Digital navigation, safety and optimisation solutions for LNG carriers

In this part of the Tech Talk series, Jeremy Crossman, General Manager, Sales Excellence & Coaching at Wärtsilä Marine Power, talks to three leading experts on navigation and bridge systems that can be applied to LNG carriers.

In this part of the Tech Talk series, Jeremy Crossman, General Manager, Sales Excellence & Coaching at Wärtsilä Marine Power, talks to three leading experts on navigation and bridge systems that can be applied to LNG carriers. Kay Dausendschoen, Head of Product - fleet operations and optimisation at Wärtsilä Voyage; Alexander Vehrenkamp, General Manager, Sales for navigation systems at Wärtsilä Voyage, and Captain Andre Kachura, HSSE superintendent with SCF Arctic projects, discuss how digital solutions can help improve safety, efficiency and sustainability in LNG carriers, even on the most challenging routes and icy conditions of the Arctic region.  

Overview of their webcast conversation

Captain Andre Kachura is an HSSE superintendent with SCF, the largest shipping company in Russia that operates more than 146 vessels. And over half of their fleet (83 vessels) are ice-class vessels, making them the largest operator of ice-class ships globally.  

Captain Kachura is responsible for the fleet’s safe navigation in the Arctic region’s icy conditions. “The company has been operating in the Russian Arctic since 2008, serving in major energy projects in the region such as Yamal LNG, Varandey, Prirazlomnoye, Novy Port. Our next big projects are Arctic LNG 2 and Obsky LNG. In terms of our long-term strategy, in 2025, SFC will be pioneering adoption of LNG as a clean fuel. We now have six Aframax type crude oil tankers. Five more vessels are under construction. We also have 18 Arc7 ice-class LNG carriers under construction,” informs the captain. 

Just glimpses of the Arctic region are enough to know that the Captain and his team sail in some of the toughest operating environments for LNG carriers in the world. 

Operating challenges in the harshest conditions 

Talking about the routing optimisation’s safety constraints, the Captain says, “Typically, restrictions are related to the ship's demands in six particular sub streams: ship's cargo (for example, LNG's motion), ship's technical conditions, the weather on-route, safe ship speed, traffic separation scheme (TSS) and ice-conditions.” 

Here, the shoreside plays a vital role in assisting, planning and operations of the vessels.

Shoreside has more information from different sources and may be more experienced in those conditions due to a combination of factors and inputs from all other sources. So, the shoreside is like a centre of competence.

- Captain Andre Kachura, HSSE superintendent with SCF Arctic projects

That said, finding a balance between safety and efficiency planning is always tricky. “The balance comes in to play when we have to plan a safe but efficient route to deliver the cargo on time with optimal fuel consumption,” says the captain. 

Wärtsilä Voyage has some clean and cost-efficient solutions for Captain, his team and other LNG carriers traversing global waters. 

Finding the right route and rhythm for LNG carriers 

Kay Dausendschoen, Head of Product - fleet operations and optimisation at Wärtsilä Voyage, agrees with the captain.

Our different digital solutions work in different domains that can help shipping companies operate more efficiently and safely.

- Kay Dausendschoen, Head of Product - fleet operations and optimisation, Wärtsilä Voyage

“Savings are also generated in different areas: It could be the fuel, the engine, the liquefaction unit, the hull and the propeller’s condition, and routing and speed,” says Dausendschoen. “But the largest lever among those is choosing the right route and choosing an appropriate speed on that route.”

“Routing and speed selection is always related to operational boundary conditions. And every optimisation is a balance between safety and performance. And that is certainly true for every vessel type but in particular LNG carriers.”

Bridge Quantum of the Seas

They are overly complex vessels carrying dangerous cargo, and therefore, safety becomes a prominent question. So, how does Wärtsila Voyage support this? “For example, with tools -- like our Fleet Operations Solution (FOS) -- that make voyage planning easy by automatically choosing nautical safe to sail routes.” “These routes are most efficient under given boundary conditions. With our tools crew is assisted in decision making. So, choosing the right route that is safe to sail and efficient under given conditions.”

Roping in shoreside to increase efficiencies

“Shoreside also plays a vital role in increasing efficiency and safety. All tools and features used onboard are also connected to the shore side. The situation is shared across all phases of the voyage -- starting with the planning phase, through the execution phase, and until post voyage analysis and benchmarking. Also, ETA information can be shared or exchanged with ports and terminals with our Navi-Port functionality.”  


Diving deeper into the safety domain during- and post-voyage, Dausendschoen says, “We can share all information from the bridge and the navigation network with the shore side. In addition, there are proactive checks and alerts of critical situations. So, the shore side is notified if something goes wrong. After the voyage, the data is stored and can be analysed for performance improvement and incident investigation. In case there was an incident -- a near miss or something like that -- we can export the data into our simulation environment. This helps train the crew on critical situations based on a real-life situation and improve performance over time.” 

Navigating safely in all conditions

Apart from efficiency, the safety of the voyage is also paramount in commercial shipping.

With our NACOS Platinum navigation system offering, we have all the tools in hand for the navigator to improve situational awareness and boost navigation safety.

- Alexander Vehrenkamp, General Manager, Sales for navigation systems, Wärtsilä Voyage

“We extend all our navigation system offering with advanced camera and sensor technology that is mainly aimed to enhance situational awareness in challenging situations. Among the multiple problems to solve, the navigator has to deal with the issue of mental rotation. Meaning, how to translate the impression you get from your screens (shown on the radar system and the chart system nowadays) and align it with the visual image that the operator has when looking out of the window.” 

Furthermore, we have ever-growing vessel sizes which have more confined areas to operate. “With large vessels, operators especially face the problem of very limited visibility. We have introduced an augmented reality-based docking support tool, which assists in multiple challenging operations. The system comprises an array of cameras surrounding the vessel, which give a 360-degree view of the environment.”

Improving situational awareness with digital eyes

“There are three primary use cases for the system. First, in open water navigation, we can use the system to augment a camera picture with navigation data gathered from the chart system, radar, and navigation sensors. And the typical use case is that vessel that has a critical CPA TCPA will be highlighted in a specific colour. With a mouse click, the operator can gather additional information on those particular targets.”

“Second, when operating in confined waters, we often have very limited visibility from a wing. The camera array, therefore, also provides a bird's eye view application. The bird's eye view is a scaled artificial silhouette of the vessel surroundings, which is stitched together from the various cameras providing a real-life camera-view of what's around the ship -- and this has a range of up to 200 meters. So, all the physical objects around the vessel are clearly visible.

NACOS banner

“Finally, while docking the ship, we use this camera array to have a calibrated range grid around the vessel to give you precise information about the relative distance to the pier and the closing speed.”

NACOS also increases the situational awareness of the crew by simply reducing the workload. “This is achieved by having a completely human-centric way of operating the system. We try to minimise the operator’s working environment to the absolute minimum while providing full access to all secondary functions like window wipers, navigation lights, foghorn system, etc., from a unified navigation system device. So, we can interface with multiple third-party systems and allow operation out of the primary navigation device. By doing so, we simply give the operator the possibility to operate all bridge devices from a single central system without running around dimming panels and simply leaving more time for the primary task, which is safe navigation,” explains Vehrenkamp.

Co-creating concepts with the customers

All this is done in close cooperation with the customers. “Where needed, we design the complete bridge environment according to our customers' specific manning concepts and modes operating the best. We do this by the latest technologies like virtual reality, where we can immerse into the bridge layout and get immediate feedback from our customers and design the bridge carefully around their needs.”

“We usually bring together a group of experts composed of our bridge design team, navigation experts, and the customers’ experts (usually nautical personnel). And then, we do a round of semi-structured interviews. Based on these interviews, we try to learn, e.g., how the vessel operated and the manning concept? We translate this into a preliminary hypothesis. Then, based on this hypothesis, we produce a virtual prototype of the wheelhouse arrangement. That wheelhouse arrangement is then tested with the customer in virtual-reality environments, allowing deep immersion into the prototype. We then take the feedback, make iterations, and at some point, we come to a design freeze. This also makes the final process of engineering the consoles much smoother because we have already considered all the customer’s inputs from the very beginning.”

Automating systems to reduce waste

Lastly, NACOS Platinum navigation systems can also bring additional improvements in voyage efficiency.

Today, data is gathered from ship to shore by manually sending emails in many cases. We try to improve this process by automating that feedback process when sending data onshore.

- Alexander Vehrenkamp, General Manager, Sales for navigation systems, Wärtsilä Voyage

Also, there's a lot of waste happening on ships. “For instance, we have a quick start of the voyage, and then we have to loiter at the very end because the captain is afraid, he cannot be in time at his destination. We have unnecessary equipment running like auxiliary engines or boilers,” he added. 

“With NACOS Platinum's automation and navigation applications, we can use the FOS voyage optimisation and energy optimisation by simply combining the hardware platform with the FOS software optimisation. The result will be a tool that optimises the voyage by sending data ashore, processing this data, and sending it back to the ship. And we have a navigation system that will automatically execute the optimised voyage profile. We also have an automation system deeply integrated with this software optimisation to turn off unnecessary consumptions based on the energy and route profile. This leads to a more efficient and safer journey.” 

This is part five of six tech talks into different LNG carrier business aspects.


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