The ‘Virtual Arrival’ concept uses digitalisation to make all parties acutely aware of the optimal arrival time.
“Virtual Arrival” was a paper presented by Mr Andreas Stasinopoulos, a student at the State University of New York Maritime College, at the Connecticut Maritime Association 2018 conference in Stamford, USA. His background includes a PhD in Physics from the University of Crete and working for Clemko Ship Management of Greece.
Excess anchorage time
Using actual voyage data, Mr Stasinopoulos had analysed the activity of vessels arriving at ports. He noted that most bulk ports operate on a first-come, first-serve policy. This means that often a vessel arrives at a port, and then must wait three or four days at anchor before reaching the head of the queue and being given a berth. He analysed voyages of different day lengths and found that the average time spent at anchor was consistently around 20% of the voyage, no matter how long the voyage took.
The virtual arrival concept identifies the delay at the next port and manages the vessel’s passage speed to arrive without having to anchor. It is important to note that this is not the same as “slow steaming”, as the total number of days spent from berth to berth is the same, whereas slow steaming lengthens the overall voyage time. Slow steaming also alters the supply of vessels available to work and can have a significant impact on freight rates. With virtual arrival, there is no impact on overall fleet supply.
Mr Stasinopoulos’ analysis showed that virtual arrival would lower fuel consumption, as on average the vessel would be sailing at a lower speed, rather than travelling at a higher average speed only to wait at anchor. Lower speed generally means lower fuel consumption, which would also reduce the carbon dioxide emissions, by as much as 50% in some cases. Savings of US$213,000 on the illustrated voyage could, in theory, be approximately equal to operating expenses.
Of course, reducing the average speed for the voyage to 7.8 knots, as shown in the slide, would be a challenge for most current main engines. Lower cylinder speed affects lubrication, and there is also the issue of soot build-up and the inherent danger of engine room fires. Further, the efficiency of the engine would be compromised by the lower energy passing to the turbochargers. However, the technology now exists to solve at least some of these problems, for example by fitting a hybrid propulsion system.