Data smart vessels

Data-smart vessels 

Consider the many vessels operating today. At the time of construction, their on-board equipment was not prepared for full instrumentation and detailed optimization of the operation. Nevertheless, these ships generate substantial amounts of data, digital as well as analogue. Ship owners and managers are using the data available through traditional means like noon reports, event reports and engine logbooks. But we observe that a lot of untapped potential still resides in proper quality-assured and analysed data of this kind. Some owners and managers struggle with the business case of retrofitting auto-logging systems on existing vessels, with systems hampered by unavailability, poor data quality and the high costs of retrofitting and maintaining the equipment. Working satisfactorily, torque and fuel flow meters have seen the biggest uptake so far when it comes to retrofits – and for good reason: the information they generate is crucial for performance management and fuel efficiency, and payback tends to be short.

Vessels built or designed today have more sensors and better communication systems than vessels operating today. The operations of new highly sensorized vessels, in duty alongside older vessels, will introduce some new challenges in itself, where ship owners and managers must build an adequate data management and analytics infrastructure. Changes in business models are being seen. System integrators and suppliers of machinery equipment are gradually starting to sell services (ultimately leasing out power) rather than components. The core of this development is increased surveillance from improved sensors and data. Ownership of and access to this data will increasingly become an issue, with equipment providers and ship owners and managers vying for control. We believe that the industry needs to embrace a collaborative culture, with owners and managers and suppliers both having full access to the data and the ability to share it with other partners for advanced analytics.

Future designs will see “standard” components fully sensored. Shipping is going to see a trend similar to the automotive industry, where cars can drive autonomously already today. From today’s perspective, the economic benefits of autonomous ships are not clear across segments, but there are several pathways towards their stronger role in shipping.

Data smart vessels

More and more equipment, which today must be opened for inspection, will be allowed to continue operation based on class acceptance of condition data and respective maintenance regimes. Class notations already exist for simple monitoring and survey systems, such as tail shaft monitoring or for thrusters. Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) will likely become a much bigger topic for the maritime industry, similarly to what happened in the airplane industry in the 1980s. These developments will rely on and be supported by the increasing use of “digital twins”. Already today, models of entire ship systems are being deployed, allowing simulation of the systems’ operation. Soon, these models may be expanded and linked to provide a digital twin for the whole unit. With that established, anything can be tested in the model before any risk is taken on the unit.

data smart vessels Kongsberg
Picture Courtesy of Kongsberg Maritime
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