ABB takes digitisation out onto the seas

Digital technologies are transforming every industry, and the cruise and ferry market is no exception. Marcus Högblom from ABB tells Lindsay James more

ABB takes digitisation out onto the seas
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

The biggest challenge facing today’s cruise and ferry operators is building a vessel that will meet the demand for the next 25 years in terms of performance, maintainability and efficiency. That’s according to Marcus Högblom, vice president of global sales for the Azipod and Passenger Ship segment at ABB.

“We’re helping our customers to meet this challenge in a number of ways,” he explains. “At ABB we believe that an electrical vessel is a smart vessel because it provides a platform that’s flexible for digitisation and many different sources of energy. We are already today integrating batteries and fuel cells to our propulsion and distribution systems and our collaborative operations centres are connected to over 700 vessels providing remote service and diagnostics.”

Achieving better connectivity between ship and shore means that monitoring and maintenance, and even operational decision making, can be coordinated in real time. “ABB has invested heavily in this regard,” Högblom says. “We’re devoting time and resources to ensure we have shoreside expertise, analytics firepower, software solutions and engineering availability to provide 24/7 support from collaborative operation centres that support troubleshooting, maintenance planning, benchmarking and interventions based on predictive diagnostics.

“Indeed, ABB is able to provide a complete, integrated solution from bridge to propeller, supplied, integrated and maintained throughout the vessel’s lifetime by ABB,” Högblom continues. “Moreover, we have a range of unique products like Azipod propulsion, a best in class propulsion system, that can meet any needs – whether it’s breaking two-metre-thick ice in the Yamal peninsula, or powering the world’s largest and most luxurious cruise liners.”

The Azipod propulsion system has earned an enviable reputation in the industry. The latest iteration – the Azipod XL – has been dubbed the world’s most efficient electric propulsion system for marine vessels and has won multiple awards. “Azipod XL further increases vessel fuel efficiency to an unprecedented level of up to 20% compared to modern shaft line propulsion systems,” Högblom says. “The efficiency gain of the new version is achieved by a unique nozzle system that accelerates the water flow into the propeller to increase thrust, and by redesigning the thruster for reduced water resistance.”

Since the first installation 25 years ago, Azipod propulsion systems have accumulated more than 14 million running hours with an availability of 99.8%, saving over 700,000 tons of fuel and helping to reduce the maritime carbon dioxide footprint. “An industry standard for the marine industry, Azipod propulsion is a gearless steerable propulsion system with the electric drive motor located in a submerged pod outside the ship hull. Having 360-degree manoeuvrability, it is used to steer and drive a broad variety of vessels at the same time,” Högblom explains. “Azipod propulsion features include the capability for advanced condition monitoring utilising ABB’s concept of the internet of things, services and people (IoTSP) and its integrated operations centres for marine, continuously monitoring equipment and performance parameters of vessels across the globe.”

In addition to the leading propulsion system, ABB can provide a broad range of digital services. A great example of this kind of solution is marine software system, OCTOPUS. “This is a unique product portfolio for performance management in marine operations,” says Högblom. “It reduces fuel consumption and emissions, and increases availability and safety on a single vessel, or on a whole fleet of vessels. The system is able to gather vessel data from an unlimited number of sensors. Depending on client wishes, basic configurations can be set-up for Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan compliant fuel monitoring, all the way to having a comprehensive insight of the vessel’s overall energy flow and distribution of various consumers on the vessel.”

OCTOPUS offers support in minimising the overall energy costs for individual vessels and whole fleets. “It compares and analyses historical and operational data, then calculates and advises on improvements using easy-to-understand displays,” Högblom says.

While Högblom is confident that ABB’s current portfolio of solutions will stand the test of time for many years ahead, he is also excited about the future. “Almost everything will be diagnosed remotely and many faults will be fixed remotely so that operation can continue,” he says. “As technologies like machine learning, the internet of things and the cloud continue to evolve, it will be possible to combine onboard automation technology with information technology and analytics in the cloud.”

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