Caterpillar has unveiled five methods to help lower operating costs and improve efficiences on board cruise ships, plus other vessels.
Burn less fuel. Run more cleanly. Keep uptime and reliability high. Do it all while keeping costs down, the propulsion engineering company said. .
For cruise ship operators today, it seems as though everything on that list is of top priority. If new vessels are being built, advantage can be taken of the latest features designed to address these issues. However, what about existing ships — how are these goals met without investing in upgrades and retrofits?
Two technologies from Caterpillar are available. First, Multi-Engine Optimizer (MEO), is overlaid on a vessel’s existing power management system, then uses proprietary performance maps and control algorithms to advise the system on which engines should operate and at what load. Second, Asset Intelligence (AI), is a total vessel monitoring solution that collects and analyses data from on board systems, then provides recommendations on when and how to take action.
Both MEO and AI are easy to integrate into both existing vessels and new ships, with minimal intervention and time required, Caterpillar claimed.
The company listed five ways an operation can benefit:
- Decrease fuel consumption
It takes an incredible amount of fuel to power today’s ships — more than a billion dollars’ worth annually for some of the larger cruise lines. What if you could save 2-3% or more of your fuel bill, potentially tens of millions of dollars, without making a single change to your engines or your vessel operations?
MEO makes this possible by using fuel maps to determine the best combination of engines and enabling dynamic asymmetrical load allocation — a fancy way of describing the ability to operate those engines at independent load factors.
Precise fuel flow measuring for each individual engine results in the lowest possible fuel consumption for the entire system.
AI helps reduce fuel burn by analysing fuel and energy performance on board ships, identifying operational practices and component maintenance issues that are increasing a fuel bill and recommending ways to address them.
2) Lower emissions
The current cruise ship order book includes a significant number of new vessels with LNG as their primary fuel source.
This approach dramatically reduces emissions, as LNG-powered engines emit virtually no soot or sulfur oxides and far less NOx and CO2 than those that burn diesel.
This doesn’t help existing vessels. Re-powering a cruise ship is difficult, due to the location of the engines, and converting to LNG is even more of a challenge because of the need for tanks to store the liquid gas.
That’s where technology comes into play. By using MEO to run the current engines more efficiently or AI to monitor and improve fuel burn — or both — fuel consumption can be decreased significantly.
For every litre of diesel fuel saved, 2.68 kg of CO2 is eliminated. Technology makes it easy to operate more sustainably without having to undertake expensive machinery refits. AI’s automated monitoring makes compliance reporting fast and easy, Caterpillar claimed.
3) Optimise maintenance
Maintenance is another area where technology can deliver big benefits. With MEO, more power can be consolidated into every hour of operation, resulting in fewer actual engine hours over the same time span.
That allows an operator to extend maintenance and overhaul intervals. MEO can also be used to balance engine use by hours or fuel, either to synchronise overhaul intervals (enabling all of the work to be done during one shutdown) or stagger intervals (without needing a shutdown).
With AI, an operator can move from hours-based to needs-based maintenance schedules, as it tracks all the data generated by a ships’ systems, AI can tell when maintenance and repairs are actually required, based on engine and vessel performance.
That allows unnecessary maintenance for shipboard equipment that’s operating properly to be deferred— waiting to schedule service when it has the least possible impact on voyages, passengers and the bottom line.
4) Increase reliability
The days of ships operating with two or three additional main engines are long gone. Due to cost pressures, most cruise lines no longer carry as much redundant power on board. That means any unscheduled downtime — or in some cases, even scheduled downtime — runs the risk of losing a voyage. Thus, engine reliability is more critical than ever.
AI uses pattern recognition to learn about a ships’ systems so it can predict failures before they happen. That means the crew can take action immediately to fix an issue, and if any parts are needed, they can be waiting at the right port.
In addition to the data and alerts provided on board, AI also sends additional analytics ashore, where engineering experts can review any concerns and work with the ship’s crew or a Caterpillar fleet advisor to get ahead of problems.
5) Reduce overall costs
All the benefits MEO and AI can deliver — reduced fuel consumption, fewer emissions, extended maintenance and overhaul intervals, and less downtime — add up to one big advantage: lower overall costs and maximum revenue capability. And if technology can make this big of a difference on the current vessels, just imagine what it can as part of an integrated solution for newbuilds, Caterpillar said.