Finishing off their introduction to the marine industry, Jan van Os and Dale Tutt use this episode of the Marine Industry Podcast Series to discuss further topics like optimizing ship hydrodynamics, the role of the digital twin for autonomous ships, the future of ships in active operation, and additional future changes coming to the marine industry.
Listen to the original episode or continue reading below for the full transcript.
Blake Snodgrass: Hello and welcome to our fourth podcast in the Marine Industry Podcast Series. We again continue our discussion with Jan van Os, Vice President of the Marine Industry at Siemens Digital Industries Software, and Dale Tutt, Vice President of Industry Strategy at Siemens. Both Jan and Dale have an extensive background in their respective industries, each holding leadership and managerial positions over several decades. In our previous podcast, they discussed several points including ship design, simulation, digitalization, maintenance, and shipbuilding. In this fourth podcast episode, we plan to drill down further into sustainability, which has been discussed earlier, including discussions around hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, fuel consumption, efficiency, and eventually rounding out our discussion with Jan’s perspective of the future direction of the shipping industry.
Blake Snodgrass: So, let’s kick things off with you Dale. If you don’t mind continuing from where we left off in our last podcast addressing what Jan was saying about opportunities for sustainability.
Dale Tutt: Yeah. So, my first follow up question I guess is do you see opportunities where you might see companies designing retrofits onto some of these vessels to help with improving the sustainability and you know, one thing I was thinking about is, you know, what you said was so insightful about you can slow down and everyone believes that you will, you know, use less energy when you slow down. But just like aerodynamics for an airplane or a car, those are often optimized around a certain speed.
Dale Tutt: I’ve seen some of these, you know, like for example, cars that a lot of times they’re designed to be most affordable or most fuel efficient, say, operating at 65 mph. And when you slow them down, they actually are less efficient. And so you know, when you think about the vessels and they’re designed around a certain speed, the hydrodynamics around a certain speed that it’s not as simple as just slowing it down. So how much opportunity do you see for retrofits on a lot of these large ocean going vessels over the next few years?
Jan van Os: Yeah, Dale. Well, you’re correct and let’s say slowing down is easier said than done. If you have a container vessel designed for 70 knots, if you’re slowing it down to 40 knots, then it’s not optimal anymore because the hull has been designed for 70 knots, the wave pattern, etc. So what a lot of companies did, they modified the bulbous bow because the bulbous bow is reducing the wave, the bow wave at a certain speed. But if you slow down, that bulbous bow is not effective anymore at that speed. So what you saw is that a lot of those vessels are being converted. They completely took away the bulbous bow or they made it, gave it another shape so that it is again effective. So there is more than just slowing the speed. You also have to look at the hull, how you can improve the hull that it’s optimum again with the speed. And of course you cannot design the hull completely in a new way, but you can look at the bulbous bow and you can also look at the rivets.
Jan van Os: The rivets, the propeller. You can have some smaller ducts in front of the propeller where you can guide the water better through the blades so that the propeller itself is more efficient. So there’s a lot of things being done with hull designers but also with suppliers where they are improving the efficiency of existing vessels by adding those decks or redesigning a bulbous hull. And if you look at the wind that’s also, say typical ships are not sailing that fast, but you see now also that designers are more interested in the resistance part of the wind, especially when you have a container vessel with 50 stacks of containers on top of the ship and they say, “Okay, those are just rectangular boxes.”
Jan van Os: So the, let’s say the wind resistance is quite high, like. We also learned in school that a rectangular box is not good for wind and you see now also that they put let’s say more like wind guidance constructions on the bow of the ship to reduce the resistance of wind and storm. And when the ship is sailing it let’s say again the 70 knots that maybe is not so important but if you are sailing in a storm and you have quite some headwinds and it becomes more important, and even if it’s just 1% or 2% of fuel consumption, it’s already quite a lot of costs, which you can reduce. So also in that part, the, let’s say the simulation and then the sustainability is affecting the marine industry.
Dale Tutt: That’s pretty cool. You have to worry about both hydrodynamics and aerodynamics on the ship. I wouldn’t really thought about it that way, so that’s awesome.
Jan van Os: That’s correct. And let’s say the aerodynamics is a little bit newer for the slow sailing vessels. Maybe for fast yachts it was already there, but it’s quite a complex industry.
Dale Tutt: Awesome. Awesome.
Blake Snodgrass: So Jan, when we talk about implementing digitalization to make a ship more autonomous, could you kind of describe what technologies would be involved in that process?
Jan van Os: For autonomous ships?
Blake Snodgrass: Right.
Jan van Os: Yeah. If you look at autonomous ships, in principle, autonomous ship is a ship like any other ship, except that you don’t have the crew onboard, or say a minimal crew. But let’s talk about fully autonomous ships. But what is the difference? If you have an autonomous ship, then you need to be in control at all points. And that means that you cannot design an autonomous ship, you cannot operate an autonomous ship without a digital twin. You need to have a digital twin. You need to have to the ability to look at the home base to solve problems, to do simulations, to control the vessel. So you need all the processes which are onboard the vessel where the data is being sent to the home base. So you have to continuously monitor that and see what is what is happening, read the sensors, do the simulations, use analytics and artificial intelligence not only for the predictive maintenance, but also to look, “Okay how are my systems operating?”
Jan van Os: And what you don’t want to have is that your systems are failing or that you will have a blackout. So you can avoid it by designing the vessel with double systems like you have on an offshore vessel with DP 3 or DP 2 where you have a double system. So it’s one system is failing, then you still have 50 or 60% of the power left. So everything is divided. Your switchboards are divided. Your propeller is divided. Your propulsion is divided. Even your bridge is divided. So you have two bridges. And that’s also with an autonomous vessel. You have to make sure that things are double so when one system is failing, then you can still, maybe on half speed, but you can still sail to the next port. But before that is happening you want to make sure that you read and understand all the data so that you can shut down or maybe reduce speed because the systems are a little bit overheating.
Jan van Os: And you can only do that when you can simulate things in a digital twin. So for me if we are going to autonomous ships, level 4 or level 5 doesn’t matter so much, then we need to have full digital twin for operations onboard the vessel, but also at the home base and that digital twin can only really be produced by the shipyard who is doing the design. So therefore it’s so important that shipbuilders are willing to share the digital twin with class societies and ship owners.
Jan van Os: As long as they don’t do that, it is a problem or the ship owner has to build up its digital twin by themselves, but it’s also business opportunity for shipyard. If you can sell the digital twin or let’s say put it in a subscription model where you say, “Okay, I’ve got a digital twin, I make a service digital twin for you and you pay me monthly fee.” Like we are selling our software in a subscription model or in the even in a SAS model way and maintain it say, “Okay ship owner if you have some changes give it to me. I will put it in the in the digital twin and you can see it in, reach it in the cloud.” So for a shipyard you can also be another business opportunity to earn some additional money through throughout the lifecycle of the vessel.
Jan van Os: So something has to happen with the digital twin because the operators need it to fulfill all the requirements around that autonomous shipping. But it’s let’s say it’s the way forward. We are not there yet and the first ships are sailing. You have the drones already. Navies are experimenting with drones. Also some companies are experimenting with round sail drone. One of our customers is a great example where they do all kinds of measurements on the seabed with those drones. So it’s the way forward and it’s starting slowly. But I think in the coming decades we will see a lot more of autonomous or semi-autonomous ships sailing around the world. But it’s a challenge and it’s also not an approach. So you need some other people to operate the vessels, to control the vessels and to make sure that all the technology is there to build it and to maintain them as well.
Dale Tutt: Yeah, Jan. And I think you’ve covered some of this already, actually quite a bit of this already. Just want to clarify on one thing. When you think about the digital twin and how you’re operating the vessel and you’re bringing that data back from operations, you know, a lot of times we talked about this with the, you know, with the speed that the ship operates at that, you know, are you going to be able to use some of that data that’s coming back from the actual operation of the ship and flow that back into your digital twin and use that information to further optimize the speeds that you might actually be operating at, so that maybe it’s designed at 1 speed, but you can change it to a different speed? Are companies being able to use that information in that way?
Jan van Os: Yeah, the companies are able to use that information. It’s not only about the speed, it’s also about, let’s say the other systems onboard which you can optimize. Then you can talk about ballast systems, where you can optimize the ballast. Let’s say you know with a plane as well. With a ship, if you trim the vessel, you can reduce the resistance. So if you have a system which is looking at the weather, looking at the waves, looking at the fuel consumption and also control the trim of the vessel, so metabolic systems, then they can optimize the trim continuously to have the best fuel consumption. So let’s say all those information which is coming out of all those sensors is important to control the vessel and it’s already let’s say one level up in automation, that the systems are assisting the captain and optimizing the way that the ship is sailing, but if you go one step ahead, you can also say, ”Okay, this is the better information.”
Jan van Os: That’s quite good. But if we sail a different course then we can save more fuel. So there’s an depression coming, so we go to the left or we go to the right or we go right through it. And most of the captains will say, “Okay, the depression is not that heavy. I can sail through it.” But maybe it’s even better to sail around it and save fuel. So that you’ve got a lot of systems and then you need to have the data and you need to have the systems who can analyze the data and then say, “Okay, this is probably the best course or this is the best way to sail the vessel or let’s say put the vessel a little bit deeper sometimes as well.” So that all the systems connected to each other can help an operator in improving, let’s say, the operations of the vessel.
Blake Snodgrass: That’s great, Jan. Thank you. Before we leave today, Jan and Dale, is there anything else that we didn’t cover that you’d like to mention in terms of the marine industry and what you see happening maybe in the near term and in the next two to five years?
Jan van Os: Yeah, there’s maybe one aspect which we didn’t talk about and that’s quite important for the years to come and maybe not in the next decade or in decade before we will see some, some parts of it. But if you really look at the future of ship design, then I’ll say if we look at how ships are being designed but also how regulations of classifications societies who are necessary to design the vessel, because you cannot design and build a normal vessel, a commercial vessel without the classification societies. Naval vessels can be designed without classification societies because they are not insured, but sometimes navies are also following some rules, but a commercial ship needs to be as short as it is or it will not be able to sail, so they have to follow one of the bigger or smaller classifications societies.
Jan van Os: But those rules are often still based on empirical formulas, so you can imagine that with all the technology that we have, with all the simulation about not only about [unintelligible], but also from our models, that you can start designing a vessel from scratch, so you only have the maximum stretch levels and then you start designing construction the vessel without having all those rules about distances, about which profile you have to use. How big is the width? Now you have only the stress levels which are important because you cannot go higher because then the ship will break or some parts will be damaged, and then start designing a vessel with a with a certain construction. And if you then take into account that weight, all the possibilities with 3D printing and generative design, what you can do with weight optimization and probably the ship will get a different shape or the construction will get a different shape.
Jan van Os: But I think that is where we are going in the coming decades is that ships are being built and designed in a different way, different than we are using that today, but we need classification societies to change their way of working. We need to change the shipyards and we have to change the operators because those ships will be completely different than what is sailing around the seas at the moment. But we are going in that way, and the first small ships are already printed in 3D and not directly steel but in some plastics, which are easily to print. So about 810 meters in length, they are actually already being printed in a commercial production line. So it is possible.
Jan van Os: The only thing at the moment I think it’s the time is still too long. Probably costly to do and the facilities are not that big to print those large vessels. But I think we are going into that direction and what is happening today, some of the castings are being 3D printed. Propellors are being 3D printed. So there are already some parts being 3D printed. So the industry is doing already some investigation in it and using some components to see how it’s keeping up during the life cycle. But I think that’s where we are going and if you are a shipyard today, you need to be prepared to be able to follow that trend in the future. So that I think that that’s an important thing. It’s probably a little further away in in the future as what we have discussed in the past hour, but it’s certainly, let’s say, the direction where the shipping industry is going.
Dale Tutt: Yeah, I think I’ll just add one thing to that, as a great wrap up Jan. As I look at, you know, as I look at all the industries and see so many similarities, that the complexity, the amount of smart products that we’re now developing with autonomy, with the operations on the ships and the need to be much more sustainable, I think there’s just a lot of times people tend to forget that how important the lessons that we learn in, you know, industries like digital- sorry, like aerospace or automotive that it’s, you know, many of the same, you know, problems are trying to be solved in marine or in other industries. And so how important digital transformation is and having a good digital twin of your product, that comprehensive digital twin and really understanding how it operates, how you’re going to build it, how you’re going to maintain it is critical.
Dale Tutt: And being able to do this in a very flexible and open ecosystem where you’re able to bring the best of all of your solutions together in order to help create this comprehensive picture. And as Jan mentioned several times here, you know having a comprehensive view of your supply chain, whether you’re building a car or airplane, a ship, many of the same challenges. And so we’re excited to be able to work with so many of these industries and, you know, be able to transfer some of those that knowledge across all the different industries. So great discussion today. Thanks, Blake, and I appreciate it.
Blake Snodgrass: And thanks to you Dale and Jan. We are out of time for now, but I appreciate this insightful information today, and you bringing out the many similar areas across all industries that are challenges going forward to move to the next level in innovation using sustainability, the comprehensive digital twin, and the many areas that are impacted by new levels of autonomy. So we’ve really enjoyed wrapping up some of these areas in this episode, that we’ve discussed in the past four episodes. And we look forward to tackling even more pertinent topics in subsequent podcast episodes for this Marine Industry Podcast Series. So until then, thanks for listening and goodbye for now.
Siemens Digital Industries Software helps organizations of all sizes digitally transform using software, hardware and services from the Siemens Xcelerator business platform. Siemens’ software and the comprehensive digital twin enable companies to optimize their design, engineering and manufacturing processes to turn today’s ideas into the sustainable products of the future. From chips to entire systems, from product to process, across all industries. Siemens Digital Industries Software – Accelerating transformation.