Digital Tech Turning Around Marine Prospects in Uncertain Waters

Digital solutions help to de-risk decisions, bring practical, actionable insights into vessel and fleet performance and provide proven opportunities to optimize operations in a sustainable way. (Image: GE Marine)

By Tim Schweikert

The start of every year calls for time to reflect on the last.
The offshore and marine industry can look back on 2016 as one of
the most bruising in recent memory. The downturn has been tough
and drawn out, with increased divestment, more stringent
environmental regulations and a prolonged shipbuilding cycle that
has resulted in overcapacity.

However, challenges can be harnessed as a force for progress. The
downcycle has pushed the industry to reshape its competitive
landscape, probably a change that has been overdue. Looking
forward, 2017 will not be an easy year; but recovery is on the
horizon and it will be a time for critical decision-making and
planning for the future.

Crucial to this will be ensuring fleet readiness, including how
and when stacked assets can be cost-effectively reactivated.
Ensuring optimal fleet performance to control costs and
compliance with environmental regulations while reducing the
level of reporting, where possible, will also remain top of the
agenda for most ship owners and operators.

In a market that is still volatile, the timing of these decisions
will be a challenge. The worst-case scenario is that, as an
industry, we are not ready to make these decisions, or we are not
adequately prepared to run with opportunities as the market
recovers. It may be much talked about, but the time really is
right for the digital revolution in offshore as the industry
heads towards a new start. Digital solutions help to de-risk
decisions, bring practical, actionable insights into vessel and
fleet performance and provide proven opportunities to optimize
operations in a sustainable way.

Breaking down data silos and data complexity are the first
crucial steps. Through embedded sensors that enable the
collection of data on critical vessel systems, using software
analytics it is now possible to gain insights on future
performance. Through analyzing these insights, vessel operators
can anticipate and address problems before they cause an
operational disruption.

Thanks to advanced algorithms and a strong data-processing
capability, digital analytics tools can map out a "digital twin"
of a physical asset-be it a propulsion motor, an engine or an
entire vessel-based on its normal operational data profile.
Drawing a comparison between the "digital twin" and the vessel's
real-time data, digital software is able to spot inefficiencies
as well as detect potential failure, up to weeks ahead. This
gives operators time to mitigate potential problems in advance,
enhancing a vessel's operational efficiency through reduced
downtime and increased productivity.

The predictivity will also enable the industry to switch from
calendar-based planned maintenance to condition-based
maintenance, saving companies significant maintenance
expenditures. Insights on the performance of a critical piece of
equipment will allow tailoring maintenance to a specific piece of
equipment. This will assure that maintenance actions are only
implemented when needed to assure optimal reliability and reduced
life cycle costs.

The access to real-time insights from vessels enables onshore
experts, no matter where they are in the world, to remotely
diagnose problems and advise on next steps immediately. This
approach not only provides vessel owners with fast access to the
knowledge of experts globally, but can also save a significant
amount of time, as one engineer, for example, is able to analyze
and diagnose multiple ships concurrently from a centralized
control center, reducing the need for multiple specialists
onboard vessels. With the backdrop of a skills shortage looming
in the industry, this connectivity maximizes the reach of an
individual's expertise and can help ease the impact of downsized

Data analytics tools also enable energy-efficient operations, as
software can forecast weather and wave conditions, helping inform
the heading and operational mode with optimized fuel consumption,
a crucial advantage in complying with increased environmental
regulations. With the objective of capitalizing on this emerging
digital opportunity, GE has developed SeaStream* Insight asset
performance management solution. Working in collaboration with
Maersk Drilling, GE will help deploy SeaStream Insight on one of
Maersk Drilling's rigs with an aim of increasing productivity
through big data and reducing maintenance costs by up to 20
percent. This partnership is a prime example of how digital
technologies are shaping the future of the offshore marine
industry. While uncertainty may be the new norm in the marine
industry, through digital technologies, we can seize the
opportunity to lead the transformation of the marine industry.

The Author

Tim Schweikert is President & CEO, GE
Marine Solutions

Mar 9, 2017

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