Shipping companies can lower fuel costs and mitigate the risk of damage to ships and cargo
E-navigation using weather information to optimise voyages can reduce fuel consumption and emissions and reduces the risk of container ships suffering cargo loss.
There have been a series of incidents involving boxes falling off ships operated by Ocean Network Express (ONE), Maersk Line, Evergreen Marine, APL and MSC.
During the most recent, on 17 February, neo-Panamax container ship Maersk Eindhoven suffered engine failure in harsh weather off Japan while sailing from Xiamen, China, to Los Angeles, California.
Hundreds of containers were lost overboard and others damaged on the deck on the 2010-built, 13,100-TEU container ship.
Wärtsilä Voyage Solutions director of automation and dynamic positioning systems Thomas Pedersen says weather routeing would prevent many of these accidents. “We offer full-scale weather routeing through ECDIS to improve safety, with forecasts and information for safe and viable routes,” he explains to Maritime Optimisation & Communications. “We have live weather, traffic and routeing information. Shipping benefits from weather routeing.”
Mr Pedersen also says using artificial intelligence and autonomous navigation technology improves container ship safety. “During long transits, Europe to Americas and across the Pacific, seafarers spend a lot of time on bridge watchkeeping,” he says. “Our technology has the capability of doing this much more efficiently.”
By automating navigation functions with collision and weather avoidance technology, owners can reduce risks and allow seafarers to concentrate on other aspects of operations.
DTN senior vice president for weather Mike Eilts agrees that advances in metocean data and technology can help operators reduce, or possibly avoid cargo losses. “Weather is the fuel of the future,” he says. “Mariners have always relied on or been at the mercy of weather. With a powerful combination of data science and weather insights, seafarers can use weather to optimise their shipping operations and keep their crews and cargo safe.”
The next innovation emerging for safe seakeeping is vessel motion forecasting, Mr Eilts notes. “Rolling is one of the main causes of container damage and loss,” he says. “A ship severely rolling due to a combination of the timing of waves passing through the vessel and the ship’s natural roll parameter can cause cargo damage, lost cargo, and in extreme cases, capsize the ship.”
This parametric rolling can particularly affect container ships due to their design, hull size, wide beam and maximum cargo capacity. Vessel motion forecasting combines atmospheric, oceanic and wave spectra to predict the ship’s motions, such as pitch, roll and the impact of the waves minutes before it occurs.
“It can optimise the vessel’s performance during the voyage and aid in critical seakeeping decisions when confronting choppy seas,” says Mr Eilts. “With the right data and insights, container shipping will have the best operational intelligence to reduce incidents that threaten cargo or crew safety.”
Weather routeing enables shipowners, operators and managers to optimise power output varying weather conditions to enhance overall fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, says StormGeo chief operating officer Kim Sørensen.
StormGeo developed Strategic Power Routing by combining weather intelligence with statistical speed loss calculated by vessel type. It recommends engine revolutions for stabilised power and fuel consumption during voyages.
This has been trialled by a shipowner who has reduced bunkering costs. “The trial results have been extremely successful, and we are seeing our trialling customer achieve significant returns on investment,” says Mr Sørensen.
StormGeo vice president for route advisory services Rolf Reksten says this uses weather forecast algorithms. “This allows for much more accurate rpm and power advice, enabling the vessel to run at optimal power, reduce fuel consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions throughout the voyage,” he says.
Much more can be achieved through combining e-navigation with automation for smart docking and optimised voyages. Wärtsilä Voyage has trialled its SmartMove Suite for automatic dock-to-dock operations on an American Steamship Co cargo ship. Self-unloading bulk freighter American Courage used SmartMove for hands-off transit along the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, US. This is the largest ship to perform automated docking and dock-to-dock sailing operations using SmartMove advanced sensors and high-accuracy ship control systems. It is another step towards autonomous shipping, says Mr Pedersen. “On our journey towards autonomy, we are developing more capabilities and decision support with the intention of increasing crew performance and optimising fuel consumption,” he says.
“With SmartMove, ships can automatically sail from port to port – it takes physical control, while crew remain engaged and can take action for collision avoidance.”
It uses a network of sensors including gyro, wind, radar, motion reference and positioning, and cameras for heightened situational awareness. It combines GPS with laser-based positioning, with decision support tools automating repetitive tasks such as docking on repeated itineraries.
There is redundancy in controllers and displays and core blocks of software in the full suite. Software blocks including controllers, sensor processing, thruster allocation logic and track follow are sourced from Wärtsilä’s dynamic positioning tools. SmartMove suite includes SmartDock, SmartTransit, SmartEntry, SmartPredict and SmartDrive.
E-navigation technology has evolved through a combination of fleet management programs for vessel voyage optimisation. NAVTOR had an eventful February, as it launched its NavFleet fleet management application and then acquired Tres Solutions, which provides vessel and fleet analytics to ship operators, owners, technical management and charterers for fuel and environmental performance.
NAVTOR chief executive Tor Svanes says the Norway-headquartered company has progressed into fleet analytics. “We are number one in the market for e-navigation, but we were missing fleet performance from our portfolio,” he says.
“Vessel performance optimisation is an obvious next step for NAVTOR. The launch of NavFleet gives our customers shoreside tools for better fleet management. With the addition of Tres Solutions, the software delivers optimal value, by taking performance data and extracting the intelligence needed to enable smarter, more profitable and efficient operations.”
Mr Svanes suggests this acquisition will be followed by further developments. “We plan to grow the NAVTOR platform going forward,” he says. NAVTOR has the backing of Accel-KKR’s US$9Bn capital to fund future growth. Accel-KKR took a majority stake in NAVTOR in August 2020.
Following the Tres purchase, services and solutions will be integrated with owners, operators, managers and charterers offered e-navigation, fleet management and vessel analytics.
“We always like to stay one step ahead, developing innovative solutions that help solve this industry’s challenges and meet customer needs,” says Mr Svanes. “Performance optimisation is key to a more sustainable business future, so it is a natural progression.”
Weathernews Americas chief executive Antonio Brizzo says weather routeing will become essential in shipping’s goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “As decarbonisation gathers momentum, we need a sustainable future where optimised trade routes will see ships complete voyages with the lowest possible fuel consumption and ultimately a drastic reduction in CO2,” he says.
Its core Optimum Ship Routeing service “recommends routes and engine settings taking into account customers’ trading profile in close dialogue with operators and crew,” says Mr Brizzo.
“Ship sensor data is streamed into our database, assimilated and combined with high-resolution wind, wave, and ocean current forecasting to provide constantly updated weather and ocean analysis for optimum sea keeping,” he says.
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