A well-known business maxim says that you have to measure to manage, and this applies as much to mechanical performance as it does to business efficiencies. The difficulty, of course, has always been in how this can be achieved. At one time, information could only be gathered on the spot and analysed later, making data analysis an almost exclusively retrospective activity.
The communications revolution has changed all that. The ability to monitor, analyse and feed back on real-time performance data is now a relatively commonplace feature of mechanical, electrical and electronic systems worldwide.
The maritime industry is no exception to this. Indeed, putting aside the operational and commercial advantages offered by such monitoring, the need to meet emissions targets and ensure compliance at any given point of a vessel’s journey means that condition and performance monitoring are rapidly becoming a must-have for shipowners and operators.
An obvious place to start when looking at this sort of remote monitoring and diagnostics is with Rolls-Royce. Its aeronautical engine business has been employing remote diagnostics for decades, and it may well be to this that Mikael Mäkinen, president of the company’s marine business, is referring when he talks of “the potential that greater co-operation across the wider Rolls-Royce group can bring.” To give some idea of where these technologies are heading, every MT30 marine engine from Rolls-Royce is supplied with 28 sensors to allow real-time monitoring.
If one looks at the aerospace sector, the model for real-time remote engine management can be seen in TotalCare, the company’s asset management package for commercial aero engines, a key component of which is engine health monitoring. 72 per cent of the company’s aero engines are covered by TotalCare, so it is not surprising that a similar arrangement is in place for the marine market.
Called MarineCare, this is a long-term service agreement providing a range of services including planned and unplanned maintenance at a fixed annual fee. Because different operational environments require different levels of support, MarineCare provides solutions matched to each vessel, with the agreed annual fee based on the level of service selected and the vessel’s operating profile. This provides transparency, with predictable maintenance costs. Unplanned breakdowns are minimised with the integration of planned maintenance and the monitoring and management of key equipment.
MarineCare forms part of a portfolio of advanced services including equipment health management and energy monitoring. Later this year the system will expand to encompass new remote monitoring and equipment diagnostics services. Rolls-Royce says that this will allow vessel operators to monitor fuel consumption and the health of systems such as engines and thrusters.
Rolls-Royce has been testing the remote monitoring of complete systems on Farstad Shipping’s offshore support vessel Far Scorpion. The data logging involves 15GB of data being logged daily, with information extracted from equipment including the engine, gear, thrusters, propellers, winch and dynamic positioning system. This is mostly sent to shore for analysis and inspection, building up vessel and fleet information based on environment, the type of operations and performance.
The data that is currently being logged includes product usage, vessel position, operational performance, equipment condition such as vibration, oil and fuel levels, particulates, moisture, loading and steering data.
Andrew Marsh, Rolls-Royce’s services president, said: “If there are issues, we can interrogate the data and make decisions about operating the vessel. It is important to prevent issues and improve the uptime of the vessel. Monitoring means that we identify conditions that need to be addressed when they are not part of the maintenance cycle, such as continued vibration on thrusters.”
The larger picture offered by additional vessel and environmental data is of benefit not only to end users, but also in terms of research and development. Mr Marsh said: “If we are collecting information about the equipment, then it is good to have the vessel position data as well as the weather and sea state information. This can help with optimisation or improving equipment design.”
As well as contributing to the predictive maintenance offering provided with MarineCare in the form of system level monitoring, the data that will be collected will undoubtedly be put to other uses, such as optimising decision support for safety, route planning, fleet and revenue optimisation. Rolls-Royce believes that in the future, such data will form a crucial part of efforts to increase automation levels and, indeed, the use of remote control.
SKF, too, has been providing condition monitoring services to the marine industry for many years, offering a range of marine condition based maintenance (CBM) solutions to maximise fleet availability. In particular, the company’s knowledge of thrusters led it to launch its SKF Thruster Monitoring solution in 2012.
A key reason for this was that a general industry trend towards CBM has led classification agencies to adapt rules and regulations to recognise a properly implemented CBM system as an accepted tool for verification of machine condition. This means that thruster-equipped ships no longer need to be drydocked in order to verify thruster condition, meaning increased ship availability.
The thruster monitoring system was developed to help ensure maximum customisation and integration for both thruster builders and end users. To date it has been provided on more than 200 propulsion and positioning thrusters worldwide.
“There is a clear desire and trend to integrate existing, separate systems on board a vessel. The SKF Thruster Monitoring solution combines all the required information in one system, which can be integrated with both the thruster and the shipmanagement systems,” Gerald Rolfe, SKF marine executive business manager said at the launch of this system.
SKF CBM solutions offer great flexibility and are fully scalable. Additional critical machinery systems can be added onto the same monitoring platform and system.
The SKF Thruster Monitoring solution is applicable for ship operators and thruster manufacturers alike, and for aftermarket as well as newbuild installations. It can be used for all makes and types of thrusters across various sectors of the marine industry. The solution is based on the proven range of SKF condition monitoring products and services, including robust online technology for vibration, lubricant and data monitoring. Services available include turnkey installation, commissioning, and remote data analysis and reporting, as well as suggested reliability improvements based on the monitored results.
SKF Thruster Monitoring supports ship operators in meeting classification agency CBM requirements, as well as providing the basis for proactive maintenance and operational decisions based on actual thruster condition. Its benefits include extended class survey intervals, a reduced need for drydocking, reduced risk of failures and improved ship availability. The solution enables the end user to operate the vessel with more thruster reliability.
Wärtsilä’s Propulsion Condition Monitoring Service (PCMS) provides real-time advice and detailed reports about the condition of propulsion equipment. PCMS determines the operational condition of a vessel’s propulsion equipment by comparing parameters from both measured variables and database sources in real-time. To monitor the most critical gears, bearings, the propeller and other components of propulsion equipment, PCMS measures such variables as lubrication oil temperature, oil water saturation, set point and feedback signals, as well as the vessel’s pitch, speed, rate of turn and draught.
Based on Wärtsilä’s experience, vessel operators’ maintenance strategies are shifting from reactive and survey interval based models to condition based maintenance. The shift is already strongly visible in new vessels. With existing fleets, offshore operators of ships such as drilling vessels have been early adopters. A single component failure in the offshore business can potentially cause revenue losses of up to US$500,000 a day. CBM can increase the total availability of an installation – the equipment’s uptime – from 5-20 per cent.
Through PCMS, it is possible to detect required maintenance some two to six months in advance, and to be alerted to critical cases between seven and 30 days in advance. Spotting the sources of faults and emerging operational trends well before any failure occurs enables proactive maintenance, and so allows the period of time between expensive overhauls to be optimised.
According to Wärtsilä, a surprising number of ship operators are still not fully aware of the condition of their propulsion equipment. As propeller systems are located underwater, the thrusters, for example, are difficult to monitor and even harder to access. Based on monitoring results, wear and tear on critical parts like bearings and gears can be detected.
Classification societies have formally acknowledged the CBM needs of vessel operators. According to the DNV rules, condition monitoring of thrusters is intended to replace visual internal inspections of the equipment. Both Lloyd’s Register and ABS acknowledge that Wärtsilä’s PCMS is able to determine the operational condition of propulsion equipment without the need for visual internal inspections. MP