Interview of Anders Berg, Technical Sales Manager at Lean Marine Sweden AB with Piotr Frankowski, President of the Board / Editor-in-Chief at Namiary na Morze i Handel, Poland

Cover of Namiary na morzel i handel
Recently, a lot has been said about optimization in shipping. It is about reducing fuel costs as well as reducing emissions to protect the environment. So, what is the significance of Lean Marine’s FuelOpt ™ for the maritime industry?

The maritime business is facing several challenges and the awareness of the industry’s impact on the environment is rapidly increasing. In addition to being competitive and profitable, the shipowners need to maintain a healthy and sustainable business. Therefore, improving efficiency on operational planning and voyage execution enables shipowners to save both money and the environment.

This is where Lean Marine steps in with its FuelOpt™. This “on top” control system takes control over the ship’s propulsion and reduces fuel consumption. It is paired with a smart monitoring, reporting and analysis software, Fleet Analytics™. We offer ship owners the ability to continuously improve their operational efficiency on vessel and fleet level.

FuelOpt™ achieves real-time fuel savings with actual CO2 emission reductions through automated and direct optimization of the vessel’s propulsion system based on the changing environmental conditions and set commands from the bridge. Imagine having a cruise control system similar to the ones found in cars installed onboard which assures that the lowest consumption is achieved for every condition and has additional sophisticated functionality.

Where did the idea for this solution come from? Was it the shipowners’ demand or an independent project of the company?

Lean Marine was founded in 2012 by marine experts who have vast experience in propulsion control systems, marine engineering, and hydrodynamics. Our founders are early adopters of new technologies and passionate about making the technology the foundation of continuous improvement. Being “LEAN” is in our DNA, which explains our name Lean Marine.

We had noticed customers’ demands for propulsion system efficiency. Even though the development of propulsion design and system provides a certain level of improvement, the propulsion operational efficiency through an automated control system had not yet been addressed. The technology on ships has been developing slower than in other industries. Huge improvements can still be made on the overall operational efficiency in the shipping industry. This can be compared to the automotive industry, where the cruise control system has been installed in cars since the 1950ies.

In the shipping industry, there were some monitoring tools that help the bridge crew take better decisions, yet there were no automatization-based solutions for maximizing efficiency. Therefore, our first product, FuelOpt™, was built on this idea: how to improve propulsion operations through automatization. Our product development is driven by business and customer needs and triggered by continuous improvement.

on top propulsion automation system
How does this system work? What solutions does it use?

FuelOpt™ is a refined “on top” control system that automatically and directly optimizes a vessel’s propulsion system based on the actual conditions (e.g. weather, hull resistance, cargo load…). The bridge crew can activate the system through its user-friendly panel on the bridge and set required values or limitations for power or fuel consumption and/or speed.

FuelOpt™ keeps a real-time eye on the vessel’s performance and the continuous variations of conditions by collecting data from the sensors onboard. The system applies algorithms to the data collected from the sensors and optimizes engine and propeller settings to meet the set requirements. This removes costly variations in speed and power caused by human operational factors, allowing the vessel to operate at optimal fuel consumption at every given point throughout a voyage.

For vessels with controllable pitch propellers, the vessel rarely needs its full engine power and operates in varying load and weather conditions. It consistently operates with a lower propeller pitch and this causes huge hydrodynamic losses. Thus, controlling the pitch and RPM separately enables the vessel to reach maximum propeller thrust for the least power, which means the vessel can save large amounts of fuel and reduce its CO2 emission.

Monitoring and making manual adjustments is an arduous task, and FuelOpt™ does this automatically in real-time. In addition to other benefits, it also acts as a dynamic tuning system for the propulsion machinery to assure that the engine and propeller operate at optimal conditions and adds an extra layer of operational safety by avoiding overload risk on the engine system and propulsion line.

Since when is this solution available on the market?

FuelOpt™ was tested onto the market in 2013 and our first commercial installations were made in 2014, so it has been available for over seven years. Today, more than 175 individual systems have been contracted for more than 40 different ship owners. We are very pleased to welcome new orders from new customers and are very proud of returning customers demanding fleet-wide installations.

What are the specific effects of using such a solution? Why should shipowners install this system on ships?

FuelOpt™ delivers direct and tangible results by minimizing operational waste and reducing off-design losses. The potential fuel savings are between 5-25%, depending on the type of propulsion, trade and existing system settings for the vessel.

One of our customers has a single fixed pitch propeller 200,000-ton bulk carrier with 11 000 kW propulsion power, which has an average consumption of 35 tons per 24 hours. For this ship, we calculate with more than 200 tons of annual fuel savings, which translates into well over $100 000 of cost savings and more than 650 000 kg of CO2 emission reductions. For a larger vessel with an average consumption of 120 tons of fuel per 24h, the fuel saving could go up to 770 tons of fuel and CO2 emission reduction around 2,4 million kg.

Can the system be used in all seas/oceans or was it checked, e.g. only in the Baltic Sea or the North Sea?

FuelOpt™ can be used during the sea voyage in any waters and under any weather and sea conditions. Today, FuelOpt™ is contracted to many different types of vessels that trade world-wide in varying trades.  One of our first installations was to Laurin Maritime (now part of Team Tankers). These tanker vessels operate regularly on trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific voyages. Neptune Line and UECC operate Pure Car & Truck Carrier (PCTC) vessel with FuelOpt™. Stena Line RoPax and Ro-Ro vessels operate in Europe.

FuelOpt™ can be installed on any type of vessel and any type of conventional propulsion system. There is no limitation on vessel size. We have experience in vessels with varying sizes and engine powers. We have customers with small cruise vessels from about 650 DWT to bulk carriers with more than 200 000 DWT. In terms of installed power, we are currently working with vessels from 3MW up to 42 MW. From shipowners’ perspective, we are collaborating with ship-owners with fleet sizes ranging from a few vessels to the largest players in the industry.

With FuelOpt™, we are aiming to have a quick return on investment time for our clients, ideally less than a year. The payback time is usually shorter for a larger ship. Therefore, shipowners that are willing to run their vessels in the most fuel-efficient way and minimize their environmental impact in terms of CO2 and other exhaust emissions, can consider FuelOpt™ as a solution to improve the operational performance of their vessels.

What other solutions do you offer regarding new technologies for the maritime industry?

We believe that maritime business is entering a new era where the operational optimizations, fuel savings, and emission reductions are crucial for having a healthy business. Using a solution such as FuelOpt™ is one big and critical part of the solution for automatically and directly improving the operational efficiency by optimization of the propulsion system. There is still one more important area for improvement: Performance Management.

If an owner of medium-range product tankers could increase earnings by USD 1,000 per day per ship by optimizing performance, it would add up to USD 365,000 per ship and year or USD 3.65M for a fleet of 10 tankers. In order to achieve these numbers, the shipowners need to monitor and analyze their vessels and fleets’ performance more frequently than can be done using daily reporting. They need to invest in digitalization: onboard sensors, data transmissions, and analytic tools…

Having a better understanding of their fleet’s performance enables them to reduce operating costs and emissions. We believe that if you can measure it, you can manage it. You need the right tools onboard and you need to educate people on using the technology.

Fleet Analytics - Fleet view

Hence, Lean Marine offers a smart fleet monitoring software – Fleet Analytics™ – which turns vessel data into knowledge for empowering organizations to be ‘lean’ and take fact-based decisions for more efficient vessel operation.

Fleet Analytics™ collects the data from FuelOpt™ and/or the onboard systems and translates this data to one-click away, clear and easy-to-understand information. Moreover, its performance management features, with aggregated fleet views and status information, allow onshore personnel to gain insight about the operational performance and make quick analysis on vessel and fleet level. By offering automatic environmental and voyage reports, Fleet Analytics™ can help to simplify and reduce reporting tasks for the onboard crew. Therefore, by combining FuelOpt™ with Fleet Analytics™, ship owners will reach the full potential of their fleet.

In Lean Marine, we believe that advanced technologies will play a big role in the shipping industry and today, we are using advanced algorithms in our products but hiding the complexity behind with user-friendly tools and actively adopting implement machine learning in our updates and development projects.

Thank you for the interview.