More than a numbers game

With 2020 fuel price increases on the cards owners and operators need to look at every way to cut bunker bills, writes Andreas Glud from Hempel.

With a year to go until the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2020 sulphur (SOx) emissions regulation coming into force, it is time for action. As in life, it is sometimes easier to put the big issues on the backburner, to sit in hope that with time, the burden may ease. But shipowners cannot afford to wait any longer before taking decisive action to buffer themselves against the fact that their operating expenses will rise from 2020, and life may well get that little bit harder without taking the necessary precautions now.

It is certainly true that selecting the most economically viable fuelling solution to meet each vessel’s trading requirements and capabilities is the first concern in meeting the MARPOL Annex IV 0.5% SOx emissions requirements. What closely follows is taking every available measure to build efficiency into operations in order to further reduce operational costs.

Thankfully, there are now a plethora of options available to owners and operators for achieving this end. From more fuel-efficient engines to digital tools for optimising voyages, each delivers a measure of efficiency gain. Choosing a hull coating which reduces drag, minimises downtime, enhances physical durability and protects assets for the longest period of time should be the first go-to for every shipowner and operator, as the efficiency gains translate directly into cost savings.

Adding to the cost

If we think about efficiency savings on a sliding scale, simply put, a ship’s hull is its largest feature, and therefore presents a broad canvass for biofouling, which clings to the hull surface adding weight, friction and burden. Fouling can dramatically affect a ship’s hydrodynamics and the frictional resistance from the roughness caused by slime on a ship’s hull can result in an increase in fuel consumption. Shells, barnacles, oysters and mussels on the hull can lead to a huge drop of 18% in efficiency (on average over five years), as the ship burns more fuel just to maintain a given speed. This problem is exacerbated on vessels with unpredictable trading patterns and longer idle periods.

With excessive build-up, ships require more power and more fuel to move; effectively offsetting any gains that may have been delivered by a smart engine or digital application for reducing time in port. In this sense, efficiency savings come down to numbers; owners and operators need to select a range of efficiency solutions that, cumulatively, deliver savings without negating the positive benefits of each other.

Understanding the arithmetic

To operate at optimal efficiency, ship operators and managers need to be able to carefully monitor and control the fuelling requirements, energy consumption and operational performance of each vessel. This requires tangible evidence of how a vessel operates against set criterion or key performance indicators (KPI’s) and baseline measurements for the vessel, which can be compared over time and in comparison, with its equivalent competition.

More so, the insight is gained by analysing how performance is improved or inhibited by control factors such as the operating environment or the application of performance enhancing technologies. With eco-efficiency technologies for commercial vessels, data is key. This is very much the case with hull coating solutions.

Working out the equation

Using intelligent software and working closely with coatings experts, long-term trends can be monitored using in-service KPI’s to develop and deliver an optimum protective coatings solution for that vessel. Importantly, the empirical measurements that result can be utilised to showcase a vessel’s performance to customers, financiers and other stakeholders; to show how a vessel stacks up against its competition. This data intelligence is evidence of the latent efficiency savings to be made (and where additional technologies can complement to deliver overall operational cost savings).

The efficiency calculation sounds simple, because it is. There are solutions to meeting the challenge of 2020, and with careful consideration and action, this is a problem that is far from insurmountable for an industry that has continued to adapt to change. We know with considerable certainty that fuel costs (X) will rise from 2020, but we do not know by how much (+ Y), but this gain can be offset through technologies that deliver tangible reductions in operational costs (Z).

X + Y – Z = solution

It may seem daunting now, and yes, there will be some pains in the short term as shipowners and operators have to spend in order to save in the longer term. But again, as in life, the industry will look back on this time and realise that it was all worth it; all part of growing and developing into a stronger, more robust industry ready to take on whatever challenges time will inevitably bring.

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