Article - April 12, 2021

Vessel Efficiency and Climate Change

international container cargo ship ocean freight

To meet escalating IMO regulations on emissions, owners and operators are increasingly turning to data-driven fleet performance services to help fight climate change.

After the IMO called on the shipping industry to reduce its average carbon intensity by up to 40 percent by 2030 and by 70 percent in 2050, compared to 2008, decarbonization became a key priority for many industry leaders. Most analysts agree that to meet these targets, the industry must transition to alternative fuels such as LNG, until zero-emission fuels—such as bio fuels, ammonia and hydrogen—are more commercially viable. Over the past five years, newbuilding orders for vessels equipped with dual-fuel engine systems have increased, but for the existing global merchant fleet of about 50,000 vessels, the industry is seemingly stuck between a rock and hard place. 

While many owners may feel they have to choose between scrapping older tonnage or investing in expensive LNG retrofits, some are working with specialist suppliers to find  more cost-effective ways to improve vessel efficiency, which not only increases fuel performance but also reduces carbon emissions. This “all of the above” approach includes everything from bunker management to hull and propeller performance, trim optimization to condition-based engine monitoring. But for owners and operators serious about reducing fuel consumption, voyage planning and weather routing may represent the most promising, and cost effective, carbon mitigation solution. 

Sustainable shipping port technology

A holistic approach to decarbonization

According to Dr. Thomas Weber, s-Insight Product Director for StormGeo, a leading provider of weather intelligence, voyage optimization and decision support services, sophisticated software tools combined with advances in data analytics and improved ship-to-shore communications have created genuine opportunities for owners and operators seeking to improve voyage efficiency and fleet performance. “We agree that the industry must eventually transition to alternative fuels to meet IMO targets but there are steps owners can take right now to lower emissions,” he says. “Our data shows that our services result in significant improvements in fuel performance corresponding to reduced emissions over time.”

Weber notes that currents, winds and waves will naturally impact the vessel’s performance. This can be managed by route and speed optimization to avoid unnecessary fuel consumption.

More than software

Madeleine Engelhardt, StormGeo Product Manager, s-Insight, notes that this cross-functional, ship-to- shore cooperation plays a critical role in helping to improve vessel efficiency. “Purchasing voyage optimization and fleet decision support software for onboard and onshore usage may not yield a quick return on investment if owners neglect to provide adequate training for crews, especially senior officers,” she says. “At the same time, shore-based personnel must learn to work in close cooperation with crew members to build trust and achieve a shared purpose: improving fuel performance while ensuring safety.”

Engelhardt says that in addition to making sure relevant personnel are familiar with the system and relevant software applications, companies must set common standards, define roles and responsibilities, offer feedback and support, share knowledge and best practices, establish the appropriate IT infrastructure and incentivize crew engagement. “While some owners manage to integrate our solutions into their management systems, other may not have the resources or expertise to manage this change process so prefer seeking external support and advice. StormGeo’s Fleet Performance Center provides this expertise to a full scope.” she says. “Both, regulatory requirements and voluntary initiatives require owners and operators to monitor, benchmark and report carbon emissions for their vessels, which increases the demand for documentation.

StormGeo’s vision is keeping vessels compliant with EU MRV, IMO DCS regulations and actively support initiatives such as Sea Cargo Charter, ESI, CSI and CCWG working towards the greater goals to align maritime activities to be environmentally responsible.”

Decision support

According to Weber, StormGeo manages about 5,500 routes each month, covering virtually every vessel type, all over the world. “Consistent and validated data is essential for our services. StormGeo aligns different data sources such as manually reported voyage data, performance snapshots and high frequency sensor data.” he says. “This allows us to identify potential efficiency gains and provide quality decision support in real-time.”

Weber acknowledges that many of StormGeo’s customers are operators focused on making sure the vessel is being operated safely and efficiently but more recently, the company have seen increased demand among owners for data validation, data analysis, monitoring information and documentation support to help them comply with both charter agreements as well as EU and IMO regulations. “While safety remains a critical driver, our services are aligned with the industry’s focus on regulatory compliance and decarbonization,” he says. “After all, what can be measured can be managed.”

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