Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A Look at Where the Shipping Industry is Headed with Regard to Environment and Expenditure

The Pros and Cons of Maritime Digitalisation
Shipping News Feature

NORWAY – WORLDWIDE – DNV GL (shortly to revert back to the DNV name) has been looking at the whole question of the problem set by the IMO, that of halving vessel greenhouse gas emissions in the next thirty years.

Critics outside the industry will doubtless complain that this is too long a period, however they are unlikely to understand either the longevity of merchant ships, or their cost. Certainly the major shipping fleets are turning more resources to the problem, and hopefully that 2050 target will be attained before the time is up.

So why digitalisation? What does this now ubiquitous term actually mean for the ocean freight trade? DNV GL’s Performance Advisory head Bjorn Berger has been talking about the whole situation thus:

”The new green regime dictates that ship owners must minimise emissions from their operations and efficiency will be defined by their ability to reduce their environmental footprint, which will be a key differentiating factor in future competition for charter contracts. Digitalisation represents a major competitive advantage and those that fail to adopt such technology will be quickly outmanoeuvred by more progressive players.

“This represents a whole new ball game for the industry. Optimisation of ship operations has traditionally been dictated by the efficiency of delivery around the globe that has typically meant being able to sail at full speed, thereby burning more fuel, to minimise costs for the charterer. It has been driven by money, not emissions.”

Berger says that new environmental rules will pose a huge business risk as vessels that do not meet emissions requirements will be unable to trade, though not all ship owners have fully realised this. He says the maritime sector is lagging behind such as the aviation and automotive sectors in which digitalisation has been widely applied for decades, as well as offshore where concepts such as data sensors on equipment, digital twins, artificial intelligence and remote operations are now rapidly gaining ground.

Digitalisation facilitates the automation of processes and functions, and combining data streams from multiple sources will allow the maritime industry to make better-informed decisions more quickly, creating more efficient and responsive organisations. He believes there is massive untapped potential for the shipping industry to improve its efficiency through harnessing data flows from operations that can have a positive impact on commercial, environmental and safety performance.

As we have reported many times, numerous shipping lines are increasingly fitting new technology in a bid to achieve those environmental goals, and to save money long term, with some very positive results. Ships are increasingly being fitted with advanced sensors to monitor fuel consumption and energy efficiency, providing real-time data that can be integrated into an overall fleet management system for continuous learning and optimisation of operations with just minor changes resulting in circa 10% savings in fuel costs.

To future proof savings, ships need to be designed incorporating all the available conservation measures and protocols including voyage planning and execution, improved fleet performance and management, speed management, hull and propeller maintenance, optimised use of generators and power consumers, trim optimisation and increased use of remote functions.

Moreover, monitoring and reporting of key performance data such as carbon-intensity measurements will be required in relation to greenhouse gas ratings for regulators, charterers, ports, banks and finance institutions, making this a rite of passage for ship owners in future.

More options to improve and monitor performance are being made available. DNV’s own fellow countrymen at navigation software provider NAVTOR produces its so-called e-navigation system claiming seamless transfer of data from ship to shore that covers route planning, so any deviation from the passage plan can be rectified in co-ordination with the crew.

Such a product offers a suite of options to make the shift to ‘smart shipping’ with software that includes nautical charts, weather information, navigational warnings and performance analysis tools as part of an integrated ecosystem already serving nearly 7,000 vessels worldwide. Its system incorporates interpretation, validation and instant notification of data, as well as manual input and analysis, and assistance in compliance with regulations for different ports and jurisdictions.

Berger believes digitalisation can result in a shift whereby charterers increasingly may take over the role as ship owner to include vessel operations within the entire logistical chain in order to meet environmental requirements, citing online retail giant Amazon as a possible candidate.

This trend is already evident in Norway where grocery supplier Asko is developing an autonomous and electrically powered vessel to cross the Oslo fjord to cut the need for road haulage, a notably more pollutive option, and something encouraged by the country’s DNV GL initiated ‘Green Shipping’ research programme.

There are of course down sides, which Berger freely recognises, and the threats are in some cases extremely serious. Firstly, whilst manufacturers and developers in the automotive arena have pushed on to develop electrically powered and self-driving cars, Berger says remote operations for maritime vessels are still a long way off as investments in this area are nowhere near that of an industry where there are enormous data centres carrying out millions of simulations.

The elephant in the digital room however is of course crime, specifically cyber-crime. After the attacks on industry giants like Maersk, Clarkson and COSCO the reality is that nobody is truly safe from the online threats. While the damage to the onshore offices of the companies is bad enough (Maersk had to replace thousands of computer terminals and servers) one can only imagine the havoc which might ensue if a vessel’s legacy computer systems are hacked.

This danger means the new IMO has stiffened regulations on cyber-security effective from this year, with DNV GL extending its services to cover control systems, software, data procedures and human factors to ensure compliance with the code.