How BSM manages vessel performance

Sep 21 2021

Managing vessel performance for a large fleet involves developing the right management systems, not just getting an understanding of individual vessels. We spoke to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) about it.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) manages a fleet of 600 vessels, including over 170 chemical, product and crude tankers of all sizes. For BSM, managing vessel performance is not just about understanding individual vessels, it is about managing the whole fleet.


We spoke to Frank Paleokrassas, head of Data Governance & Analytics with BSM, to find out how this works.


BSM has established a centre of excellence / expertise for vessel performance, which focusses on building tools and systems, staffed by vessel performance specialists.


But the actual responsibility and accountability for vessel performance is taken by the people who make day to day decisions about how they are operated. Such as the technical superintendents and other members of the “fleet teams”.


It means that the focus of the vessel performance specialists is on  building tools which can empower decision-making and allow the fleet teams can use “to manage the performance of the ships by themselves,” Mr Paleokrassas says.


In addition, the company has a network of 12 “performance leaders”, each supporting the performance of 36 ships in their offices. The performance leaders are a “network of experts that act as a channel for communication.”


These people also gather feedback from the fleet team members who are using the tools, so they can be continuously improved.


The tools are continuously refined, to gradually increase the amount of explainability and interpretability they provide, to people who are not performance professionals.


Many large shipowners have taken a different approach, taking performance management responsibility away from the day-to-day fleet management team, and making it the responsibility of a centralised performance team. “This is against our principal way of thinking, against our overall strategy,” he says.


Measuring performance

The company developed KPIs which could be used as an objective description of performance.  “We are able to get a single number representing the performance of each ship,” Mr Paleokrassas says.


It produces a pyramid of KPIs, which ultimately roll up to a single number for the ship, and then a single number for the fleet.


This gives the whole company visibility as to whether the situation is improving, and how fast.


The superintendents themselves can be given a vessel performance score based on the vessels they are looking after.


Over time, BSM may wish to adjust the weightings that the various components contribute to the final score, as different areas may become more important.

Further dimensions are being added to the system.


The digital twins built for every ship in BSM’s fleet was used as a basis for calculating the vessel’s EEXI (Energy Efficiency of Existing Ships Index). The company already produced preliminary EEXI figures for its entire fleet back in January and now awaits the regulation to be finalised in June.


EEXI only covers the vessel design itself (basically, its fuel consumption per ton miles, under reference conditions). Aspects of the operation, such as routing, are not covered.


EEXI is everyone's headache right now,” he says. “There's a looming deadline, 2023.”


The CII (IMO’s Carbon Intensity Index) is also coming into play at the same time, (a requirement to report the carbon emissions per unit of transport work). BSM’s fleet operational data will be used for CII reporting, pending finalisation of the exact regulatory requirements.


Data reporting and analytics

The primary source of data input is still manual reporting, such as in the noon day report. Automated data collection / telemetry, where available, is in addition, adding a level of granularity.


There is a wide diversity between vessels in the company’s fleet, of what sensors and other equipment they have onboard. The fleet includes ships with different sizes, types, propulsion arrangements, machinery arrangements, and now some with dual fuel, adding to the complexity.


“We have to account for every single ship in our fleet irrespective of its age and type,” he says.


Presentation of the data is also very important. “For me, everything that we do here must drive decision making in the most objective manner possible. In order to do this, the information presented must be simple and clear.”


One way to simplify is to set a benchmark, or point of reference, and then people can see if they are ahead or behind it. Or to show things as simple percentages.


BSM has reached a point where it can make a static comparison of a ship’s performance with what would be expected, based on its digital twin.


“Unless you embed explainability into technical analytics, you always need time and functional knowledge to understand what you're looking at Is it positive, is it negative?”


Data quality is critical to all of this. “It has been my personal quest to improve our data quality over the last few years,” he said. “We do implement further and further measures to improve.”


It needs an understanding that data is never completely perfect, so if your operation data quality is low there is a level of uncertainty and risk in any decision made using it.


Sharing data

BSM is exploring ways to make data transparent and readily available to customers (shipowners), which they can pass on to their own customers (charterers). There are often hurdles or complications which come up in discussions about doing this, but “I think this will be the way going forward,” he says.


Shipowners and charterers often spend large amounts of time in discussion about the amount of fuel used by a vessel in the voyage, and charterers make claims when they believe it has been overconsuming. But this discussion ultimately achieves very little in the goal of decarbonisation and achieving better operations, he says.


Some owners and charterers are asking for more granular data about vessel performance than daily (noon day report).


Shipowners can also use the data to help make decisions about spending on energy saving devices, sensors and other equipment for the ship. As a third party shipmanager, BSM does not make such decisions itself, instead proposing expert recommendations to its customers


The data can also show shipowners how their vessel ranks with other similar vessels in the fleet.


Digital technology

All of BSM’s performance data is managed in a single software system.


The software separates data about voyage performance (such as hull and propeller maintenance) and machinery performance (operation of the main and auxiliary engines, power management, lubricants), rolling the data up to make a KPI for each.


Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement maintains digital models, or “digital twins” of all of the ships in its management, which also include information about how each vessel is expected to perform. So far this data is drawn from the ship's dimensions, machinery characteristics, shop tests, model tests, sea trials and hydrostatic data. The scope is continuously expanding.


BSM’s sister company, MariApps, has developed its own corporate resources planning system, “SmartPAL”, described as a complete ship management software.


In 2019, BSM embarked on a joint venture with a Finnish company called Navidium, to build technology to help gather data from vessels, acting as BSM’s preferred vendor. It has installed telemetry systems on 50 ships so far. The vessel data is provided on a minute by minute basis.


BSM is also building its own weather routing and voyage optimisation system as part of its joint venture with Navidium.


There is a big focus on developing predictive and prescriptive analytics tools, to try to predict what will happen and how problems can be avoided.


BSM expects to be focussing in 2021 on “edge analytics”, doing analytics processing onboard the vessel, rather than taking all the data to a central data centre for processing.


This means that the results of the processing can be made available directly to the crew, rather than communicated to the crew by the superintendent. With shore processing, “the superintendent has to go back to the ship to advise them on what needs to happen. This introduces a degree of delay.”


“We are moving towards doing all of this analysis onboard. Basically we're going to use the same algorithms, with some small computers. It will give up to the minute advice to the people that are able to affect optimisation, i.e. our crews.”


Market incentives

In terms of the market incentives for the efforts, Mr Paleokrassas says that for ship managers, there are rarely any carrots (rewards for achieving higher performance than is required). Normally it is just sticks (complaints about targets not met).


Many schemes, including the Poseidon Principles, are ultimately only about ensuring that the vessels comply with regulations, such as the decarbonisation trajectory required by IMO, he says.


This means that when the company considers a decarbonisation project which may take a large investment, there are no clear ways to recoup this, such as from shipowners or charterers. “There have always been discussions [about market rewards], I have never so far seen them materialise.”


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