Dutch scale-up WE4SEA on real-time fuel efficiency data, transparency and emissions reporting
Founder Dan Veen explains why charterers' such as P&O Ferries are investing in digital twin performance monitoring services:-
"Every company wants to increase performance and reliability as it reduces emissions and costs. Benchmarking allows each of us to measure and compare our performance. If another vessel can sail the same distance with the same load in the same conditions in less time than you, that's your benchmark."
Yet Dan Veen says more than 90% of shipowners and charterers are using decades-old technology to measure fuel consumption and performance. That's why he founded WE4SEA in April 2016.
Initially, he wanted to help ship owners to monitor their fuel consumption but he soon realised that often ship owners don’t profit from the vessel being more efficient as their charterers pay the fuel. And because the charterers don’t own the vessels, they aren’t allowed install sensors or hardware of measurement equipment on board. And even if they were, it doesn't pay to do so for just a couple of years. That's when he decided to focus on the charterers’ requirements.
Transparency vitally important
"In the past, fuel was a small portion of the shipping costs, and ships were burning cheap heavy fuel oil (HFO), but now we see a real change in attitude to emissions," says Dan Veen, adding that in the EU, shipping is about to enter into the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). And internationally, the Sea Cargo Charter is setting a benchmark for reporting emissions.
However, change takes time. Many of the vessels are older and aren’t digitalised. And sometimes clients need time to build up trust before sharing information. Clients also need time to comprehend how vast and reliable the data available can be. Veen's clients receive a lot of guidance from WE4SEA's technical consultants, who are often naval architects, to help them understand the data and how to access it via the web-based platform.
Real-time is the only way forward
For most vessels, the ship’s master sends an email with the daily report that outlines the distance sailed, fuel consumed and weather encountered, once every 24 hours. This noon report is still the basis for most performance assessments but we know that change is afoot.
That’s why Veen provides positions and speeds of a fleet in real-time (or a 15-min delay at most). Alerts can be triggered when a vessel sails faster (using more fuel) than intended and this can be cross-referenced with the weather to identify exactly what’s happening. When the master reported the average speed over a 24-hour period, they could attribute a lot to the weather, rightly or wrongly. Today, it's easier to pinpoint exactly what’s happening and clients can drill down into anomalies which might mean questioning the captain as to why the vessel slowed down. The answer may identify maintenance issues that can be addressed by scheduling maintenance checks.
In addition to providing a picture of what's happening, WE4SEA, along with a handful of other companies, uses modelling to make forecasts and predictions about the future. Digital representations or simulations are created using vessel specifications, measurements, engines etc. Then all live data such as ship position, speed, weather, and draught is fed into the mix to produce forecasts and ‘what if’ scenarios about fuel consumption and emissions.
More reporting and more insight
But this is just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what performance management can provide. Veen says he wants to make it easier for companies to report more accurately, citing the challenges currently being posed by the Scope 3 emissions which is complicated for charterers as they don't own the vessels and owners won’t always release data.
Veen also identifies a new type of client for his performance management services. "Imagine you are considering chartering a vessel for say two years, and before you go to sign the contract, you ask us to send you the vessel’s historic performance. We know that history is a key indicator of performance and we already have access to all the data on ship position, historic weather, currents, waves etc. We just need to deliver this historical data as dynamically as possible."
When asked about the past two years as a scale-up, Dan Veen says the pandemic has brought its challenges but the software-only approach has been an advantage at times. "One of our new clients had chosen a more conventional performance monitoring solution of installing hardware on board their vessels (some of our competitors use hardware to track vessel performance) but COVID-19 restrictions meant they couldn’t send engineers to install on-site. Because the firm had made a commitment to shareholders about having a system in place by a certain date, they contacted us, and now we have their whole fleet connected. So, it worked out well for us. Of course, we miss not meeting our clients face-to-face, but two years ago I would have said it was impossible to secure clients remotely. We’ve all learned a lot since then."