a practical approach. He said performance management has benefited from increased transparency between owners, charterers and managers and is expected to be useful in vessel optimisation. But, he said, standards alone cannot improve performance. "We need correct data. Decisions made on bad data have the potential to be worse than decisions made on gut feeling," he said.
Capt van de Ven, stressing the need for more willingness within shipping to adapt to new technology, said "Our industry is quite conservative. We want things to work right before we step into it. Let us try to make this digitalisation journey together. I truly believe that if we trust collaboration and transparency, we can do much better than we do today. And we will start with the alliance of the willing."
Some 74% of webinar attendees felt that current regulations encourage digitalisation and 43% agreed with our panel that willingness is the biggest barrier to further digitalisation in the industry. Further, 73% of attendees said their company has a clear idea of digitalisation in the coming years with 39% suggesting there is a clear roadmap for the next five years. A strong majority at 80% said they expect to see full IoT-connected vessels between 2025 and 2030.