Swedish start-up Lean Marine says that optimising a ship’s voyage and thereby improving fuel efficiency can be maximised by breaking down its operation into three key phases.
These phases include a planning phase, an execution phase, and post-voyage phase. By looking at the various elements of a ship’s performance in three separate phases, a better overview of ship and fleet performance and a deeper insight into where and why additional fuel is consumed can be achieved. Mikael Laurin, CEO of Lean Marine explained how each phase plays a vital role in improving fuel performance and overall ship efficiency during a webinar hosted by the company last week.
The planning phase
The planning phase is the first step prior to the voyage and includes aspects such as route planning, weather router, speed optimisation, and historical best practice. Laurin said that while this part takes place before the ship begins its voyage, “It is very important due to the ability to set up the voyage to be as optimised as possible.”
While there are many complex systems available to help optimise the planning phase, selecting one and doing the right things within this phase is essential to save fuel and spending, Laurin explained. “Getting the accurate historical data can help yield substantial savings, for example. “Taking into account weather, current, shallow water effects and such are key to determine the optimal route to be taken.”
Speed optimisation, trim optimisation, and cargo heating/cooling must also be optimised within the planning phase.
In one case study by Lean Marine, the company optimised speed on an MR-tanker, which increased earning by almost USD 1,000 per day. “We realised after building simple algorithm that we could save 1000 us dollars per day,” said Laurin.
The execution phase
The next phase in voyage optimisation is the execution phase. This includes optimising navigation, speed, propulsion, and adapting to changing conditions. “Even if you plan the perfect voyage on paper, things will change. It is extremely important to have people and systems onboard that can adapt to changing conditions,” explained Laurin.
When it comes to speed optimisation, “The faster you go, the more expensive it gets!” said Laurin. Graph 1 shows how an increase in speed increases fuel consumption more than the speed.
One way speed can be controlled is through a predictable shaft power. As speed changes based on weather, a steady and predictable shaft power can help to optimise speed and save fuel.
In one case study outlined by Lean Marine, the difference in fuel consumption between no shaft power control and complete shaft power control was shown.
Graph 2 shows vessel operation without shaft power control. Over the five days the vessel is in operation, the RPM remains steady. However, when the vessel runs into some bad weather, the speed through water decreases towards the end of the voyage and at the same time the consumption increases. This bad weather increases fuel consumption and power lost.
Graph 3 demonstrates how this scenario but with the added control over the shaft power affects fuel consumption. In this graph, shaft power and consumption, which are closely linked, stay constant throughout the five days. There is still adverse weather, which is giving a speed variation. Comparing the two voyages, less variation and controlled lower fuel consumption in evident in the second scenario (graph 2), without losing much speed doing it. According to Lean Marine, this particular case resulted in annual fuel savings of 225 tonnes per year, equivalent to 700,000 kg of CO2.
The post-voyage phase
“It is extremely important to learn from what you have done and to be able to move forward,” said Laurin, explaining about the importance of the post-voyage phase for making future fuel efficiency improvements.
There are many things that can be done to improve fuel savings, such as optimising speed, which can result in up to 30 per cent fuel savings, or optimising the propeller pitch, leading to between 5 and 20 per cent fuel savings. The figure on the left shows Lean Marine’s example of how much fuel can be saved with different measures. According to Lean Marine, what is really indicates is how varied different fuel saving methods can be, with most in the 1-10 per cent region. “Unless you have a really good way to measure, it’s very difficult to see where changes are, and which element has caused them. So, you need a system to see what you are doing and to learn from what you are doing.”
To understand these potential savings, Laurin says that automated data is needed to obtain proper measurements and analysis. “If you can bring the post voyage knowledge into the planning phase, that’s where you can perfect the next voyage,” he said.
While noon report data has been the standard for shipping for many years, Laurin says that the data is usually manually collected and its very infrequent in today’s terminology and is prone to have errors. He believes that automated intelligent data post-voyage is essential to form a basis for learning from what you’ve done.
“Having data is not enough. You can have all data in the world and not be happier from it. You need to have an interface to turn data into knowledge,” Laurin continued.
He said that the company is seeing an increase in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, machine learning systems, and big data systems, but warned that in order for them to, do any good, “they need vast amounts of data because they need to draw conclusions on their own. In order for any of those types of solutions to work, we need quite a lot of data.”
Another important aspect when it comes to improving vessel performance, is company culture.
“In order to get all of this to work properly, you don’t just need the tools, you need to change the company culture. You need to educate the people using the system, and also the people not using the system so they understand what is happening and they see the results so they understand what they are doing is making a difference.”
FuelOpt and FuelAnalytics
Lean Marine offers two specific solutions to help address some of these challenges described.
FuelOpt helps to optimise the execution phase by adding controls for the bridge team and enabling direct speed and consumption management. FuelOpt enables control of the shaft power, which as shown earlier can have a huge impact on fuel consumption.
FuelOpt reacts directly to data from sensors already installed onboard and automatically adjusting a vessel’s running parameters to optimise fuel consumption. The Swedish company previously explained to VPO Global that they began developing the solution to remove any “bad surprises” that show up when looking at vessel performance. According to the company, FuelOpt is able to reduce consumption by between four and 20 per cent, depending on how far a vessel is operating from its optimum profile.
Lean Marine’s FleetAnalytics allows the operator or owner to, “compare ships and voyages and see how the ship is performing over time.” It is a cloud-based reporting and data analysis solution that handles all data generated by the vessel whilst in operation. Fleet Analytics provides efficiency trending, automatic environmental and voyage reports, and aggregated fleet views and status information. According to Lean Marine, the data is translated into simple and clear information to improve vessel operation and reporting.
Fleet Analytics can be used for daily follow-up on the vessel as well as for analysing long-term performance.
All images are courtesy of Lean Marine.