Rolls-Royce Blue Ocean Team Looks to the Future

Esa Jokioinen (Photo: Rolls-Royce)

By Greg Trauthwein

Esa Jokioinen leads Rolls-Royce Marine's Blue Ocean Team, a
team that looks five to 10 years into the future to evaluate
evolving technology trends, helping to determine where the
company will invest. Jokioinen sat in
Maritime Reporter
& Engineering News' New York City headquarters to discuss
the look of maritime's future: All arrows point toward
digitalization.

When Esa Jokioinen and his Rolls-Royce Blue Ocean Team look at
future technology trajectory, he admits that there are some
things related to energy storage (batteries), new fuel and
exhaust cleaning that hold promise. But he is adamant that there
is not a bigger 'disruptive' technology trend than
digitalization.

"We have a new ship intelligence business unit at Rolls-Royce
that addressed three different things: Health Management
Solutions (of the ship including equipment, systems and the ship
itself); Optimization and Decision Support; and Autonomous and
Remote Operations."

A driver for increased digitalization onboard ships is akin to
land-based trends: the proliferation of better, cheaper
connectivity. But the benefit is cost savings and operational
efficiencies, too.

"Today I think the cost of connectivity for vessels is about 0.5
to 1.0% of total ship operation costs," said Jokioinen. With
increasing demand for connectivity, prices will come down but
overall the cost per ship should nudge above that 1% threshold as
increasing numbers of products and systems get connected.

While it can be expected that overall connectivity costs per
vessel and fleet will rise with increased usage, Jokioinen shares
the belief that the benefits and cost avoidance that comes as a
result will dwarf any additional costs. "We know that this is a
cost-conscious business, and no one is swimming in money,
particularly now," said Jokioinen. The current economy in the
maritime sector likely means that the evolution will mean a
multi-year ramp up, but Jokioinen said that in 10 years,
connectivity on every vessel will be significantly different than
today.

Lessons Learned

The marine industry often looks to the global aviation market as
a standard-setter of sorts, in terms of commonality of equipment
and efficiency throughout the logistic chain. In evaluating the
evolution of digitalization in the maritime sector, Jokioinen and
his team are taking cues from all transport sectors.

"There are many parallels to be found," particularly if you look
at what is happening in the road vehicle market and the evolution
of trucking toward autonomous convoy operations in the next 15
years. "They are working to drastically cut the cost of
transportation on wheels," which could result in a modal shift to
more cargo on the road. Taking it a step further, Jokioinen
reasons that to be truly effective you must consider the entire
logistics chain.

"We want to understand how digitalization affects the entire
ecosystem of shipping, and in fact the entire logistics chain. We
think that when you combine all of the data together, that will
yield the biggest efficiency gains (and cost savings)." A truly
transcendent effect of digitalization in the maritime sector
could hit directly home with one of the long-held traits of the
industry, which is best characterized by a majority of vessels
held by smaller operators with smaller fleets. As the
efficiencies of digitalization are magnified by tremendous
investment and gains in efficiency by the world's largest
companies, smaller outfits will be required to transform or
perish. "There might be an incentive for smaller ship owners to
establish a digital alliance, a digital marketplace, an 'Uber of
the Seas' if you will," said Jokioinen. He said that while a
shipowner's operational data is traditionally closely held and
proprietary, opening up to the new digital reality could open
many new efficiency gains as well.

Ship Design

Changes in operations are not the only ones facing the maritime
sector, as the evolution toward digitalization will open new
possibilities for autonomous and remote operations, changing with
it some of the common features on commercial boats and ships. "I
see more opportunities than challenges," said Jokioinen. There is
an opportunity when you take away all human support systems, for
example, as it simplifies the design and creates more space for
cargo. In addition there will be opportunities to optimize the
hull and the placement of machinery, as many of the current rules
are premised on human occupation of certain spaces and the safety
and comfort of the crew.

Challenges of unmanned ships start with reliability of machinery,
as there obviously is no one onboard to fix even simple problems.
More reliable or redundant machinery will add costs. Another
potential challenge lies outside of the realm of Rolls-Royce
Marine, of for that matter any single product/system supplier, in
that seamless digital integration will rely on common standards
for digital connectivity.

Despite the myriad of bridges to cross, Jokioinen and his
colleagues are secure in the continuation of the digitalization
trend and its overwhelmingly positive impact on efficiency and
cost. "I think on some smaller vessels, short sea shipping, you
will see demonstrators by the end of the decade."

Mar 8, 2017

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