Article - April 12, 2021

Better together: Fleet Performance Centers play to team strength

StormGeo Fleet Performance center

From their locations in Hamburg and Singapore, the experts at StormGeo’s Fleet Performance Centers are out to enhance the performance of customer vessels by helping to bring out the best in crews, captains and shore personnel.

“Our attention is on transparency, to get people talking together and create a cooperative environment,” says Tobias Gröger, Sales and Business Development, West Europe and the Americas. “This is really about people working together to improve vessel performance, save fuel and reduce emissions.”

He emphasizes that supporting operational efficiency is StormGeo’s overarching goal: “Reducing fuel consumption is an important element, but it’s only one of many. By helping owners to optimize their day-to-day operations, we can also save them time and money, and strengthen their position in the marketplace.”

On common ground

The Fleet Performance Centers are built around StormGeo’s s-Suite, an innovative array of services that includes Voyage Planning, Onboard Route Optimization, Route Advisory Services and Fleet Performance Management. “The s-Suite aims to connect the vertical columns of information. It gives the whole team the same platform, with access to the same data,” says Gröger.

Performance Center services are structured into three groups, says Erik Heller, Head of Performance Center in Hamburg. “The first is a daily alert service, where we provide notice of vessel underperformance using various Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to monitor and grade vessel performance by green, yellow, or red color codes.”

Daily alerts are company and ship specific, containing both the alerts and proposed intervention as needed. “The main differentiators here are customization and individual expert intervention,” says Heller. “Our experts send emails to the ship and all stakeholders in a pre-determined matrix, with advisory services according to customer needs.”

“Reducing fuel consumption is an important element, but it’s only one of many. By helping owners to optimize their day-to-day operations, we can also save them time and money, and strengthen their position in the marketplace.”

A report service is also available, comprising monthly and quarterly reviews. Ad hoc investigations make up the third element, relating to various issues or claims where the center team addresses problems and recommends solutions.

Structured sharing

Heller tells that information is distributed in a three-dimensional environment comprising the vessel, land-based staff, and other contributors. “What we call the fourth dimension is timing. We send alerts in the same time zones as the staff. This allows us to share information at the time that is most convenient for all those involved. Of course we also supply real-time alerts as needed, depending on which service the customer subscribes to.”

The fleet performance team supports customers in the setup phase, ensuring a seamless interface between all team members. “A typical example was a client that did not want a certain boiler to be running on sea passages, but would allow it in ECA zones or for other exceptions. We ended up with a complex threshold, but the user experiences only a simplified solution, with action/no action recommendations,” says Heller. “Structure is an important part of our philosophy. This allows us to apply our knowledge to meet the specific needs of each customer.”

Hitting the sweet spot

Gröger tells that the performance centers work from a baseline description of a ship’s fuel consumption, also available to the charterer. The ship must meet the baseline as closely as possible while still being profitable for the owner, and avoiding claims from the charterer. “You might call it hitting the ‘sweet spot’. This is where owners have to be in order to be attractive on the market and still make money,” he says.

“It gives them increased confidence in charter party negotiations as well,” Gröger adds. “In order to cover all eventualities, they will need to know about vessel performance in many situations. We provide this through a feedback loop, allowing them to avoid surprises and be proactive instead of reactive in how they operate the vessel.”

Expertise, seasoned with experience

Importantly, StormGeo Performance Centers are manned by experienced seafarers, Heller explains. “We bring maritime experience ashore. These are ship engineers and nautical staff. They know about how things work on a ship, and they speak the same language as the crew.” This rapport helps to boost crew confidence in the service, he notes, while ensuring management of optimal communication between the Performance Centers and the ship.

StormGeo Fleet Performance Centers

“We have good access to former seafarers from all over the world, from various cultures and with diverse backgrounds. We are steadily hiring people who fit well into the team, from nautical and deck experience to naval architects,” Heller says. “They have served onboard tankers, container ships, small bulkers and cruise ships, pretty much the full spectrum of vessel types.

Data quality as differentiator

Another key benefit to customers is the improvement in data quality that the Performance Centers can offer. “We look for anomalies, dig down to find out why they are showing up, and clarify this for the customer,” says Gröger. “Customers need reliable data in order to enact performance improvements. Reliable data is also essential to ensure compliance with emissions control.”

He explains that StormGeo services are compliant with the EU monitoring, reporting and verification regime (MRV), and the IMO’s Data Collection System (DCS). “These basically track fuel consumption, distances, and sailing times. Emissions certificates are required in some cases, so reporting needs to be verified.”

Charterers’ requirements are also accommodated, verifying that ships are meeting contractual stipulations. Parameters include speed, fuel consumption and weather conditions, with alerts to indicate over-consumption or irregular speed.

Performance improvement is yet another delivery, where vessel speed, fuel consumption, boiler operations, auxiliary engine operations, main engine cylinder oil, lubricants, trim, hull and prop performance all figure into the mix.

Across the board, data security is addressed at the highest level, Gröger assures. “All our services are secure and follow the latest industry standards on data security in general.”

Leveraging expertise for maximum effect

“We have seen that once a customer starts reporting data, they begin improving their performance, just by using the tools in the s-Suite. When they begin to leverage the expertise in the performance centers, we see a second level of improvement,” Heller confirms. “The system itself offers a basic margin for improvement, but utilizing the centers really provides the full benefit of savings available to owners.”

He notes that while bigger companies may have more resources to apply to performance, for smaller and medium-sized companies, alerts and performance services can help them manage more ships without adding staff.

“It is important to emphasize that the point is not to reduce staff, but rather to help staff and crew do their jobs better,” Gröger sates. “Fleet performance management is a relatively new function, and it comes on top of existing tasks. Support from our Performance Centers allows staff to put their focus back on their main tasks,” he concludes. “We provide decision support, not decision making. Our business is to help those running the ship make better decisions.”

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