Norwegian maritime technology company NAVTOR has set its sights on slashing the energy consumption, emissions and OPEX of bulk fleets. Together with its partners in the unique GASS (Green AI for Sustainable Shipping) project, the company is looking to unleash the power of machine learning to accelerate shipping towards ambitious green goals. Read on for a taste of the future…
Bjørn Åge Hjøllo believes there’s no time to waste.
The Chief Sustainability Officer at Norway’s NAVTOR is addressing the fact that we’re currently “way behind the curve” when it comes to shipping’s stated objective of halving GHG emissions by 2030. Rather than exclusively focusing on future fuels and technology hurdles we should, he argues, look at what can be done now, with what we already have in place.
“And the inefficient use of energy is low-hanging fruit here,” he states, “contributing greatly to the 1.2 GT of CO2 equivalents our industry releases every year. However, with better data capture, analysis and overall utilization — rather than relying on the sparse data and the simplified assumptions employed today —we can tackle that head on, with really powerful results.”
Just how powerful becomes quickly evident: “We believe it’s a realistic goal to say that an advanced AI solution can help cut vessel energy consumption by 20%,” he states, adding: “And that’s exactly what GASS aims to do.”
GASS is a three-year research project backed by the Norwegian Government and focused on what Hjøllo terms “the data-driven decarbonization of the shipping industry.”
Led by NAVTOR, the initiative is a partnership with Grieg Star, Maritime CleanTech, Scandinavian Reach Technologies (ScanReach), Simula Research Laboratory, SinOceanic Shipping, and Sustainable Energy/SIVA, with support from the Norwegian Research Council, Innovation Norway, and SIVA. Funding of NOK 44 million (over US$4 million) is now approved and in place.
Playing on one another’s domain expertise and industry networks, the group aims to develop a solution over the next two years before rolling it out for testing on seven vessels in 2026. A release onto NAVTOR’s established e-Navigation and performance ‘digital ecosystem’ will follow.
As this ecosystem currently serves over 18,000 vessels with innovative products and services, that should make quite a splash.
But before we dive into that, what exactly will the GASS end-product do?
Hjøllo is eager to elucidate.
“Dry bulk is an incredibly important, and relevant, segment here,” he says. “If you think about today’s state of play there are no systematic data-driven solutions for improving energy efficiency onboard your ships. It’s our aim to change that.”
The process starts, he continues, with the capture of granular information from a “a very wide range of high frequency data.”
He explains: “So, we aim to capture and integrate precision data from vessel operations and exact operating environments — combining MetOcean condition and forecast data, AIS data, and a whole range of reporting and performance data gathered in real-time, all the time, from sensors.
“That can span anything ranging from propellor information to engine RPMs, navigational data, speed and so on.”
This ‘building material’ is then used to create digital twins of specific vessels. These virtual ships are empowered by AI and machine learning to demonstrate optimal real-time fuel consumption sailing in the exact conditions, locations and with the same operational parameters as their physical siblings. The result of this is that if the real-world asset is failing to keep pace with its twin, then the rich data stream can be instantly analysed to pinpoint why.
“Maybe there’s a problem with hull fouling,” he notes, “or an issue with the trim of the vessel, or perhaps the auxiliary engine has been used in a congested area and it’s still operating when there’s no need.
“With much richer, real-time data than ever before, we can unlock up to the minute awareness and performance analytics that enable dynamic voyage optimization — as opposed to today’s ‘static’ standard — and allow onshore teams and onboard crews to address issues/deviations from plans as they actually happen.
“That would open up a whole new world of efficiency.”
Not to mention compliance.
As every owner and operator knows, the regulatory landscape is evolving. And fast.
Last year saw the introduction of reporting in line with IMO’s Operational Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII), whereby all ships (above 400GT) have to target a 2% annual CII reduction... or pay the price. This year brought the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) to shipping, regulating ship operators to pay for GHG emissions during voyages to, from and between European Economic Area (EEA) ports (with a step-by-step roll-out to 2026). And, without looking too far ahead, next year marks the advent of FuelEU Maritime, introducing increasingly stringent limits on the CO2 intensity of the energy used by vessels.
“This is really just the tip of the iceberg,” Hjøllo stresses, “with further international regulations, not to mention national legislation, developing all the time.
“With this is mind, it not only makes sense from an environmental and commercial perspective for companies to do what they can to decarbonize operations, but also from a regulatory stance. There’s a very clear message being sent to the industry here, so it pays to stay ahead of the curve whenever you can and look at operations holistically.
“Addressing energy consumption with a smart shipping solution can be a key piece of the puzzle.”
Mention of the AI abbreviation can be as negatively loaded as it is positive these days, but Hjøllo dismisses this with a nod to both NAVTOR’s cyber-secure ecosystem, the industry-standing of the partners, and the unequivocally affirmative ambition of the project.
The results, he adds, will speak for themselves, returning to the scale of the NAVTOR customer base.
“We serve roughly one-third of the world fleet relevant to our services,” he comments. “At the moment that’s over 18,000 vessels but, with the way the business is growing, we’d expect those numbers to be even higher when the GASS solution is ready for roll-out through that network.
“So, even at today’s numbers, if we can help cut GHG emissions (and remember that also means consumption and costs) on over 30% of the fleet by 20% that equates to more than a 5% reduction in emissions for the entire shipping industry. That’s the power of digital innovation here.”
This, as a quick calculation confirms, adds up to over 60,000,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
Making it clear why, as Hjøllo said at the outset, there’s simply no time to waste.
So, we’d better let him get back to work…