How can performance and safety monitoring, together with a full range of fuel optimisation evolve to unlock a truly sustainable shipping industry? Bjørn Åge Hjøllo, Chief Sustainability Officer, NAVTOR, discusses how a new research initiative is set to build on existing capability; enabling safer, compliant and more efficient operations.
“Our mission is simple,” states Bjørn Åge Hjøllo, the man charged with leading research and development projects for NAVTOR. “Through innovations, collaboration and listening to the demands of customers, we aim to develop the tool to meet industry challenges and enable truly safe, sustainable and cost-efficient vessel and business operations.
“And performance monitoring, optimisation and related decision support are central to that quest.”
Norway headquartered NAVTOR, the global leader in e-Navigation services, has been building its performance capabilities over the past two years, establishing itself as a fully integrated maritime technology firm. In early 2021 those efforts reached a milestone with the acquisition of Tres Solutions, a vessel analytics and performance optimisation company, and the launch of NavFleet, a fleet and performance management application.
NAVTOR now offers customers the ability to leverage performance insights to reduce emissions, decrease OPEX, meet charter party performance, and comply with environmental and regulatory standards.
And not just for individual vessels, but entire fleets; seamlessly connecting assets to shoreside offices to create “joined-up” organisations.
It’s a breakthrough step, but, according to Hjøllo, just the start of the journey.
NAVTOR’s ultimate destination is to have one, integrated solution for sustainable shipping, giving all stakeholders, on board or on shore, the same situational picture for safe and efficient navigation.
“So, shipowners and operators have to be more in tune with their fleets, with better fleet intelligence, to achieve a sense of control, ensure compliance and manage costs. There’s a lot we can do now, but, here at NAVTOR, there’s much more on the horizon. And that’s where TRANSACT comes in.”
The quest for control
“Shipping is evolving like never before,” he says, “with new CO2 regulations adopted by IMO, such as the Carbon Intensity Indicator, CII (adopted by IMO MEPC in June 2021, operational by January 2023) adding to the complexity and gradually impacting upon access to finance (through initiatives such as the Poseidon Principles and Annual Efficiency Rating, AER).
“And if we believed IMO’s goal of a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions in 2050 was ambitious, then COP26 marks a sea change with ambitions of net-zero by the same point!”
“So, shipowners and operators have to be more in tune with their fleets, with better fleet intelligence, to achieve a sense of control, ensure compliance and manage costs.
“There’s a lot we can do now, but, here at NAVTOR, there’s much more on the horizon.
“And that’s where TRANSACT comes in.”
NAVTOR has joined with 30 other European partners to launch the ECSEL Joint Undertaking TRANSACT-project, funded by the European Union. The aims of this three-year initiative (concluding in summer 2024) are far-reaching, with the consortium, led by Holland’s Philip’s, exploring ways to create an integrated, connected architecture for cyber-physical systems (CPS), primarily through enhancing edge and cloud technologies.
Okay, but what does that mean for the maritime world?
Hjøllo explains that a CPS in a maritime sense might be a system to enable autonomous or highly automated operations, made up of, for example, sensors, software and communication technology. By building the architecture to connect these otherwise standalone systems, the CPS could enhance performance, safety, security, and data privacy.
Although it sounds bewilderingly complex, the benefits are somewhat easier to grasp.
“Basically, we’ll be working on enhancing monitoring and ‘critical maritime decision support’ to continuously keep an eye on vessels and support safe and efficient navigation,” explains Hjøllo, “developing new applications and 24/7 AI-enhanced maritime services for improved performance and safety. In particular we’ll be looking into fuel optimisation through route optimisation, detecting anomalies in fuel consumption during voyage, traffic pattern monitoring, situational awareness along intended Passage Plans, detecting abnormal vessel behaviour, and improving security through detecting any malicious tampering of AIS/GNSS.
“The result will be safer, secure, more efficient and sustainable operations – helping users satisfy stakeholder demands, including access to green financing, e.g. the Sustainability-Linked Finance Framework (SLF).”
But what does that mean in terms of future, day-to-day operations?
To illustrate Hjøllo imagines that an operator has a vessel that is deviating from a passage plan. The connected onboard system would deliver a notification to enable corrective action. However, if no action was taken – due to an issue onboard perhaps – a warning, or even alarm, might sound shoreside so they can contact the vessel and ensure something is done.
“That’s the advantage of having such real-time oversight and common situational awareness,” he says. “Relevant people within the organisation can check on exact progress or issues, and work to remedy them straight away. There is a seamless connection, and therefore control.”
So, safety is improved, with anomalies identified, but that’s not all.
Up and running
Just in time arrivals could also be enabled like never before.
Hjøllo explains that shoreside teams working to keep a vessel to an ETA could follow it in real-time, but also, through access to NAVTOR’s leading AIS data, be aware of potential congestion through an AI-based ‘traffic application’. If the ship was in danger of missing the ETA, corrective action could be taken (e.g. increasing speed). If progress was too quick, speed could be optimised to ensure fuel efficiency and better environmental performance.
“And, of course,” he says, “there’s also weather and other data streams that can be integrated to create a new level of situational awareness, planning and, at the end of the day, better, greener, business decision making.”
Hjøllo adds that this “isn’t science fiction” as NAVTOR’s existing e-Navigation ecosystem currently enables seamless data sharing (with the certified cyber-secure NavBox acting as the data gateway).
“Our technology is already tailormade to realise the huge potential of the TRANSACT project,” he says, “so, in a way, we’ve got an excellent head start here.”
In touch with tomorrow
In conclusion, Hjøllo sees shipping’s current evolution as something akin to the ECDIS mandate. “With regulations as the stick, and increased competitiveness as the carrot for early adopters,” adding: “I can promise NAVTOR will work to become the leader within sustainable shipping in the same way we have done so within e-Navigation, which will benefit our existing and new customers having one integrated solution for more sustainable shipping operations.”
As far as TRANSACT is concerned, the project will benefit multiple stakeholders, in maritime and beyond, while also delivering a competitive advantage to NAVTOR, and its customers, through access to a cutting-edge research and innovation network.
It’s all part of a process of continual improvement that, Hjøllo stresses, is central to everything NAVTOR does.
“We haven’t got ahead, with products and services on 7500 vessels, by standing still,” he smiles, “and, if anything, we see the potential even to speed up progress through this kind of industry-leading collaboration. I’m excited to see where it takes us and what tangible deliverables we can pass on to our global customer base.
“This voyage is already well underway.”
Learn more about the TRANSACT Project on their website.