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Proper condition monitoring of a vessel can help save millions down the line

Today’s freight market is more than challenging to say the least. Besides freight rates, though, a ship owner has to take into account various other elements, such as regulatory changes and other cost increasing factors. In order to increase a ship’s life span, reduce maintenance costs and save millions of dollars down the line, owners can take advantage of the various condition monitoring services, from the likes of companies like Parket Kittiwake, which, in essence, act as an “always on” device, looking after critical parts of a vessel’s operation. Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com) talked about this important feature with Larry Rumbol, Marine Condition Monitoring Market Development Manager, Parker Kittiwake.

Parker Kittiwake logo

Ship owners these days are looking for all kinds of solutions and technologies, which would help them improve their operating margins, which are challenged by low freight rates, increasing regulations and a series of other cost increases. How important is the field of condition monitoring of their vessels?

Fundamentally a ship is an investment in the future. Given that vessels entering service today are likely to have an operational lifespan approaching a quarter of a century, any operator with an ad hoc maintenance strategy is not going to realise the full value of that asset. By taking a proactive approach to monitoring the health of vital equipment and machinery, operators can achieve better control of the risks, minimise downtime and spread vessel repair and renewal costs across the cash flow cycle in order to maximise profits.

In the face of increasingly stringent environmental regulations, compliance solutions are at the forefront of many shipowners’ minds. However, condition monitoring tools should also be a consideration from the outset of planned vessel operations and even at the earliest stages of design, in order to effectively manage costs. As the first line of defence for identifying issues with critical machinery and equipment, these tools and techniques have never been more valuable in helping operators manage or even mitigate potentially costly issues.

Which tools and services does Parker Kittiwake offer to that respect?

From our conversations with our customers, we’ve learned that often they are not aware of the breadth of tools available to them, from simple test kits through to sophisticated online sensor technology. It is through the application of the right combination of these tools, both online and handheld, that operators can realise savings that equate to millions of dollars across the fleet.

For example, given the paradox of the new sulphur regulations where the shipowner is responsible for compliance despite having little control over the fuel they receive from suppliers, conflicts and confusion immediately begin to emerge. Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) for example has the potential to contain abrasive aluminium silicate compounds, better known as catalytic (cat) fines. As a result, bunkered HFO – even that which conforms to specified industry quality standards – requires additional testing and processing onboard to identify and reduce the levels of water and solid particles within the fuel, thereby protecting the operational integrity of the engine. The Parker Kittiwake Cat Fines Test Kit provides simple to understand, accurate results onboard in a matter of minutes. Using a simple pre-mixed chemical bottle test which determines the presence of cat fines present in a representative sample of fuel oil at the point of fuel delivery or from the settling tank, and using it on the “go – no go” kit is a major damage prevention tool, and provides verification of due diligence to an insurer should a claim arise.

Once the fuel oil has been taken onboard, with the Parker Kittiwake LinerSCAN system – which uses magnetometry to quantify the iron in used cylinder oil and identify the ingress of cat fines into the cylinder lining – can alert engineers to accelerated levels of wear in the system. This helps to extend operational life, as well as preventing unanticipated downtime, and repair bills from otherwise unseen damage.

The arrival of slow steaming has also led to what is known in the industry as “cold corrosion”, where lower cylinder temperatures allow sulphur deposits from the fuel to combine with water and form into a corrosive sulphuric acid, causing accelerated wear in the cylinder liner. The Kittiwake Cold Corrosion Test Kit analyses a sample of the cylinder scrape down oil onboard, and in five minutes identifies these corrosive elements and provides an opportunity to immediately act proactively. There are a number of ways to respond when presented with this information, for example, by increasing the cooling water temperature and thus prevent condensation of sulphuric acid in the lower parts of the liner. Or performing actions to reduce the intake of water in the cylinder (present in lube oil, fuel oil or scavenge air) or supplying at next opportunity higher BN lube oil, or finally by increasing the cylinder oil feed rate to compensate. However all these solutions, of course, require real-time knowledge of the exact operating conditions and wear mechanisms within the cylinders.

Whilst the Cold Corrosion Test Kit identifies corroded iron in the scrape down oil sample, the recently launched Parker Kittiwake Ferrous Wear Meter (FWM) identifies abrasive iron in the scrape down oil using magnetometry. The result of the exact ppm value of mechanical ferrous is given within two seconds. No reagents are used, and there are therefore no running costs for these measurements. It similarly provides engineers with the information they need to make the informed decisions that lead to uninterrupted propulsion. For example, to increase lube oil feed-rate to protect the cylinder liners and piston rings, or to reduce the feed-rate and achieve important savings from the consumption of lube oil. With this new test kit shipowners can gather an accurate picture of their equipment reliably and real time, whereas lab test results can sometimes take two to three weeks.

It is through this combination of online and offline tools that operators can arm themselves with the knowledge they need to avoid accelerated wear, prevent catastrophic damage and safeguard against downtime.

How significant are the gains in terms of costs, through the implementation of these tools? In other words, can they be quantified?

The Swedish P&I Club estimated in 2015 that 60% of critical machinery failures are caused by avoidable human interference. There is a neat simplicity to the belief that more frequently inspecting machinery will result in better reliability. However, a well-trained engineer knows that as long as the operational state of the vessel is fully accounted for, managing, maintaining and repairing it can be achieved with better results for a fraction of the cost, and in a fraction of the time.

Proactively testing for the presence of cat fines, both in the fuel and in the system, can deliver significant cost savings through taking preventative action before damage occurs. These benefits are particularly appreciable when you consider that an average liner replacement costs in the region of $65,000. Considering that it’s not uncommon for a bulk carrier, for example, to have six or more cylinders, this can quickly become a substantial expense on a balance sheet running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Good condition monitoring tools give operators information that can be acted upon immediately without lengthy interpretation. They also provide valuable data points for owners looking to reduce their insurance costs. Simon Stonehouse, from the International Union of Marine Insurers warned in 2015 at the Asian Marine Engineering Conference in Singapore that with the increasing complexity of vessel operations – both due to environmental regulations and technological advancement – more and more frequently ‘…insurance is going to be based on your ships’ data as regards training, equipment and track record.” Big data is starting to change shipping because it’s increasingly defining the trade’s parameters. Making the investment now will reap significant long-term savings, but the disadvantages of not having condition monitoring equipment are likely to soon prove too expensive to ignore.

What’s the additional cost?

When we first meet shipowners and operators who are interested in learning more about condition based maintenance, they often only have a general idea of the benefits it can deliver. It’s a constantly evolving field and deciding what is optimal requires a very specific understanding of the requirements of each ship, and that can vary substantially from vessel to vessel. However, by effectively harnessing the readily available data provided by condition monitoring, it quickly becomes clear that that the savings it delivers far outweigh the capital investment required to obtain the information in the first place.

It’s why we have one of the most extensive global networks of distributors – such as Technava in Greece and Cyprus – with decades of marine experience: having the right technical and managerial skills is the best way to ensure that our clients can maximise their return on investment. Our partnership with Technava will facilitate greater access to trained professionals who can provide detailed, application-specific information, impact on operational costs and predicted ROI.

Technava SA logo

One of the most important developments in the shipping industry has been the stronger rules on emissions. As such, Parker Kittiwake Procal has launched the new Procal 1200M data gathering system and control unit. What are the new features and why should a ship owner invest in it?

As environmental legislation continues to evolve in parallel with ecological awareness, compliance requires increasingly rigorous reporting. The newly launched Procal 1200M is an easy-to-use hub for all scrubber and CEMS related data that provides detailed and accurate data for operators to quickly and effectively prove compliance to enforcement authorities of data from a variety of parameters, including SO2, CO2, NOx, PH, sea water temperature, and wash water flow rate.

Since 2015, the EU has required that Member States carry out inspections of ships’ log books and bunker delivery notes (BDN) on at least 10% of the total number of individual ships visiting the relevant Member State per year.

In practice, this meant that about one in 1,000 ships visiting ports inside ECAs were subjected to fuel sulphur checks. However since January this year EU member states inside ECAs are required to check fuels on at least 40 out of every 1,000 ships visiting. Where mariners are unable to rapidly and effectively demonstrate compliance, even compliant vessels could incur delays. And with the potential for fines and delays, accurately demonstrating compliance quickly becomes a bottom line issue.

How pleased are you from the adoption of these tools from the part of Greek ship owners, famous, among other things, for their cost-conscious approach to every aspect of their business?

As a historically successful maritime nation, Greek shipowners are well known for their awareness of the positive impact that high quality technological developments can have. Implementing science and technology breakthroughs have helped to fuel their economic growth, and this differentiation is one of the key reasons Greece continues to operate nearly a fifth of the global fleet.

Technava’s highly skilled technical team with mechanical, electrical and automation expertise has been an invaluable help for the advancement of condition monitoring in Greece, and since technologically excellent organisations strive to identify better processes and systems management techniques, we have been unsurprised by Greek enthusiasm for condition monitoring equipment.

Can you name a few of your clients in the Greek market? (If that’s not possible then please describe their field of operations, i.e. large tanker company etc.)

Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) is an aspect that interests all operators, regardless of their field. Even more during this period of market recession, with the Baltic Dry Index reaching historic lows every day; operators do not have the luxury of unexpected machinery failures and absorbing the consequent costs. Therefore, the feedback we are getting from the Greek market is an increasing interest from all operators, from large tanker companies to small bulk carrier companies.

With the arrival of new vessel technologies and engines, how difficult is it to keep pace and constantly enhancing your product portfolio?

By identifying failure events before they fully develop shipowners not only save cost and time in operations, but also minimise turnaround and downtime. This is because when engineers have the right tools available to provide accurate and user-friendly information, vessels realise significant operational improvement. It’s why Lloyd’s Register, in its 2015 paper ‘Asset Management: From Data to Decision’, described big data as “the new asset class; the new oil of the internet”.

There will always be some uncertainty projecting the impact of future technologies and regulations. However, much like the changing demands placed on vessels navigating ECAs have required them to adapt to a different business environment, Parker Kittiwake is taking this development as an excellent opportunity to respond and grow. And with more than two decades of sustained and profitable growth that has allowed us to reinvest between seven and ten per cent of our turnover each year into R&D, we believe that we’re well placed for the coming years.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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