A growing choice of fleet management software is helping manage people, ships and their operations safely and efficiently.
(This story, written by Jim Romeo, originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Marine Log magazine)
Inside the control room aboard a well-connected Royal Caribbean Cruise ship, five flat-screen monitors hang on a bulkhead above a long workstation with about 10 terminals anchored in. Each has a camera’s view of some designated area being monitored.
Below these monitors, two crewmembers watch terminals displaying data while their chief engineer, Yannis Chadandroulis, sits in the foreground. They call up graphs and metrics, open on-screen menus, select from the choices and press return, then watch Wärtsilä’s fleet management software do the rest.
The technology captures about 7 billion data points per day. They use it to measure and monitor everything from the ship’s energy consumption to weather and optimal routing, enabling them to steam along efficiently, full-speed ahead.
Shipboard fleet management software is joining the digital revolution to use data and technology to build efficiency, safety and optimize operations.
Managing a fleet means managing people. Technology helps manage them and all they do. The Houston-based ABS Group offers the NS Voyage Manager that utilizes a Web interface to manage crew and onshore operations, personnel and may subsequently plan and monitor all events associated with a voyage. The software is multifunctional and intended to expedite shipboard operations during a voyage.
“Customer feedback and customer experience are really key in our software development and software design,” says Kashif Mohammed, software development manager, ABS Nautical Systems. “Simple, powerful and reliable. We stick to that particular model.”
It is a useful reporting tool, streaming efforts to report on spills or other issues affecting environmental compliance. It may also be used for charter party compliance and vessel performance analysis. Because it can automatically capture data, it becomes a good source of information about crew performance. Automated data capture reduces the crew workload and improves operational efficiency overall.
“Over the past several years we’ve seen the majority of companies in the industry transition off paper and into digital systems,” says Nolan Barclay, CEO of Helm Operations, a firm located in Victoria, B.C., Canada, that provides a software platform to assist in vessel maintenance, regulatory compliance (including Subchapter M), operations, personnel management and more. “While that transition isn’t over yet, the crest of the wave has passed.
What we’re seeing now, however, is the wave of companies looking to optimize their business based on the new data they’re getting, and even expanding their collection efforts to more and more systems. In our case, we’re seeing companies focus heavily on the reporting aspects of our system and better extracting and making decisions based on the data. For us, that means helping companies better visualize and understand the trends they’re seeing, as well as helping our users benchmark their performance against the wider industry.”
Managing Vessel Operations
Within the wider maritime industry, ship owners and operators can generate key performance indicators and drive decisions based on a ship’s route, weather, fuel consumption and other parameters; they can utilize mobile apps to interact with the data and its indications on the go. Such regular information exchanges between ship and home office with a robust voyage management system. Such a system possibly could have prevented problems associated with the El Faro sinking with a host of reporting features that voyage management technology offers.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in their El Faro findings, recommended that “increased reporting and improved transmission of meteorological and oceanographic data from vessels at sea would significantly improve the availability of vital information to enhance weather awareness, forecasting and advisory services aimed at improving mariner safety.”
The NTSB also recommended that Tote Services Inc., the operator of El Faro, “institute a formal company process to provide independent weather routing, passage-planning assistance and vessel position monitoring.”
These and other findings could arguably be abetted with a comprehensive set of technology tools and a voyage management system with appropriate features.
Orion Marine Concepts offers numerous software solutions for different facets of ship management, including ship voyage operation as well as other events such as inspection performance indicators, documentation management and crew personnel management.
Its performance management software is multifunctional and, like many others in this market segment, helps monitor and manage key performance metrics regarding vessel operations. It also syncs with a mobile app so dispersed workers have visibility into the software outputs via the cloud.
It may provide arrival times, fuel consumption, charter compliance, weather, schedules and other information. It affords visibility and control by leadership and managers from anywhere, at any time, thanks to a mobile app.