A panel of industry leaders convened at a recent webinar to look at vessel operations in a post-pandemic world
A recent Riviera Maritime Media webinar, developed in partnership with Rolls-Royce Power Systems, examined how Covid-19 will transform vessel operations over the next 24 months. The expert panel consisted of: Majestic Fast Ferry managing director Max Tan; Damen Shipyards Singapore managing director Michel Goedegebuure; Rolls-Royce Power Systems director, application engineering and automation marine and defense business Kevin Daffey; and Bureau Veritas director, strategic sales marine & offshore Francis Tang.
Kicking off the discussion, Mr Tan and Mr Goedegebuure both expressed doubts that an economic recovery was imminent. From the shipowners’ side, Mr Tan said he expected a "Nike-swoosh recovery" as opposed to the V-shaped recovery that many in business, industry and government had hoped for. "Before the Covid-19 crisis, we were ferrying 2.5M passengers a year with 80 daily trips; now we are only running two trips daily. Going forward, it will all change for the global travel industry," Mr Tan said.
"International travel will definitely not be the first to reopen any time soon for fears of another wave of Covid-19. Jobs and salaries will be on everyone’s mind as all industries are not faring well," he added.
Mr Goedegebuure concurred with Mr Tan, saying the short term looks rocky but that "silver linings" exist.
"The economy is not going to bounce back [quickly]," he said. "The V-shaped recovery that was very popular a few weeks or a few months ago is now less popular in the narrative. People have lost their jobs. And people who do have their jobs will be very careful."
"Demand... will stay at a very low level for the foreseeable future. On top of that, supply chains could be broken," Mr Goedegebuure said.
Still, Mr Goedegebuure said five months ago the industry would have "jumped" at the chance for some of the opportunities the coronavirus crisis has presented and suggested the industry look for "opportunities to harvest", listing the lowest oil price in 18-20 years, low interest rates for borrowing or funding new investments and the job market brimming with talented people looking for work.
"Companies are open for change where in the past, they would have been more resistant. And this is the time to redesign your product or your business model, based on the developments with working from home. And this is the time to upgrade your staff and your hardware," he said.
Mr Daffey looked at the themes of recession and industry change in his presentation, noting the impact on his company’s customers, including the transport, offshore, tug and yacht markets where "customers were feeling the pain".
"Llots of new projects and investments in vessels have been deferred or cancelled," he said.
To position itself and its clients to deal with the post-pandemic landscape, Mr Daffey said his company was looking to its capabilities in diagnosing engine problems and applying those diagnostic techniques to developing predictive prognoses for engine problems before they impact engine operations.
"Ultimately, we want to move to where we can provide condition-based asset management, based on how an engine actually is operated," he said.
To achieve this, Rolls-Royce Power Systems is using machine learning techniques, specifically a neural network trained on "about three months of good engine data" from a testbed with sensors to detect anomalies. Corresponding alerts are set for the anomalies and if the machine learning model has previously classified the cause of the anomalies, it provides the alert which then triggers action from a remote operating centre and provides advice back to the engine operator.
“This is the time to redesign your product or your business model”
When a new anomaly pops up, experts use the data to classify it, aiding the predictive maintenance software’s progress and building a library of potential issues for recognition and diagnosis by the software.
"That means we can update the models for all the engines and all the operators," Mr Daffey said. "And this means our body of knowledge is continually updated and captured forever, not only for that particular customer but for all customers of a particular engine class," he said.
Rolls-Royce Power Systems is using the approach to develop a holistic diagnostic system covering engines, gearboxes, waterjets and key parts of the powertrain – a full powertrain health management solution, according to Mr Daffey – that can be linked to the company’s shore-based service for providing advice and intervention. Ultimately, that data can be combined with external data and real-time data on condition and vessel positioning to offer operational insights to optimise fuel consumption and other critical aspects and help operators make timely decisions.
Mr Daffey said his company sees the combination of all of these data-driven elements as ’enablers’ for remote operations where decisions are taken from shore, leading eventually to autonomous operations where ships (or the software that powers and monitors them) "take decisions themselves".
Mr Daffey said the development project is called the Artificial Chief Engineer. The programme is at "technological readiness level four," he said, and the company hopes the programme will become a reality over the next 24 months to enable autonomous technology.
Remote operations are already beginning to feature heavily for Bureau Veritas (BV), as the class society grapples with the same travel restrictions and social distancing requirements facing much of the rest of the world.
As Mr Tang explained, BV has seen a significant uptick in discussions around remote surveys and inspections as the pandemic has set in.
Mr Tang said the key for remote surveys is "how you see remotely and how you actually decide" elements of the survey without being physically present.
"BV is one of the first classification societies to have done a pilot (drone) remote survey that is actually accredited," he said.
Additionally, Mr Tang highlighted the comprehensive way in which BV has been involved in 3D modelling for digital ship classifications.
"When it comes to 3D classification, no longer do designers and shipyards have to conceptualise and design a ship from a 2D perspective," he said. "With 3D classification, we do a direct analysis on the 3D model. And from our past experience, we have witnessed cost and time savings of up to 40% using this methodology."
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