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How To Overcome Fuel Usability With Marine Fleet Management

November 17, 2020

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Marine Fleet Management Systems are designed to track, monitor, analyze and report the overall performance of a fleet of vessels. The key performance indicators for operational efficiency and profitability of the fleet are effective fuel and engine management.

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The consumption and usage of fuel in ships is the basic factor that has a direct impact on the operational efficiency of the fleet. Marine fleet management systems provide a clear and transparent understanding of fuel usage.

Marine Fleet Management System

The marine fleet management system is a specialized platform that automates the entire fleet operations from procurement of vessels and fuel, tracking of the fleet and accessing market information. The system analyzes individual vessel performance and overall marine fleet management performance.

The system allows the fleet managers to track the actual fuel usage and compare this with the work performed by each vessel. The system collates the information to provide an understanding of how efficiently the vessel uses the fuel. This data on fuel consumption forms the yardstick for assessment of the quantity of fuel that would be required for each vessel in the fleet for specific voyages.

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The vessels are not equipped with any in-built gadget that can measure the level of fuel and the usage while sailing. The traditional manual methods of measuring fuel tank levels are impractical considering the large volumes of fuel used by the marine vessels. The inaccuracy of the data is another deterrent to using dipsticks and sounding for measurement of fuel levels.

The on-board system ensures that sensors are installed in the fuel tanks to continuously monitor the level of fuel when taken onboard. Gauges and flow meters are installed on the fuel transfer lines to measure the quantity of fuel taken in or off the vessel.

The system has the ability to monitor fuel burn rates for each engine and generator onboard the vessel. The fuel tank levels along with these burn rates provide the crew with a clear picture of the engine performance. This data will help them in making informed decisions to improve efficiency.

Monitoring Of Fuel Consumption

Factors impacting fuel usage

Vessel Idling: Fuel is consumed when the vessel is traveling and while idling at the ports. During idling, considerable fuel is burnt and causes pollution to the surrounding environment. The docking time at the ports can be optimized to reduce fuel usage.

Size and Load: The quantity of fuel consumed by the engines and generators at the port or starboard differs. The fuel levels consumed while transporting oil, cargo, passengers and other heavy material also differ. The fuel consumed depends on the ship size and the load transported. A standard rate of usage cannot be derived as the load impacts the fuel burnt.

Crew Usage: The fuel consumption is directly related to the way in which the vessel operator uses the engine’s throttle. The consumption varies with different sets of crews operating similar vessels and voyages.  

Speed: Vessel operators reduce engine speed to save on fuel. Reducing engine speed reduces the speed of the vessel. Fuel consumption drops at lower cruising speeds. Reducing vessel speed does not always guarantee lesser fuel usage as it is dependent on other engine parameters.

When vessel speeds are lowered the shipping time increases. The longer shipping times might affect the fleet’s viability in the delivery of goods that are time-sensitive.

Lowering speeds to increase fuel efficiency will result in the underutilization of engine capacity.  The engine will have to be modified to operate at lower speeds. This will involve adjustment of valves, fuel injection timing and change of mechanical components in the engine.

Hull Condition: The condition of the vessel’s hull and propulsion system impacts the fuel consumed. Weather conditions like winds and currents put pressure on the engine’s performance. A workflow calculation, on the operating system under changing conditions, tied to fuel usage will help in arriving at optimum vessel speeds.

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The marine management system can compile all the data, perform the calculations and provide recommendations to the captain of the vessel while on the voyage. These prompt suggestions will help the operator to be proactive.

Fuel accounting

The flow meters fitted on the fuel transfer lines measure the accurate volume of fuel taken on board. The sensors detect the actual fuel levels in the tank. This coupled with the data on the actual fuel consumed by the engines and generators and the distance traveled will give the managers an explicit picture of fuel usage.

This information addresses the concern of fuel theft that happens on the high seas while sailing and docking at ports. Diverting or siphoning of fuel from the storage tanks or pipelines can cause pollution or accidents. After consideration of all variables, any variance in the volumes detected by the system will point to fuel theft.

Fuel spills happen at times when refilling fuel tanks. The system can be configured to sound audible alarms when a spillage occurs.

The international regulations for the prevention of pollution of the seas provide guidelines for reporting accidental marine fuel spills from ships. The fuel management system will help the management to detect fuel spills that go unreported unrecorded.

It is important to know how a vessel uses fuel between different points on a voyage. This knowledge helps the fleet operators in fixing shipping rates. The burn rates can be linked to actual costs allowing the shipper to bid competitive rates to ensure adequate profit margins.

Benefits of a marine fleet management system

Process automation

The system streamlines the complete marine fleet operations. It eliminates the need for manual processes and extensive use of spreadsheets. The system is cloud-based with no hardware. This assures lower maintenance costs.

Fleet Monitoring

The operators can continuously monitor the movement of the fleet on the sea from the shore. The on-board management system is integrated with the on-shore system. Easy access to data helps the operators to plan ahead. The facility to set up alerts permit them to respond quickly and extend timely support to the vessel masters in cases of emergency. Prompt actions will help to reduce catastrophes and the associated expenses.

Fuel Purchase

The system helps in making well-informed decisions in the procurement of fuel. This enables the vessels to maintain high fuel reserves and to avoid the under-filling of fuel tanks. The optimal tank capacity is configured by the system. Requests for re-fuelling at ports on a voyage become effortless.

Fuel prices can be compared and advantages in price can be availed. The best supplier can be chosen. There are lots of types of fuels in the market. A comparative study on the suitability for each vessel can be done with ease.

Vessel Voyages

Optimal routes for the entire marine fleet can be designed to ensure fuel efficiency. The start and end ports, expected dates of arrival and departure and re-fuelling dates and locations can be obtained. Optimizing the distance and time leads to saving of fuel and expenses.

Maintenance Cost

A well-maintained vessel ensures optimal consumption of fuel. The wear and tear of engine parts and propulsion system hampers the performance of the vessels. Regular and preventive maintenance is essential for the smooth functioning of the fleet. A proper maintenance program is scheduled by the system based on factual information.

The number of hours of operation of the engines and generators and the actual fuel used by them determines the maintenance schedule of the vessels. Prompt service and maintenance will help in eliminating or reducing unnecessary time and expenses spent on maintenance.

Pollution control

The ships cause air, water, and sound and oil pollution. Greenhouse gases are emitted. Oil spills are of great concern as they cause devastating effects on marine life. The system is designed to do an analysis of exhaust gas emissions of the vessels at varying speeds and engine RPMs and with different fuel grades.

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The optimal speeds and fuel grades that can reduce pollution can be derived from this data. The vessels have to comply with the guidelines issued by the International Convention of Prevention of Pollution of the seas.

The aim of an ideal marine fleet management system is to improve fleet management in terms of reduced fuel usage, maximized engine performance and controlled emissions within prescribed environmental limits.

Conclusion

The major component in determining the profitability of a marine fleet operation is fuel cost. Reduction in fuel costs will lead to higher margins of profit ensuring the sustainability of the fleet operation.

This can be achieved with continuous monitoring and precise calculations offered by the marine fleet management system.