Shipping will continue to play an important part of the world economy for decades to come, but the industry itself, the vessels, the infrastructure, and the systems that connect them could change substantially, with digitalization and decarbonization being the watch words for the coming decade, said Remi Eriksen, Group President and CEO of DNV GL.
As part of the DNV GL Technology Outlook 2030, Mr. Eriksen, discussed some of the upcoming developments in the maritime world while speaking in Danish Maritime Technology Conference.
We can of course not ignore the current market situation and the structural effect this might have. But, today is not an arena for fear and pessimism. This is an arena for curiosity, innovation and opportunity.
LNG as a marine fuel
Firstly, Mr. Eriksen touched upon the much-discussed issue of LNG. DNV GL has teamed up with industry partners investigating the possibility of using a combined gas and steam turbine system (COGAS) to power an ultra large container vessel.
The project called PERFECt – Piston Engine Room Free Efficient Containership – has developed a LNG-fueled concept vessel that is electrically driven.
Two 11,000 m³ LNG fuel tanks are located below the deck house, giving the vessel enough fuel capacity for an Asia/Europe round trip.
With the gas and steam turbines integrated at deck level within the same deck house as the tanks, the space normally occupied by the conventional engine room can be used to increase cargo capacity significantly.
Separating electric power generation from electric propulsion allows the electric power plant to be moved away from the main propulsion system. In fact, an engine room is not needed any more. The three electric main motors, which are arranged on one common shaft, can be run fully independently of each other providing increased reliability and safety.
The first phase of the project performed by GTT, CMA Ships and DNV GL showed that the project is technically and economically viable. The second phase underway will look at optimizing the COGAS system, using the cooling capacity of the LNG, and further optimization of the hull lines to attain greater efficiency and increased cargo capacity.
The next potential game changer in shipping is additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. Not only can additive manufacturing result in new designs for more efficient machinery components, it could also allow spare parts to be produced locally in various ports around the world. This would improve responsiveness to market demands, shorten the time for repairs and contribute to more efficient ship operations,
The US Navy has started testing the technology onboard ships, to evaluate the potential of producing spare parts, but this requires trained personnel onboard, and the printer will be subject to the motions of the vessel, potentially affecting product quality.
So, there are some issues that need to be thought through. Qualification and certification may present significant challenges because of the potential for variability in specified properties. The traditional qualification methods of repeated testing of an end product produced from a centralized facility will not be sufficient.
An additional or ‘second order’ downside of additive manufacturing for shipping is that the distributed production of manufactured goods may reduce the overall demand for shipping of goods.
Ships are becoming sophisticated sensor hubs and data generators, and advances in satellite communications and antenna technology are improving ship connectivity. This allows for a massive increase in the volumes of data transferred between ship and shore – at ever-lower cost.
Digitalization of information flows will spur the automation of existing processes and functions and positively impact safety and environmental performance.
The fleet of the future will continually communicate with its managers and perhaps even with a “traffic control” system that is monitoring vessel positions, manoeuvres and speeds.
Onshore, new cloud technologies, such as big data platforms and digital twin technologies will have a dramatic effect on how the industry manages information, and how vessels and their components are designed, built, and operated – all of which will see new digital business models emerging.
A potential game changer that may spring out of the progress within information and communication technology is the advent of unmanned vessels.
However, many steps will be needed before fully unmanned ships can become a reality.
The Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Application Initiative (AAWA) focuses to develop class requirements and principles for assurance of safety and performance.
A general principle for a new technology solutions to be introduced, is that it must be “as safe as, or safer than” existing solutions.
At DNV GL we are in the process of forming the framework that will demonstrate this for various degrees of autonomy. Key in this process will be to undertake comprehensive simulations, HIL testing, and physical trials.