How to establish a culture of energy efficiency in shipping

  • Insights

The maritime industry’s adoption of data-driven methodologies to enhance fleet performance is still a very recent phenomenon. In addition, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has gradually introduced long-term strategies in an attempt to reduce the environmental footprint of maritime operations – thereby intensifying commercial competition. Hence, the maritime industry has now to create and instill a culture of energy efficiency amongst all its participants, if they are to commit to the race.

Breaking existing barriers

Changing the existing cultural mindset can be an arduous task, especially in an industry in which there is a digital divide between the people who are accustomed to using emerging technologies and those who are reluctant to change. Typical example are the “traditional” shipowners, who are market-oriented and their actions depend on freight earnings. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to convince them to invest, for example, in high quality advanced antifouling paints when the freight market is low no matter what the return on investment is. That being said, a need for continuous validation for every energy efficiency measure emerges. The burden falls on performance companies and engineers who have to prove that every single step they take will ultimately bear fruit.

Undoubtedly, this is the reality that performance engineers are faced with. The developed complex models need to be secularized and explained in plain words to management and owners due to the fact that they are the only ones who can take actions to invest in energy efficiency. Should that not happen, the management will neglect to consider options such as propulsion improving devices and high-quality antifouling paints among others, but most importantly, it will neglect caring about everyday fleet and vessel performance.

Establishing an internal culture of energy efficiency in shipping

The benefit must be made clear and transparent throughout a lasting time interval. Naturally, this is not an easy task. It should start by building trust in the procedures and models by constantly validating their accuracy. This can be achieved through numerous ways such as research, experiments, predictions and comparisons across the fleet and especially across sister vessels. All processes must also include a strong financial incentive so as to maintain the interest among stakeholders – again with continuous validation.

Getting the crew’s support

The next critical role towards achieving energy efficiency in shipping is inevitably played by the vessel. Without the crew’s support all these actions are lost in vain. An indifferent crew will not, for instance, stop the purifiers, decrease the jacket temperature, isolate the fuel tanks from heating or alter the boiler start-stop pressure thresholds when the vessel remains idle (always under certain circumstances) to diminish the fuel consumption. Building an energy efficiency culture among the crew is a laborious job, as most of the time actions oriented towards energy efficiency may be perceived by them as actions that are contradicting safety and add workload, which are both facts greatly disliked by the crew. The only settlement on this conundrum lies in the cultivation of this culture by providing constant guidance and explanation to the crew, along with seminars and workshops on the matter. Therefore, the crew must be a supporter of the process and the head office should help the crew by generally reducing their workload when possible. In other words, energy efficiency and safety, can co-exist harmoniously.

Two prominent examples towards that end include the following:

  • Route optimisation: Using models to continuously optimize a vessel’s route with the latest weather updates may cause a slight extra operational overhead in order to maximise energy efficiency.
  • Auxiliary Engines: Introducing a threshold on which the vessel should start a second diesel generator is a very subjective issue for every chief engineer.

The above examples are common in shipping companies and can certainly enhance energy efficiency, but frequently remain untouched. The office should collaborate with the crew to solve these kinds of issues and convince them to adopt this mindset, resulting in gradual inculcation and ultimately the establishment of an internal culture focused on energy efficiency. It goes without saying that the need to ensure such plans must be robustly implemented and go beyond mere compliance, as people tend to follow routines. It is up to our collective will and hard work to transform this inclination from foe to ally and create energy efficient habits.

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Christos Papandreou, Energy Efficiency & Fleet Performance Engineer, Athenian Sea Carriers

Guest article by Christos Papandreou, Energy Efficiency & Fleet Performance Engineer, Athenian Sea Carriers

Christos Papandreou is Energy Efficiency & Fleet Performance Engineer in Athenian Sea Carriers. He holds a MΕng in Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens (2013). Having 7+ years of experience in fleet performance, he is responsible to help the company achieve its goals towards operational & technical efficiency and energy management. He has participated in numerous projects in performance monitoring of the vessels both through classic or modern AI/data driven methodologies.