Market pressures and new environmental regulations are increasingly driving innovation in the maritime sector, but one shipping company decided to move early, ahead of those drivers, by implementing initiatives to improve operational efficiencies and reduce its environmental impact.
Officially set up in 2013, Awilco Eco Tankers is the tanker arm of the Oslo headquartered Awilco Group (owned by A.Wilhelmsen), tasked with developing companies within diverse shipping and offshore sectors. In 2016, the tanker owner took delivery of four VLCC crude oil tankers (299,000dwt) in joint ownership with Transportation Recovery Fund. The new vessels are “performing exceptionally well” according to Awilco technical director Christopher Andersen Heidenrich.
“By working in collaboration with the shipyard, engine and equipment manufacturers, we have reduced fuel consumption on the latest generation of eco tankers by 30 tons of diesel per day, compared with their predecessors,” says Heidenreich. “We are achieving significant fuel costs savings, and as a shipowner, further benefit from having unrivalled fuel efficiency in in the spot market.
“For us, effective transportation is about meeting transport demand at the lowest cost and with the least harm to the environment, so you can imagine that a vessel saving such an amount of fuel every day is good for the bottom line and the environment.”
According to Heidenreich, Awilco has managed to achieve efficiencies through the use of existing technology and the Eco ship design.
Built for optimisation
“Put simply, reduced fuel consumption comes from a good hydrodynamic hull form, an appropriately-sized engine and a good propeller. The most important elements in a strong hull form are the bow and stern. For slow-speed ships like tankers and bulkers, a slim, straight-bow ‘titanic style’ seems best. It costs the yards a bit more to build a vessel with better hydrodynamic design, but modern technology has removed several of the barriers the yards had previously, for instance, in relation to bending of plates and curvatures.”
Vessel speed is also a major contributing factor to emission levels, Heidenreich indicates. "All vessels are designed to be optimal at an agreed speed, so it ’ s important to know if your vessel is designed for the speed it actually sails. In our case, we found out that the vessels did not always sail in the sweet spot between 14 and 15 knots. We could easily cut fuel consumption by more than 5% by optimizing the vessel design. We’re also working with Jotun and looking at antifouling hull coatings, as this can affect a ship’s performance drastically. Indeed, quality coatings are helping to enhance performance and secure better charter rates than other VLCCs."
Economic and ecological necessity
But as well as optimising hydrodynamic efficiency, the question of onboard power usage presents a further avenue by which Awilco can streamline its vessels. “We are focusing on a number of ways to improve efficiency including power output and ship speed, and other means such as efficient sailing routes, optimising pumps and fitting LED lighting. Indeed, it’s both an economic and ecological necessity. For us it’s a matter of seeing the whole picture and taking the good ideas, products and equipment, and using them to achieve sustainable operations,” explains Heidenreich.
Awilco is also using performance management tools to monitor the performance of its vessels. “Experience shows that thanks to the use of innovative technologies and efficiency measures, fuel consumption and emissions can be significantly reduced,” says Heidenreich and adds, “However, there is a need to do regular performance monitoring on factors influencing ship performance, such as fuel consumption, speed loss, and trim optimisation. This helps us keep track of the vessel’s condition and how they are performing.”
Performance monitoring to the fore
Heidenreich believes the issue of performance monitoring is critical to sustainable operations and will be a principal requirement of ships of the future. “The shipping industry is changing, it’s becoming more complex and challenging with the stakeholders (banks, charterers and regulators) all pushing for efficiency and transparency,” he says. “Having proper performance monitoring systems and procedures in place is vitally important to meet the changing needs and requirements of the customers and market.
“The increased emphasis on environmental protection and improved operational practices in the industry is an opportunity to continually improve the overall integrity of the company’s operations. Owners and operators who take it seriously will differentiate themselves from their competitors,” opines Heidenreich.
“Collaboration with other industry partners makes this approach much easier,” Heidenreich concludes. “By working together and being creative, the performance improvements will not only benefit the environment, but also the shipowners’ fuel bill.”