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An Introduction to Vessel Performance Monitoring

Improving operational efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions represent major challenges for the shipping industry. This requires that organisations diligently monitor vessel performance and emissions and report this data in various ways and formats, depending on each company’s policies and priorities. However, the manual collection of critical data by shipboard staff utilising noon reports, sensors located on the ship and AIS as data sources among others, as well as the analysis and reporting of this data via spreadsheets is a time consuming task that is also prone to human error. Unstructured information can be difficult to understand and analyse, thus, making it challenging for crew members and key stakeholders to interpret, assess and predict performance. Accurate analysis and timely reporting of data can pinpoint inefficiencies, lead to faster decision-making and ultimately help a company reach its sustainability objectives.

You cannot improve what you do not measure.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the typical means for measurement and serve as a valuable tool for decision making. Whilst every shipping company will have slightly different approaches, there is a core set of KPIs which have become a standard practice. Every shipping organisation and person responsible for efficient and sustainable operations monitors these key metrics  in order to benchmark vessel and fleet performance, track environmental impact, and  evaluate the efficacy  of measures taken. Maersk Line, as an example, has saved almost $90 million in energy costs, as well as 160,000 tons of fuel, by measuring the performance of individual vessels,  in three years.

Vessel Performance Monitoring and Energy Efficiency: A Key Role in Shipping

The mission towards net zero carbon in shipping is increasingly pushing organisations to establish a critical, new role within their organisation focused on energy efficiency, and particularly in regard to the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI), Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (EEOI) and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) to cover the basic compliance requirements. In this multifaceted role, the designated person has to work with energy efficiency improvement initiatives. The task in hand, includes among others vessel benchmarking, understanding, improving and reporting fleet efficiency, while optimising operations to ensure that schedules and budgets are streamlined, without compromising the high safety standards.

Energy efficiency KPIs that every shipping organisation should monitor

For shipping organisations who are not currently undergoing a digital transformation programme, the mere task of fulfilling the basic requirements of improving vessel efficiency, finding cost effective ways of implementing measures and evaluating the outcome can be a daunting task. Deciding on the path of a voyage, while taking into account current weather and hull conditions, monitoring how much fuel is used, ensuring vessel compliance with regulations, keeping track of maintenance requirements and informing stakeholders whether a vessel is underperforming are among the necessary indicators that should be continuously monitored.

Ocean going vessels emit pollutants into the atmosphere, some of which are a major global concern. The three main pollutants are: Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Sulphur oxides (SOx) and Carbon dioxide (CO2 ). In fact, more than three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to ocean-going ships. Put differently, if global shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Below we compiled an essential, but not exhaustive, list of indicators which can provide a holistic view of your vessel and fleet efficiency at any given time, and identify and address any operational issues.

  • CO2 Efficiency expresses the energy efficiency of the ship by comparing emitted mass of CO2 to the ship’s total transport work. It is typically monitored by means of EEOI and EIV.
  • Fleet Benchmarking: Monitoring the performance of every vessel and how each compares against the global fleet will help shipping organisations to understand whether each vessel is being used efficiently, assess its environmental impact, and convert learnings into best practices that can be applied to other vessels.
  • Hull, main engine & auxiliary equipment analysis: The analysis should show what fuel and how much goes to the main engine, to the auxiliaries and to the boilers, while also checking other sensor data and operational parameters. Observation of main engine performance trends, monitoring of hull fouling and  machinery efficiency can support decisions upon maintenance needs, like hull cleaning, propeller polishing, or machinery parts replacement or overhauling.
  • Power-Speed Curve: Power vs. Speed and Fuel vs. Speed curves are useful tools for operators. Their comparison (actual against ideal for same conditions) assists in identifying issues with hull fouling. Such analysis is possible only after modelling properly and taking into account how weather conditions and hull and propeller roughness affect the power demand of the vessel.
  • Tracking Fuel Consumption: Given that fuel consumption is the largest part of a vessel’s operational expenditure (OPEX) tracking this metric will help monitor possible fuel overconsumption. According to an article published at the Journal of Ocean Engineering and Science titled “On the estimation of ship’s fuel consumption and speed curve: A statistical approach”, a simple example for appreciating the importance of this metric can be drawn by considering 280 yearly running days at a consumption of 50 ton/day in fuel cost of 400 USD/ton, a 5% error in fuel calculations easily accumulates to 280,000 USD/year, meaning about 770 USD/day increase of hire rate. Hence, a small deviation in the fuel calculation is easily reflected in an operational cost significantly higher or lower than the predicted, which can easily lead to change in fixtures.
  • Checking Pistons Data: From exhaust gas temperature to jacket cooling, constant supervision of temperatures can lead to the identification of imbalance in the engine, indicate other issues that may be occurring in each cylinder and assist in the prevention of prolonged engine wear and/or overconsumption.
  • Generator Engines Load Over Time: Checking for signs indicating inefficient generator engine use such as having in operation more engines than needed, which leads to part load and increased consumption.
  • Trim: Trim has proven to have a small (2-3%) but consistent impact on a vessel’s energy demand for propulsion during sailing, which over time translates to serious savings. Checking the vessel’s behaviour in different trim conditions and finding the optimal trim for each loading condition and speed, is a low hanging fruit for those seeking improvement in the operational performance of the ship.
  • Propeller Condition: It is well known that a fouled or damaged propeller can easily lead to significant increase of the power demand of a ship. Thus, many operators opt to regular propeller polishing despite the cost and risk of wear to the propeller that can lead to alteration of its characteristics. The ideal approach is to closely monitor the condition of the propeller and proceed with polishing only when necessary (but as soon as fouling is identified).
  • Weather Conditions: Wind direction and force, currents and changing weather conditions have a significant effect on a vessel’s fuel consumption. Determining the optimal route, based on the ship’s behavior can lead to significant fuel savings. DeepSea’s Pythia, for example, is a weather routing platform tailored to the exact performance of your vessel, under all weather conditions. Powerful AI models understand exactly how your vessel performs under any weather and fouling conditions.
  • Total Impact and Cost Savings: The implementation of changes requires keeping track of how fuel consumption and CO2  emissions change over time, in order to assess how these measures contribute to measurable cost savings ($) for the organisation.

Digital transformation for smooth sailing

The shipping industry is undergoing digital transformation providing organisations with valuable tools to operate optimally. In the digital era, data is the most useful tool for shipowners and operators for improving vessel performance. Technology can solve existing inefficiencies. It can arm organisations with accurate and real-time insights to help shipping professionals make informed decisions and reach their sustainability goals.

The DeepSea approach to performance monitoring

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence, DeepSea’s vessel performance monitoring system which combines noon reports, AIS and live data, enables shipping professionals to gain a deep understanding of their vessels, fleets and key machinery while the company’s weather routing platform understands exactly how your vessel performs under any weather and fouling conditions and can plot a route tailored to the exact performance of your vessel. 

Want to learn more? Request a demo of DeepSea today.

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