Bibby COO warns: Eco ships won't arrive overnight

Simon-BarhamMARCH 25, 2013 — The eco ship revolution may be on the horizon but the new ships will not replace the existing fleet overnight and meantime ship managers are under increasing pressure to come up with solutions to save shipowners money when it comes to fuel efficiency and operational expediency.

That was the message from Simon Barham, Chief Operating Officer at Bibby Ship Management, speaking at last week's CMA Shipping 2013 event in Stamford, CT.

While slow steaming is an option, it can put shipowners at an operational disadvantage, said Barham, noting that "not running ships' engines at optimum speed in itself brings its own maintenance problems."

"The eco ships are coming but they won't be here overnight," Barham said. "The existing fleet is relatively young and a high percentage of the vessels that are out there today are those which need to be managed efficiently. Can we manage existing ships more efficiently? Yes, we can. We've seen already the SEEMPS (Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan) — there are a lot of people who are offering SEEMPs off the shelf and not actually looking at what they can do for them as owners."

"There are other options and alternative methods of reducing fuel consumption," Barham continued. "For example, design modifications can be made in dry docks that improve a vessel's overall performance. Slight changes in hull forms or optimizing trim and the like will work on certain vessels but not on others, yet the solution can also be something as straightforward as better weather routeing. Good ship management can impact a voyage and can work to reduce any potential over expenditure on fuels.

"Managing ships is all about teamwork and you need to get the buy-in across the board — especially from the guys onboard the ships. It is essential that that the Masters and the Chief Engineers understand what we are trying to achieve here.

On ECAs (Emission Control Areas) and the cost-related ability of ships to switch fuel as they move in and out of these areas, Barham commented: "It must be said that switching on to low sulfur fuel is not a problem, but switching on to gas oil is and that will need some modifications to the vessel. The main engines themselves are not designed to burn light fuels. That will mean that changes will have to be made — pumps will have to be examined, even the design of some ships will have to be looked at because it is debatable whether some ships will actually have enough space to carry the additional bunker fuel tanks.

"As a lot of the existing fleet was built in the late 1990s or early 2000s, many will only have a couple of bunker tanks. They're already carrying heavy fuel and light fuel and now they're going to have to carry gas oil. There's going to be a lot of conversions going on. There is a cost element involved there as well.

"As a word of warning are the savings actually to do with all the eco designs that are coming out?, Yes to a certain extent they are, but possibly not as much as some of the shipyards will want to make out and I for one am skeptical that all the promises of lower consumption will in fact become a reality. I believe that ship managers will play an important role in controlling consumptions, not only on existing ships but also on the eco ships of the future."

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