Melvin Mathews of Eniram speaks about the challenges and benefits of digitisation
In June last year, when Wärtsilä acquired energy management and analytics solutions provider Eniram, its president and chief executive Jaakko Eskola said: “Through this acquisition Wärtsilä takes a solid lead in marine digitalisation. Going digital plays a strong role in our strategy and supports our aim to make both Wärtsilä and our customers more competitive.”
One of the people tasked with this is former VLCC master Melvin Mathews, maritime director at Eniram, who is bullish about the prospect. He concedes that widespread adoption of digitisation technologies is “still in the early days,” but adds: “It has a lot of traction.”
According to Capt Mathews, Eniram has systems on board 300 ships, including cruise ships, cargo ships, bulkers and liquefied natural gas carriers. Of these types, he says, cruise ships are probably the most ready to accept the new technology. “Cruise ship operators tend to be the most open and innovative because they like being able to sell the fact that they are innovative to their prospective customers.”
The real potential for digitalisation, however, lies in the transportation sector on board cargo ships. Here, as he makes clear, shipping is already lagging badly behind other sectors. “Every part of the supply chain is connected in terms of digitisation, connectivity and transparency, except the shipping part.”
Acceptance is not always an easy task, however, particularly among crews and masters. Capt Mathews says: “There is sometimes a clash with older masters – particularly baby boomers. Later generations are much more used to this technology and accept it much faster. That said, increasingly I have noticed that the older generation are starting to realise that there are real advantages to adopting the technology.”
Other obstacles to adoption identified by Capt Mathews include current market conditions. A number of sectors are not doing well and are unwilling to invest large amounts in new technology. He says: “A lot of this technology is extremely expensive and what stops people investing is the capital expense involved.”
The cost deterrent is one of the reasons why Eniram developed the SkyLight service for vessel performance monitoring and optimisation. This uses portable hardware and software that is sold as a service. It comes without expensive and complex onboard installation, comprising just a compact sensor, battery and transceiver unit. The unit has sensors and a transponder with connection to Eniram’s own satellite coverage that sends real-time data to the fleet cloud. The service produces reports such as normalised fuel consumption, charter party monitoring information and vessel speed profile.
How much this type of technology is able to save the end user is a vexed question and depends on a number of factors, as Capt Mathews makes clear. “It is hard to specify what the potential savings are,” he says. “This is because the maximum potential for savings exists where there is a badly-designed vessel being badly operated in the wrong area. Where there are none of those things, the potential is much less. The variation between great potential and low potential can be huge.”
However, as he points out, without having the ability to monitor and analyse the data from a vessel, it is impossible to know whether it is being well or badly operated or is well or badly designed. “And that is only possible if you constantly monitor, as opposed to taking a single noon report,” he says.
Capt Mathews believes that digitisation will be commonplace in the shipping industry within five to 10 years and that “those who do not do it will lose out badly.” He believes the effects of this will be widespread and much more far-reaching than many realise.
“You will see more and more disruption, more partnerships and greater consolidation,” he says. Connectivity will mean that the relationship between the supplier or retailer and the shipping companies will change. For instance, going a step further, I do not think it will be long before you start to see businesses like Amazon moving into shipping.”
Ship design, he believes, is another area that will be affected by digitisation. “The feedback loop on ship design is now much quicker as data from the vessel identifies its strengths and weaknesses.”
Ultimately, however, Capt Mathews makes it clear that the overall benefits and principles behind digitisation are fundamental to what Eniram is seeking to achieve. “It is about using minimum resources for maximum output. It is about maximising profits through efficient engines and improved fuel consumption. And it is about improved perception through better environmental performance.”
Eniram’s SkyLight is an innovative, next generation fleet performance monitoring service that supports the optimisation of the vessel’s performance, enabling ship operators to manage their businesses effectively.
SkyLight offers a vastly improved and more accurate solution than manual performance reporting with the Automatic Identification System (AIS). With SkyLight, data about the ship’s movements is collected every five minutes and sent via satellite connection to Eniram’s data centre. This data, together with the vessel’s noon reports, is combined and enriched with meteorological data, sea state and currents to model the vessel’s speed and fuel performance. This makes it possible to calculate very accurate fuel-speed curves without onboard integration or costly installations. This forms the basis for all ship and performance optimisation.
With SkyLight, ship operators can cost-effectively monitor their fleets and compare the performance of each vessel in great detail. The software keeps records of the ships’ performance, enabling more prompt reporting, planning and cost optimisation. “Access to fuel and speed performance data increases visibility and supports the optimisation of the vessel’s performance. This way, ship operators can manage their business more effectively,” says Jan Wilhelmsson, commercial shipping vice president at Eniram.
“Delivering performance monitoring through portable equipment as a service enables operators with shorter business cycles to get the benefits of advanced data analytics. As satellite connectivity is rapidly improving, this type of service is a natural first step in the utilisation of real-time data for fuel performance optimisation.”
SkyLight also makes the charter party monitoring transparent and near real-time. It delivers an enhanced normalised fuel curve that can improve the optimisation of commercial operations. SkyLight’s cost-effective approach makes energy and performance management available to all operators, owners and charterers, regardless of the size of their fleet. It is a subscription-based service delivered with a portable two-way transponder that is attached to the rail of the ship by the crew. The customer has instant access to the collected and analysed performance data via Fleet, Eniram’s cloud-based software interface. Reports are also sent to the customer in a PDF format for easy storage.
“With opportunities created by connectivity and the Internet of Things, we can provide intelligent sensors, integrated satellite communication and web-based analytics tools for optimising ship performance at cost levels never seen before. This, combined with the vast amount of data Eniram has collected over several years, brings cost savings to our customers and helps them to make the right business decisions,” Mr Wilhelmsson concludes.