Efficiency and safety were the key topics at the third MACS3 User Conference. Taking part were 35 representatives of 25 companies, from nine different countries. Of particular interest to them was a highlight: the official premiere of the new StowMan software. StowMan opens up a new dimension in stowage planning, by significantly speeding it up and efficiently optimizing it at the same time. It was developed in cooperation with Professor Rune Møller Jensen of the IT University of Copenhagen. The second highlight was the opening of the Fleet Operation Center (FOC), which serves to increase efficiency and prevent accidents. Furthermore, INTERSCHALT offered participants a look at brand-new features of the MACS3 loading computer, such as the improved TROP software module for trim optimization.
StowMan makes it possible to more effectively plan stowage by taking into account trim by cargo instead of ballast water, for example, as well as load limits, hazardous goods handling, avoiding unnecessary restowage, and shorter port laytimes throughout the entire shipping route. StowMan is a newly developed module that opens an entirely new dimension in stowage planning.
StowMan reduces stowage planning to a matter of seconds
INTERSCHALT jointly worked on the development of StowMan with Professor Rune Møller Jensen of the IT University of Copenhagen. The objective is to create a solution that will substantially simplify the work of stowage planners and save enormous costs, e.g. through reduced laytimes or by decreasing the volume of ballast water needed and replacing it with cargo. What is especially impressive is the speed. In front of visitors of the MACS3 User Conference, Møller Jensen performed a stowage planning exercise using StowMan with some 2,000 containers in a multi-port configuration, taking into account the optimum or desired trim, as little ballast as possible, and compliance with all safety regulations – all in less than 60 seconds. Normally this would take several hours to accomplish.
Once the software is market-ready in the second quarter of 2014, stowage planning is expected to be very close to perfection, courtesy of StowMan. For a stowage planner this means that he or she can concentrate on fine-tuning, because the software has already taken care of the routine part. "The work time of the planner is shifted to the strategic, creative part", explains Rune Møller Jensen. For the final development phase of StowMan, INTERSCHALT will be involving customers – the first cooperation partners are already on board. "StowMan will be the stowage planning of the future. Aided by the input of pilot customers, we will ensure that the software is maximally adapted to the needs of future users", emphasizes INTERSCHALT CEO Robert Gärtner on the fringes of the conference.
Innovative Fleet Operation Center presented for the first time
Efficiency and safety are further exemplified by the Fleet Operation Center (FOC), also introduced at the user conference. In the Fleet Operation Center (FOC), information and trends from ship telemetry are displayed – similar to how NASA centrally monitors its satellites and aerospace equipment on digital projection screens. It links the advantages of the VDR as a data collector with online-monitoring and the monitoring software Bluetracker, also offered by INTERSCHALT, with a versatile nautical and technical control tool. Bluetracker is a central component of the “Maritime Energy Efficiency Comprehensive Optimization Suite” (MEECOS) from INTERSCHALT (cf. information graphic). It comprises the interactivity of different INTERSCHALT solutions: the stowage planning software StowMan, the MACS3 loading computer, the trim optimization module TROP and Bluewave for route planning and optimization. Their data can be tracked, analyzed and managed during current operations – whether through special displays for energy efficiency, for analyses and reports, or for determining the best trim (D-TROP) for a route depending on weather data and currents. Through Bluetracker, all data are transmitted to land via satellite. The ship owner/operator can then react and take administrative action. For instance, if the crew is traveling inefficiently or the ship departs from a predefined corridor. The crew can also have the most important efficiency data displayed directly on board in a specially installed monitor, as INTERSCHALT software developer Henrik Alfke demonstrated to the User Conference. The Schenefeld, Germany-based company has already installed the "MEECOS Bridge Indicator" for many customers, for example, which clearly displays the current efficiency as a percentage or as Fuel Efficiency Index (FEI) in g/TEU. INTERSCHALT was honored for this innovation with the “Supplier of the Year” award at Seatrade Europe 2013.
FOC – a major contribution to increasing efficiency and safety
The FOC delivers the answers at all times to the questions of: where are the ships and how efficiently are they traveling, and what would be the optimum trim, for example? By analyzing the data collected over lengthier periods of time, the efficiency of various ships and ship classes over certain time periods and routes can also be compared. Along with the goal of sinking operating costs, each ship owner/operator – and every charterer as well – can at the same time focus on safety. It is possible to monitor from land which course a ship is taking or whether it has departed the specified corridor.
Further news from the MACS3 User Conference
At the User Conference, INTERSCHALT also presented its improved trim optimization module TROP. This system extension for INTERSCHALT's MACS3 loading computer – with a 65% market share, the most widely used loading computer – gives the crew recommendations on how to most efficiently trim their ship for a specific targeted speed. The optimum settings are attained by means of ship's data and design blueprints, based on which computer simulations (CFD) can be performed. As software developer Bernhard Finke stated, bunker cost savings of up to 3 percent can be achieved this way. Especially for customers whose simulation data are still too imprecise, in addition to the static TROP there is now a dynamic D-TROP which is based on data measured during ship operations. It draws on real-time data, for example weather data such as wind speed and direction. These data are collected and displayed via the the monitoring software Bluetracker. It combines these data derived from various sources. For instance, from VDR, the alarm and monitoring systems, the machinery, the navigation system, etc. These data are also available to the Bluewave module, which provides details on the optimum course, speed and probable ship movements, while taking into account the weather data, the shipping route and sea conditions.
Freight instead of ballast water
Stowage planning specialist Michael Bergen very directly asked the conference participants "Wouldn't it be better to take along freight instead of ballast water?", thus declaring an additional crucial improvement: the TROP trim optimization is not only linked with the MACS3 loading computer, but also directly with the StowMan stowage planning. Already during planning, trim optimization can be undertaken by fine-tuning the load – while taking into consideration the route and ports of destination, of course. This way the ship owner/operator or charterer can enhance load utilization much better.
New GL lashing rules taken into account
INTERSCHALT has undertaken even further improvements to the MACS3 loading computer. One of the most important ones is taking into account the new route-specific lashing rules of German Lloyd. According to these, container ships can, among other things, be more flexibly loaded on routes that are less endangered by weather and wave conditions. An additional safety aspect concerns the handling of heat-sensitive dangerous goods (DAGO). Starting 2014, a single regulation of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) will replace numerous detailed ones. The only stipulation will then be "Protect from sources of heat", which equates to a liberalization. Heat-sensitive containers may then also be stowed in direct sunlight on the deck. The stowage planner can now use INTERSCHALT's StowMan both according to the new rules as well as the old ones. For this, the software also shows where and in how many locations hazardous goods can be loaded and where not.