Vessel operators are testing artificial intelligence, algorithms and remote monitoring to optimise maintenance, extend equipment life and minimise downtime

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, algorithms and remote monitoring are driving vessel owners to invest in technology to optimise maintenance. Some operators are developing technology with engine manufacturers (OEMs) and others with technology specialists.

This enables owners to adopt condition-based maintenance (CBM) and predictive maintenance strategies to minimise equipment failure and reduce repair costs by recognising and dealing with issues early.

NYK Group is an early adopter of CBM technology which it is developing and testing with classification society ClassNK and technology suppliers MTI Co, Japan Engine Corp and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.



Within this joint industry project, engine conditions will be continuously monitored using sensors installed on large main engines and steam turbines, and sensors will also report bearing vibration and temperature.

Data will be streamed from ship to shore and shared between partners, who will analyse this information to predict remaining useful life (RUL) of machinery and identify potential failure points.

NYK expects to improve the accuracy of failure and RUL predictions through CBM, while ClassNK will use the information to establish a new classification survey scheme based on CBM.

In the future, NYK plans to develop more advanced CBM by monitoring system conditions and adopting AI technologies. CBM data and analysis would then be combined with operational schedules to further optimise maintenance.

NYK sees these technologies as important steps towards developing more automated vessels to the point where it operates manned autonomous ships.

One of the world’s largest tug owners and part of the Maersk group, Svitzer, is also adopting CBM by collaborating with an OEM. Svitzer has signed its first preventative maintenance agreement with Rolls-Royce covering MTU Series 4000 high-speed diesel engines on tugs operating worldwide.

This agreement covers maintenance support and ensures spare parts are available in the countries these vessels operate in, reducing operating costs through optimisation.

These tugs include 2018-delivered vessels employed in Morocco at the Tanger-Med cargo port and vessels deployed in Brazil, Costa-Rica, Denmark, Germany and the UK.

Engines on the world’s first harbour tug remotely controlled from shore in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2017, Svitzer Hermod, are also covered under the deal.

Svitzer chief technical officer Evangelos Fragkoulis says this agreement will support Svitzer’s programme for controlling the lifecycle costs of the main equipment components on tugs.

“As part of the current technical operating model within Svitzer we want to focus further on our main equipment performance and reliability,” he explains.

Svitzer head of global procurement Kasper Gottlieb expects additional cost savings from preventative maintenance and optimisation.

“The global frame agreement will enable us to further optimise our vessel running costs while maintaining a smooth and reliable operation,” Mr Gottlieb says.

Rolls-Royce will handle spare parts planning, scheduling and deliveries, allowing Svitzer to focus on efficiency in the technical management and operation of the vessels.

It has developed MTU-Go!Act and MTU-Go!Manage services to capture and process technical data from engines.

Svitzer employs more than 4,000 people and operates 440 vessels in 120 ports across 34 countries, providing towage services in ports and terminals, marine services and emergency response.

Svitzer chief executive Henriette Thygesen will provide an owners’ perspective on industry collaborations, such as this Rolls-Royce MTU agreement at Riviera Maritime Media’s Annual Offshore Support Journal Conference, Awards & Exhibition in London on 5-6 February. During the conference, Ms Thygesen will explain how OEMs and technology providers should adapt to work in partnership with owners to anticipate and meet their requirements.

In her keynote presentation Ms Thygesen will describe how owners are adapting to a changing industry to redefine their roles as service providers. She will outline how owners need holistic solutions with a focus on innovation to drive efficiency and safety.

Caterpillar Marine is the platinum sponsor of the Annual OSJ Conference and its offshore segment manager for marine account management Bart L Long will provide the opening address. In that presentation Mr Long is expected to highlight how the offshore and towage sector is addressing emissions and maintenance issues through technology innovation.

In December 2019, Caterpillar Marine announced it was working with China Classification Society (CCS) and collecting engine data to enable operators to comply with new regulatory emissions required for Chinese vessels.

CCS has created the I (intelligent)-ship notation for a new generation of vessels being built in China with remotely monitored onboard equipment and advanced automation. The first vessels to include this notation are four harbour tugs built for Tianjin Port. Three were delivered in 2019 and a fourth is being built by Shanghai Harbour Fuxing Shipping Service for delivery in Q1 2020.

These have CCS sub-notations of M for intelligent machinery space; N for intelligent navigation; E for intelligent energy management and I for intelligent integral platform. This means they were upgraded with automatic controls and onboard and onshore monitoring systems to optimise vessel navigation and machinery operations.

Also during the Annual OSJ Conference, P&O Maritime Logistics chief commercial officer Robert Desai will explain how his group has adopted digitalisation to improve vessel performance and identify, then address potential onboard machinery faults and challenges.

MacGregor director for new service models, digital and business transformation Daniel Lundberg will describe how vessel owners can improve earning potential, efficiency and overall profitability using digitalisation technologies.

Also, Scandinavian Reach Technologies chief commercial officer Arild Sæle will explain how AI, IoT, machine learning and enabling technology will make a difference to owners’ efficiency.

Tanker owners can use sensors and monitoring technology to improve cargo tank maintenance and cleaning. Kockumation Group head of sales and marketing Johan Ljungbeck believes using digital sensors during tank cleaning can reduce a full day procedure to four hours.

“With sensors, operators can monitor tank cleaning by machines, manage temperature and produce digital reports to prove whole tanks are cleaned,” he said at Riviera’s Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference in London on 26-27 November 2019.

A typical tank cleaning operation includes nine hours of using heated seawater, three hours of washing with fresh water and then 12 hours to refill tanks with nitrogen gas to inert them ready for the next cargo.

But with sensors and Kockumation’s Washmaster tank cleaning system, the seawater cycle can be reduced to three hours, the fresh-water cycle would last just one hour and the tank is already inerted. Plus, tanks are digitally inspected during the wash cycle.

Washmaster has software for automated tank cleaning and to ensure full coverage of the tank. Mr Ljungbeck said wash cycles can be tracked, while progress and positioning of cleaning processes can be followed live.

Remote monitoring is achieved when ships are built with information and operational technologies (IT and OT) networked together. Machinery and equipment information is transferred to the onboard IT and VSAT satellite connection for monitoring ashore. One example is Wärtsilä’s Data Collection Unit (WDCU), part of Wärtsilä’s Data Bridge solution for IT and OT.

This gathers and transfers operational data to a cloud-based data resource to enable owners and Wärtsilä to remotely monitor onboard equipment for predictive maintenance purposes. This data platform enables advanced analytics that provide insight into a vessel’s performance, helping ship operators, owners and managers to unlock further improvements to a vessel’s operational and technical efficiency.

In November 2019, Lloyd’s Register awarded approval in principle for the entire Wärtsilä integrated main and auxiliary machinery system network, rather than for any individual component. This certifies WDCU and Wärtsilä Data Bridge are cyber secure with built-in resilience against unauthorised access, software failures or attacks on ships’ systems.

Marlink has developed an IoT platform to securely connect onboard OT to sensor networks and satellite IP connectivity. BridgeLink is a unifying platform for linking critical navigation equipment such as radar, ECDIS, conning and propulsion control with vessel automation, power management and sensors used to monitor engineroom systems’ condition and performance.

“We created BridgeLink to make remote ship management and maintenance processes more straightforward, streamlined, agnostic and secure,” says Marlink president for maritime Tore Morten Olsen. “It has capacity to integrate, analyse and clearly present any data from any vessel in any back-end system,” he says.

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BridgeLink enables IoT applications for shipping companies to deploy remote ship management and smart maintenance systems to enhance and improve vessel efficiency, using secure data collection for specialised analysis and applications. Data securely transmitted to shore can be analysed for performance monitoring and predictive maintenance purposes.

Marlink subsidiary Telemar will use BridgeLink for smart maintenance services for its field engineers to diagnose, analyse faults and repair issues on critical navigation systems in 2020.

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