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Fuel Efficiency “Fixed”

Life is hectic, and sometimes it gets even busier than that, but for the mariner there are pressures from all quarters. Paperwork is a big draw on the time of most deck officers and getting the pages of compliance, port requirements, cargo and fuel documents in order for the next port of call can take a mammoth effort, only to have it restart when the vessel is in her berth if in fact there is a vacant berth and it is not a local holiday or five thousand cruise passengers have not grabbed the berth because they are only there for 6 hours! Add to this mix a customer that is behind with a delivery of what ever the vessel is carrying and the cranes just can’t work fast enough.

And that’s just what happens after you get to the quay!

Pressures really come to bear on the Chief and Master when there is a slot to be had at a normally congested port while the vessel is still a day or two out, or when she is in ballast and a cargo can be fixed if the ship can make it to the port soonest. At this stage the notion of Fuel efficiency is more or less put on hold as a nice idea but in this instance “irrelevant”.

Who can blame a captain who is doing the best for his company, customers and trade in general, for putting on extra revs to make the world go around? Not me.

This led me to think of why so much technology that could save many millions in fuel costs, often is viewed by professional mariners as nothing more than pig iron that clutters an otherwise well-oiled machinery space.

Of course, it can’t produce savings unless it is used and it can’t be used if there is always an overriding imperative to Push hard and get the next leg completed.

Why is it always like this and what can be done to bring the two extremes closer together or maybe even merge!

It would seem that something that is “fixed” in place becomes a known limit, this could be something like “at full bore she will do 15 knots” or “the speed restriction here is 11 knots” No one on board is going to change these constraints so plans are made and bookings are set based around these well understood conditions. Therefore, if a restriction is not something that can be altered, switched on or off it is not something that can be deemed an option.

When the naval architect modeled the vessel, she was designed for certain capacities of cargo, certain speeds, certain diametional parameters and certain fuel consumption. Her hull was matched with a main engine and propeller and when she was sea trialed hopefully, she performed as designed to save the blushes of the Naval Architect.

The hull may be a more efficient design than her earlier relatives, the wheel might be a tad better at pushing oceans astern and her engine may have all the bells and whistles that come to the market every so often, therefore these efficiencies are built in and “fixed.”

However, what if a new doo dad was installed? It simply must to be switched on to yield the X% savings, or it requires a twist of a valve or a tap of a button That’s all. So why do these add on devices so often get left in pristine condition and never see the working action they should? Is it that the combination of every other task required in getting one hundred thousand tons from A to B without incident or accident and being there with the paper mountain newly assembled signed and stamped for the awaiting procession of officialdom is just too much?

This seems like as good an explanation as any to me.

Ships run lean, Crew work hard and watches can be long and shorthanding really puts a not unusual strain on life aboard. No one wants the latest whiz kid with his electronic slide rule adding a revolutionary world saving thingy to complicate life even more. You can almost see it in the faces of the guys and gals onboard, “when he is gone that thing is toast”.

It doesn’t have to be like this, it just takes work on behalf of the technology designers and developers that make their devices into “Fixed” systems and the best way to do this is make them as self-tending as we expect from the hull or propeller.
Case in point would be the Boss cap, or a preswirl fin system. The new cadette steps on board and they never even know if they are fitted until the vessel is drydocked and they are visable. Nothing to think about, they are there, they work away without any attention required – Perfect Crew friendly efficiency technology.

These of course are hardwares that are not readily variable from the vessel, so how about things that are tunable or require attention?

My advice to all systems designers is simple. If you want it to be used and show savings that benefit your customers and produce sales for your devices, then build it to be FIXED, design it to hum or gurgle or whizz without the requirement for crew to lay a finger on it, they have enough to do, keeping the brine on the outside and the plant running sweetly.

Eric Holohan is a Naval architect and CTO of Green Framework LLC, A company dedicated to development and rollout of fuel efficiency technologies for ships. Currently he is heavily involved with the De-Sul system for removal of Sulphur from Heavy Fuel oil. Writing technical and opinion articles has always been an important part of influencing how technology shapes the future and it is highly important to guide the public and industry to sane, safe and viable conclusions today more than in times past.

Source: Eric Holohan, CTO of Green Framework LLC

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