IoT and remote monitoring optimises container shipping

Riviera Maritime | BY Martyn Wingrove

Container ship managers explain why they adopt IoT, data analytics and remote diagnostics to reduce their environmental footprint.

Shipmanagers discussed their growing use of digitalisation technologies during Riviera Maritime Media’s Vessel Optimisation Webinar Week in early March 2021. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) head of data governance and analytics Frank Paleokrassas explained how BSM has unlocked significant fuel savings and reduced emissions across its fleet. He said BSM saved US$5M in 2020 just from managing hull maintenance and cylinder oil consumption. “It is not that much. There is scope for a lot more,” said Mr Paleokrassas.

This could include digital twin benchmarking, automatic alert systems, predictive hull inspection recommendations, emissions reporting, performance analysis and prescriptive engine fault diagnostics.

Data telemetry is used to remotely monitor onboard system performance. “We have 50 ships with telemetry integrated with our enterprise resource planning tools,” said Mr Paleokrassas.

He expects to save even more using information for voyage optimisation, weather routeing, and improving the performance of engines and propulsion. “We are moving into prescriptive analytics and have a joint venture with Navidium,” he says. Navidium provides information and analysis on ship performance to operators.

Ships in its fleet are benchmarked for voyage, hull and propeller performance and engine operation, while BSM also monitors lubricant oil consumption. It uses a traffic-light system to identify underperforming vessels and those making the most energy savings.

“We are implementing real-time data streams and focusing on having edge computing and analytics on board our ships,” said Mr Paleokrassas.

Thome Group technical manager Rajiv Malhotra explained the benefits of engine performance monitoring and analysis. He said the focus of the group was ensuring “engine availability and reliability” on its managed ships, which number more than 200 vessels worldwide.

Engines are monitored “to minimise downtime, for energy efficiency and emissions control,” he said. Monitoring is also used to prove compliance with forthcoming environmental regulations.

Mr Malhotra went on to explain the importance of using accurate data “to achieve those objectives”. To improve operational data accuracy, shipmanagers can use validation in the system, manual screening in the office and train crew and vessel managers in its use.

Also important is installing measuring equipment such as torsion, energy and flow meters, in-line sensors and automatic data loggers to minimise human intervention in data collation.

FML Ship Management director and general manager Sunil Kapoor said monitoring vessel speed and fuel consumption ensures vessel operators can keep to their commercial contractual and efficiency requirements.

While ship operators “can avoid breakdowns” by detecting potential problems and “rectifying issues”, they can also reduce emissions, he said.

FML has developed a portal for 24/7 vessel performance monitoring. It combines data from the ship and weather information. “We can monitor and compare performance with sister ships or vessels of a similar design,” said Mr Kapoor.

He provided case studies demonstrating how this information enables FML to detect operational issues, under-performance and ways to optimise trim to improve efficiency.

IoT connectivity

Analytics, trending and monitoring tactics require fast and reliable ship-to-shore communications, increasingly through very small aperture terminals (VSAT) and IoT connectivity. One dedicated communications service is KVH Watch IoT over Ku-band networks. During Q1 2021, KVH added several data analytics and remote intervention service providers to its pack, including the Smart Ship Hub platform. This provides performance advisory and predictive diagnostics for vessel performance optimisation. It also delivers remote video-based maintenance, surveys and a wide range of related services that rely on real-time data feeds.

“IoT is a real game-changer for the industry,” says KVH Industries senior director of business development Sven-Eric Brooks. “It needs dedicated connectivity channels, isolated from crew and ship operations, to capture the benefits.”

Other application providers on KVH Watch include TechBinder’s smart vessel optimiser, Tile Marine, GreenSteam’s analytics, Kilo Marine’s V-Node platform and IoCurrent’s MarineInsight platform for IoT data acquisition, remote monitoring and real-time vessel analytics.

Mr Brooks says these services and technologies “can result in operational efficiencies, cost savings, and increased sustainability for fleets.”

GreenSteam chief executive Simon Whitford says more shipping companies are using this type of connectivity for remote monitoring and data transfers for cloud-based or onshore analytics. “There is value to be exploited and insights from the data,” he says.

Kilo Marine will use Watch to provide on-demand remote expert intervention with its technicians supporting vessel owners through IoT data acquisition and monitoring.

TechBinder will offer remote expert interventions, allowing technical troubleshooting and remote maintenance support. IoCurrents’ MarineInsight uses machine-learning algorithms to support maritime maintenance and fuel optimisation.

They join Kongsberg Digital’s Vessel Insight in KVH’s growing partnership programme. Kongsberg has its own collaboration strategy and has started offering OrbitMI’s maritime intelligence, compliance, vessel tracking and vessel performance applications to its Vessel Insight customers via the Kognifai Marketplace.

Vessel Insight collects and contextualises data from vessels enabling shipowners and operators to begin their digitalisation process. Kongsberg also added Kyma’s specialised vessel monitoring applications on Kognifai for Vessel Insight customers.

Inmarsat has built a certified application provider (CAP) catalogue for its Fleet Connect dedicated bandwidth for IoT services. Its latest addition is OneOcean, which can transmit its voyage planning software and updates over Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress communications. OneOcean can deploy route planning services, updates and improve ship-to-shore integration of navigation information.

In March, Brightree joined Inmarsat’s CAP programme. It will use Fleet Connect to offer its marine bunker and fuel consumption monitoring application and remote engine monitoring services.

It uses Coriolis mass flow meters to accurately measure marine engine fuel consumption and bunkering transfer. Brightree’s Dandelion cloud-based remote controller transmits real-time consumption data over Fleet Connect, for fuel efficiency.

Fleet Connect ensures safety-critical navigational tools remain up to date, says Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout. “By using Fleet Connect, vessels can update mission-critical software easily and cost effectively without installing new hardware, at a time when Covid-19 continues to make ship visits especially challenging.”

This connectivity is needed as stakeholders demand more operational data. Inmarsat director for strategy and business development Alberto Perez says the “average volume of data downloaded per ship has doubled in less than six months”. It was 4 GB in April 2020 and by October 2020 it had risen to 8 GB. “A lot of this growth has been driven by welfare, but also the increase in digitalisation,” he says. Inmarsat has invested in new satellites for its Global Xpress network to support this capacity growth.

Data challenges

Despite technology developments, there remain challenges to using data effectively. Nautilus Labs senior director for strategy and insights Ross Millard explains how stakeholders have different interests. “They each have different angles,” he says. “Owners control the data, but how do they use the data and share it with other stakeholders?”

He thinks the shipping industry needs to find ways to share information across multiple parties as this will be increasingly required for emissions reporting.

“We need some type of standard if we are to run efficiently as there will be emissions pressures and others will be getting involved,” says Mr Millard. “As the industry moves forward, there will be incentives to reduce emissions.” He says there needs to be a common structure for owners, charterers and managers to work together and “align their goals with the realities of the industry”.

Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) provides that through its guides and standardisation. Its latest development is track and trace (T&T) standards enabling most of its member carriers to offer data access through standard application programming interfaces (APIs). These provide a streamlined way for shippers to receive real-time, cross-carrier data regarding the whereabouts of their containers.

DCSA says widespread adoption of its standards will advance the industry in terms of visibility and real-time responsiveness, resulting in greater reliability and a better customer experience. DCSA T&T comprises a downloadable information model and interface standard. Container lines are behind DCSA’s initiatives.

MSC global chief digital and information officer and chairman of the DCSA supervisory board André Simha says “While a variety of digital innovations exist in the maritime industry, MSC believes new solutions will only be fit for purpose if they can be operated across multiple carriers, service providers and geographies.”

While CMA CGM executive vice president IT, digital, SSC and transformation Nicolas Sekkaki says “DCSA digital standards will not only enable this interoperability, they will make it easier for carriers to achieve customer excellence and operational efficiency.

“But adopting standards and collaborating across the industry requires more than standards alone, it requires a cultural change in the industry which will hopefully start now.”

Yang Ming chief information officer Steven Tsao says, “With the T&T standards-based API in place, shippers will have real-time information about a container’s location and receive notification of delays.”