Massive steel structures, heavy fuel oil engines & large crews: why digital technology is driving innovation in marine design and build now

Posted: May 16, 2019

Few things have fundamentally changed about the way ships are built or operated since the 1970s, when the industry adopted containerisation.

But why has the Marine industry been conservative when adopting technology? I attribute this partially to the cyclical nature of the business, the very low margins associated with delivery of vessels and the fact that shipping is already a very efficient industry.

Despite the conservative uptake of technology in the sector, I have always been amazed at the huge effort our shipbuilding customers put into developing detailed Digital Twins, which are used primarily to facilitate communication and streamline manufacturing. The first time I virtually walked around one of these models, I couldn't help but think, “why isn't this effort put to more use in the operational phases of the vessel?”

Nonetheless, for the first time in history, ship fuel costs today outweigh the CAPEX cost of almost all ship types. We are aware just how big of an impact shipborne emissions have on the environment, but we continue to build massive steel structures, powered by heavy fuel oil engines, crewed by people who mostly perform administrative functions.

Have we reached the tipping point? A look ahead to 2050

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) will enforce new emission reduction targets beginning on 1 January 2020, lowering the global sulphur cap on fuel content from the present limit of 3.5% to 3.0%.

By 2050, the IMO plans to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 50% (compared to 2008 levels). Current trends are showing that if we don’t transform how we build and operate vessels, the industry will miss the 2050 targets by a factor of six.

We have, quite simply, reached a tipping point. This is a critical opportunity, and we must take action in order to improve.

Case Study: MV Werften Embraces the Digital Twin

MV Werften is a Hong Kong-German shipbuilder, operating three yards in Eastern Germany that produce cruise ships for the company’s parent, Genting.

Set for completion in 2021 and designed for the Asian cruise market,The Global Class, will be MV Werften’s most technologically advanced vessel to date. It uses artificial intelligence throughout, including facial recognition for boarding and onboard payment processing. It will also be the largest ship ever built in Germany at 204,000 gross tons, 342 meters long and over 46 meters wide.

"The Global Class is designed from the keel upwards for the Asian-sourced market, which requires more exciting public areas and larger cabins than traditional cruise ships and, supported by the world's leading technology and digital systems for Asians, who are more used to digital technology," says Tan Sri KT Lim, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Genting Group.

“Owning the shipyard means greater flexibility in incorporating the latest technical advancements for MV WERFTEN to build the best cruise ship in the world,” he adds.

The construction of this enormous vessel will involve a supply chain of approximately 600 companies from all around the world. Using AVEVA’s integrated engineering and design, and information management solutions, MV Werften will enable seamless collaboration across these complex project teams, improving efficiency across shipbuilding design and construction. The project will be founded on a Digital Twin strategy – you can learn more about it here.

Connected systems are the path to calm waters

As shipyards like MV Werften begin to seriously consider different business models and the importance of a true Digital Twin becomes clear, so does the need to integrate siloed data from CAD, CAM, ERP, MES, EAM and Spatial technologies. A connected technology strategy will become the basis of location-independent collaboration for all stakeholders involved in the Global Class’s construction lifecycle.

The shipbuilding sector has recently gone through an intensive phase of consolidation, and the resulting consolidated shipbuilding groups are becoming vertically integrated. As ship design and production, integrated monitoring and control, and software and mechanical systems integrate, the value of the Digital Twin becomes more apparent.

As regulatory changes, new collaborative technology, and realigned business models push the Marine industry towards better delivery and operations, can we say the leading companies are taking a push off the dock to deliver ships as a service? For the first time in many years, this process seems to be underway.

Discover connected shipbuilding and operations at AVEVA World Summit

What will these disruptive changes bring us? Smart Shipyards and Smart Ships? Ships as a Service? One thing is clear, the path to 2050 will be nothing like the past 30 years.

Join us at this year’s AVEVA World Summit in September to hear and see the steps that leading companies like MV Werften, HHI and MSE are taking to tackle today’s biggest industry challenges, how they are preparing for 2050, and how AVEVA technology is helping them pave the way to a cleaner, more efficient Marine future.


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