How Eagle Bulk Shipping is Using Big Data

(Photo: Eagle Bulk Shipping)

By Greg Trauthwein

It may come as some surprise, but Eagle Bulk Shippng is a
progressive leader in the use of big data to monitor and manage
its fleet. Jonathan Dowsett, Senior Fleet Performance Manager,
explains in a recent
interview
with
Maritime Reporter TV.

For our readers not familiar, who is Eagle Bulk
Shipping?

Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. is a US based owner and operator of 40
Supramax size bulk carriers. Both commercial and technical
management is handled in-house. We are the third largest owner of
Supramax bulk carriers in the world.

And as Senior Fleet Performance Manager, what precisely
is your job?

My job is to look at all kinds of data and to leverage that data
into intelligence for Eagle, to help make better decisions more
often. We are optimizing everything, from routing, to the type of
anti-fouling paint we put on the hull, to when we dry dock our
ships. You name it … if we can collect relevant data we can try
to model the decision space and use data to reach a decision
rather than a feeling or convention. My job is very much about
using data to make decisions.

The current conundrum we see is too much data. What do
you do with the data once you have it?

Onboard our ships we are collecting information on everything
from ship speed to weather to fuel consumption. We can even look
at more detailed things like specific pressures in specific
cylinders on the main engine. All this data is sent shore-side
regularly; once it’s shore-side, we are combining it with other
datasets like hindcast weather data and pulling it through many
different models… models for optimal fuel consumption at a
specific speed, draft, and weather conditions, for example. This
allows us to compare the fuel consumption we expect from the ship
against what the ship is telling us it’s consuming.

So how is that information ‘actionable?’

In that example, when you have a difference in fuel consumption,
you immediately have actionable information and can start to dig
into the underlying data to determine where the difference stems
from.

So how does your operation look on the shore side of
things?

On the office side we have operators who are giving speed
instructions to the ships. In the past it would be one speed or
another, but by leveraging the data we’re receiving from the ship
and combining it with voyage specific financial data, it becomes
clear that there are a full range of speed instructions and a
specific speed instruction that optimizes the outcome of the
voyage. This is getting very detailed, but if you do this enough
times with enough parameters, you have these little savings that
can add up into a very large impact fleet wide over the course of
a year.

As I’m sure you can attest, times are tough for many
sectors in shipping at the moment. How do you see this approach
as beneficial to your business?

Yes, it is a bad time for bulk carriers and bulk operators, so
you need to differentiate yourself. A critical way to do this is
to embrace business intelligence. This is the way the industry is
going. If you’re not going to embrace business intelligence and
performance management then you will be left by the wayside. You
will lack the intelligence that others have. The Containership
and Cruise ship sectors embraced this 5-10 years ago, and they
really have seen the light. I don’t think there is a single one
of those owners that is not doing this.

From your experience, what do you see as potential
impediments to adoption of “Big Data?

Now this has cascaded to where tanker owners and bulk owners are
doing it. It is tremendous change. Shipping is very conservative,
emotionally driven, with people operating as they always have,
and now you have to embrace this new technology and this new
approach which suggests that perhaps you shouldn’t simply conduct
your operations as you always have: the data shows you should do
this, or a model shows that you can make a little more money by
doing it this way.

I think the people and the companies that are not willing to
adopt this approach run the risk of falling far behind and being
left by the wayside.

There is much talk on big data, connectivity, the
Internet of Things and autonomous operations. When you look down
the road, what do you see?

I think you already hear a lot about big data and autonomous
ships, but I won’t go that far. Instead I’m more interested in
the short term extrapolation of where we are going. Instead of
having the crew onboard send in data once every 24 hours, you’re
going to see it coming in multiple times per second. We’re going
to be able to make corrective actions in real time. Instead of
having a ship operating at a sub-optimal speed or a sub-optimal
trim for a week, it’ll be two minutes and the office will realize
this is something we could improve. It will go back to the crew
almost immediately so that the crew is seeing it in real time. So
I think you’re going to see a much shortened time horizon from
the time it takes to leverage data into good decision making.
Going beyond that, you’re going to have so much data coming in
and so many models to pull it apart that we’re going to have
insights into operational and technical inefficiencies that we
don’t even know about today. All of this information moving in
real time between ship and shore is also going to open up
exciting predictive capabilities so that continuous improvement
will move from being reactive to proactive.

Jonathan Dowsett is a graduate of Webb Institute with a
Bachelors – Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and the
University of Cambridge with a Masters – Engineering for
Sustainability. Previously he was with Maersk in Copenhagen.

Mar 7, 2017

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