Gaining insight into a vessel’s fuel consumption often requires looking at data that is generated from advanced equipment such as sensors and flow metres. However, equipment is not always accurate and 100 per cent reliable, which raises questions around the value of the data in decision-making. A panel discussion hosted by VPO Global and led by Mr. Jakob Petersen, co-founder and director, Vessel Performance Solutions, former head vessel performance, A P Moller – Maersk Group, discussed ways the industry can improve the reliability of performance monitoring and equipment.
Identify problems and recalibrate equipment
Over time, instruments may go out of calibration and false data or problems may arise.
Edwin Schuirink, product manager, VAF Instruments said that at VAF they keep an eye out for strange data to ensure any equipment issues are spotted immediately. With some clients, the company is able to access their data online and check the status of the sensors to see if anything has gone wrong, without having to go onboard the ship. Mr Schuirink says an important part of understanding and fixing equipment problems is to enable the crew to access information so that they may be able to correct the problem via VAF’s instruction.
For instance, an abnormal flow metre reading is typically a result of an open bypass. Mr Schuirink said often they can ask the crew to check the bypass and the problem can be fixed quickly and easily via a standard solution.
Understand the quality and value of the data
One point Mr Petersen raised was regarding the quality of the data and how vendors can be sure that their data provided for decision support is precise and reliable.
Marius Suteu, technical service director, Commercial Marine Division, Navico, explained that the value is driven from both noon reports and IoT solutions onboard the ship. He noted that with IoT, real-time data is delivered for faster onboard processing, allowing information to be passed to the crew for them to make vessel performance improvements, without the data having to go the shore first. He believes this has the potential to help drive smarter crews that have the tools for decision-making.
Mr Petersen said that it is important to be careful when analysing data onboard the vessel without having seen it in an onshore office first. “The requirements of the quality of the input data actually explodes compared to the results you see first in the office. So, you have to be sure what you are showing is actually correct. It is the same if you employ some software on the ship that not only it works, but also that the decision support it provides is correct.”
While Mr Suteu believes, “you have to the trust the technology at some point,” Mr Petersen takes a different stance. “I think you have to be in control of the technology,” he told delegates.
Michel Meier, product manager at WinGD warned that you have to be careful if you are relying completely on the signal sensor to give you the entire truth on the data. He said that it is important to look at the bigger picture and use the sensor data to gather a little bit of the story. “If one sensor goes out of range, it doesn’t really comply with the physical model anymore and then you can see it is a lie,” he explained.
Mr Petersen recalled a time when he was at Maersk and sensors that were meant to be serviced every two years had not undergone any assessment, and at this point they were mode than ten years old. This example highlights a lack of awareness around sensor health and the quality of data generated by the sensors.
Collaborate and overcome the challenges
Quite often, the shipping industry is called out for being slow to adopt new technologies or to implement changes. Referring to this, Mr Petersen asked the panellists why the industry is so behind and what the main challenges are in fuel consumption monitoring.
Mr Schuirink said that it comes down to who is paying for the fuel. Speaking with technical managers previously, he said that they might be managing the ships but are not paying for the fuel, so are less interested in the direct of fuel. They will instead be more concerned by fines which are given if the ship is consuming fuel above the limit and are more likely to invest in fuel metres or such technology for this reason. “Basically, those guys that are paying for the fuel are more interested in it and looking at flow metres to control consumption than those not paying,” he said.
However, he did point out that he has seen a recent improvement in communication, and he believes people from different departments are starting to work in collaboration.
Mr Meier believes one of the main challenges to overcome is the ability to provide land-based stakeholders with content about what is happening onboard. He sees trust issues at the moment and a landscape of different stakeholders that does not allow everyone to push in the same direction.
Mr Suteu of Navico supports this and believes that there is a lack of collaboration. He wants vendors and shipowners to work in tandem. “If we want to change the industry and the way we are thinking about it, we have to start doing something as a whole, as an industry.”