Wärtsilä's solutions help operators monitor the energy efficiency of their vessles
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.
What should be considered when thinking about energy efficiency during a vessel’s lifecycle?
Energy efficiency needs to be kept in mind when starting to draft the business case – it is not something that comes along in the eleventh hour. The same principle applies whether we are talking about cruise ships, merchant ships or passenger ships – or a power plant for that matter. It is natural that newbuilds can be made more energy efficient, but much can also be done for the existing fleet by upgrading vessels and optimising their operations and maintenance.
The earlier in the process the decisions are made, the better the results. It is not only one decision, but a series of decisions that affects the total amount of energy the vessel consumes during its entire lifecycle. And all these decisions depend on one another. Viking Line’s flagship vessel Viking Grace is an excellent example of a holistic approach to energy efficiency. Viking Grace, operating in the northern Baltic Sea, is currently the most environmentally friendly cruise ship in the world. This is mainly due to the use of LNG fuel and efficient hull design. Several other solutions ranging from pumps, fans and boilers to converting waste heat to electricity, and even lighting and elevators, contribute to making Viking Grace more energy efficient.
What recent regulations are driving ship owners and operators to focus on energy and environmental efficiency?
Recently introduced maritime regulations are driving the whole shipping industry towards significant improvements in vessels’ total energy efficiency. In 2013, the International Maritime Organization introduced regulations to increase the energy efficiency of new ship designs and create a framework for the management of energy efficient operations for all new and existing ships. For example, the Energy Efficiency Design Index for newbuilds mandates improvements for hull design and machinery. Likewise, the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan requires ship owners to have a plan for improving the operational energy efficiency of each of the ships in their existing fleet.
Regulations are naturally important and drive the change for more energy-efficient operations – since there is no choice. But an equally important driver is the economical side, which a smart ship operator cannot afford to overlook. For example, even small speed reductions can reduce energy consumption considerably. One retrofit project we carried out showed that taking a holistic approach to energy efficiency with engine tuning, new propeller design and an optimised operating profile resulted in 14% savings in fuel consumption.
What options are there for making a vessel energy efficient in the different phases of its lifecycle?
During the planning and design phase there are critical choices to be made that impact the performance of the vessel. The primary consideration is the vessel’s speed and optimisation of the hull line. Another important factor is selecting the fuel to be used – whether it is heavy fuel, gas or a combination. In newbuilding projects, the decision on the main propulsion system is also important. This is based on the kind of power, performance and speed needed and on the route operated. Selection of the auxiliary power production system defines how power is produced onboard. Finally, all choices made on the power consumers onboard also impact the vessel’s energy efficiency.
When we come to the operation phase of the vessel, energy efficiency depends on what technologies and services we have for optimising the ship’s efficiency. Even small changes in operating conditions can lead to substantial changes in energy consumption, making it important to continuously monitor and optimise the operations of your vessel and entire fleet. Potential areas of efficiency improvements include time spent in port, economical voyage planning, weather routing, active speed optimisation and maintenance choices, meaning that we look at the best economical lifetimes of components rather than their maximal technical lifetime. These decisions entail trade-offs, but it’s important to make sure you make the right ones. Digital technologies make this easier, since service providers can collect and analyse data from the installation and remotely monitor its performance.
What are shipowners’ and operators’ key concerns?
When ship operators and owners are thinking about where to invest and how to use their budgets, it’s always about improving efficiency, reliability or safety. One key concern is the operational costs. It is crucial in today’s world that every dollar that can be saved is saved. As mentioned before, investing in energy efficiency gives good opportunities to gain savings in operational costs.
Oil prices are at a historically low level Why should companies still invest in energy efficiency?
Despite oil prices being low, the fuel bill is still the biggest one in the pile or at least in the top three. You can save relatively more on a big bill, which is why energy efficiency is always on the agenda. The fuel bill is one thing, but of course reduced emissions and a more sustainable brand image are worth investing in too.
Sustainability and environmental issues are increasingly important to consumers. How does this impact shipowners and operators?
Sustainability and environmental issues are of interest to many stakeholders of shipowners and operators. As it is important for the owner of the cargo and for the end customer of the cruise line, it is also important for the owner and operator of those vessels. Sustainability used to be a ‘nice to have’ thing. We have come far from those days and now it is a ‘need to have’ or even a ‘must have’. Legislation, values and the image of the company drive this change. In the cruise sector, environmental values play a much bigger role than a few years back. Passengers do consider them when choosing between cruise companies for their vacations. Legislation-wise we have Emission Control Areas where, for example, the sulphur content of the fuel is restricted, so legislation is also going forward, hand in hand with the values.
How can sustainability improve the business of shipowners and operators?
If you invest in energy efficiency and business operations become more economic and efficient, it keeps giving back – both economically and environmentally. Not only are you saving in operating costs – the fuel and energy bill – but you keep attracting the customers of today and tomorrow by being a sustainable ship operator.