Transforming performance data into decision-support

Transforming performance data into decision-support
Dorian LPG’s Constellation. Image courtesy of Dorian LPG

Dorian LPG, a liquefied petroleum gas shipping company and owner and operator of very large gas carriers (VLGCs) has been working with Danish firm Vessel Performance Solutions (VPS) to improve vessel and fleet performance. The shipping company has rolled out VPS’ solution VESPER to improve decision-making, particularly around dry-dockings and hull and propeller performance.

One of the most common issues faced by shipping companies today is turning significant quantities of data into valuable, actionable insights. Dorian LPG, which operates 22 VLGCs and an additional 11 in partnership with Phoenix Tankers, found its team was spending a significant amount of time looking at data and not enough time making decisions based on the data. The company set out to find a partner that would help the team to understand its data to improve management of dry-docking cycles and overall fleet performance.

Speaking during a webinar hosted by VPO Global this week, Peter Hadjipateras, corporate development manager at Dorian LPG explained, “Two or three years ago we were spending 75 per cent of our time trying to actively look at the data and how to normalise it in the right way, while only 25 per cent of our time was spent taking action on that data.” He said that often vessel performance is very noise sensitive, making it difficult to determine what is happening on the vessel and the impact various parameters have on its performance. One particular challenge Dorian LPG faced was in optimising their dry-docking cycles based on hull fouling and subsequent hull performance.

Dorian LPG sought a partner that would help them understand the whole story around performance, while being clear on their deliverables. “We weren’t looking for a simple answer, but we needed clear answers and not only clarity around how the system works but clarity around the development status of the system, where the system is going and what we would get in the future from the system,” Mr Hadjipateras explained.

Dorian LPG was also looking for a system that “would give us more than just the black box,” he added.  “We needed a system with the proper mature API and connections to use our own API system also from time to time to do visualisations as and when we need them. We have a very agile approach to what we do and we needed some kind of digitalisation of the data that would be able to quickly answer the very big questions from the management team that we often get.”

VESPER (VESsel PERformance)

Dorian LPG opted for VPS’ performance optimisation tool, VESPER. VESPER takes data that is already available and provides performance analysis of any fleet and any individual vessel. The solution requires a vessel’s data feed, either delivered directly from the vessels (by email for example), through a data upload (using FTP) or using an API. VESPER uses both daily reports and sensor data, and is quick and simple to set up.

One particular benefit that attracted Dorian LPG to VESPER was its focus on enabling shipping companies to use the data themselves, in their preferred method to improve power and control over vessel performance.  It aims to enhance transparency and objectivity around fleet performance.

According to Eirini Arvanitaki, vessel performance manager at VPS, “The most important feature for performance monitoring is to be able to assess the performance of all the vessels in the fleet and identify the worst performers that need attention.” For instance, VESPER can identify which vessel in a fleet has the highest hull fouling and operating at the highest inefficiency. Once this is identified, the user can determine whether to take action immediately, or wait until the next dry-dock.

Since rolling out VESPER, Dorian LPG now spends less than 10 per cent of its time combing through the data. “VPS also helped us tremendously in trying to normalise our sensor data and make them comparable,” said Mr Hadjipateras.

VESPER has become particularly crucial for Dorian LPG in helping them to understand their dry docking periods better when it comes to hull performance and antifouling impacts. “The proper visualisation of the of the hull resistance is really important for us. VESPER is sending us a very clear message about which point in the antifouling aging we are at now.” VESPER also enables Dorian LPG to predict what the hull fouling will be like in 2 or 3 months’ time, enabling more efficient hull cleaning. “VESPER allows us to make the proper decisions at the right time.”

VESPER also delivers a data quality and validation tool that can be applied at fleet level or vessel level. Errors are identified and communicated to the vessel to improve data quality. For Dorian, this level of transparency provides greater confidence that the insight generated by VESPER is of high quality. “We are really using this data to point towards why we need something and showing management how much we saved or lost during the year for the for the hull cleaning or polish,” explained Grzegorz Zbos, fleet performance manager at Dorian LPG.

In addition, VESPER contains a module that provides crew with access to performance data, enabling crew to self benchmark against their peers. This enables them to identify areas that are being run well and areas that could be improved. According to VPS, this tool enables crew to improve their skills and motivation, while increasing data quality. The module is a web application and requires no installation onboard. Dorian LPG confirmed that the company is using this module to focus efforts on training crew onboard to improve vessel performance.

VESPER for dry-docking – a tanker case study

In one scenario Ms Arvanitaki drew upon during her presentation, she explained how VESPER identified the impact of dry-docking periods on fuel consumption. An LR2 tanker, Vessel AI, achieved a significant additional fuel consumption of 18MT per day prior to its dry docking. Following dry docking and a thorough cleaning, added fuel consumption was reduced to zero. Over time, the performance of the vessel gradually declined again, reaching 6MT per day of excess fuel consumption. Hull cleaning once again took place, reducing added resistance to zero once again. However, in a few months’ time, the excess fuel consumption reached 9.3 MT per day. A propeller polish reduced the level of added resistance once again and flattered the degradation.

Eirini Arvanitaki explains how VESPER can be used to understand the impact of dry-docking on excess fuel consumption. The solution can be used to calculate the ROI and support business decisions

Roadmap for VESPER’s development

Jakob Buus Petersen, a naval architect and co-founder of VPS, said that the company is always looking at ways to develop its solution. “One of the key elements of this performance system is how accurate are we at modelling the performance of the vessel?” He noted that while no system will be 100 per cent perfect, the quality will depend on many parameters and the quality of the abrasion of data that comes into the system. Mr Petersen firmly believes in having a solid roadmap to improve any vessel performance solution. VPS will be looking into the following areas with its partners to develop VESPER over the next few years:

  • Digital Twin – to improve modelling of vessel performance
  • Voyage modelling and optimisation – to maximise use of the Digital Twin in voyage simulations
  • Crew feedback – to continuously improve transparency and engage and motivate vessel crews to participate
  • Advanced diagnostics to streamline the performance – to handle more vessels with fewer resources

VPS does not rely on huge investors but instead has partnered with a number of organisations to develop the solution. These include the Danish Innovation Fund, the Danish Maritime Fund, Orient Fund, and other maritime players such as Torm, J.Lauritzen, Aalborg, and Force Technology. Between 2015-2018, VPS partnered with InnoPlus to redevelop VESPER.

To learn more about VESPER and how Dorian LPG is optimising vessel performance with the tool, watch our webinar here.