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»Come together« seems to be the unofficial theme song of HullPIC 2019 – the Hull Performance & Insight Conference –, organizer Volker Bertram writes

Come together, Companies – Through acquisition and alliances, performance monitoring gets more professional. Bad news for small players, good news for[ds_preview] the technology and the customers.

Come together, Technologies – High-performance computing, Big Data & Artificial Intelligence, sensor technology all pull together to bring fuel costs down.

Come together, Initiatives – OCIMF and IMO working groups join forces with ISO 19030 and HullPIC to develop guidelines and recommendations on how to assess energy efficiency and fuel savings.

Come together, People – Ship operators, vendors and researchers happily mix, provided you are among the lucky ones to obtain a ticket. »Sold out« six days after the program was published, the popularity of this conference leaves not only the organizers baffled.

The HullPIC conference has evolved in the wake of ISO 19030. One thing is for sure: ISO 19030 did not end the discussion on performance monitoring. Instead, it channeled it and raised the level of informed arguments.

Survival of the biggest?

Every large conference, every big fair is observed by our industry as an opportunity to practice some maritime divination. Mergers & acquisitions have changed the ship owner landscape. Those that have fared reasonably well in the global shipping crisis have swallowed the less fortunate, in part or in total. For performance monitoring, this is good news: The companies with funds for acquisitions generally have a strong focus on performance monitoring and now apply their best practice over more ships, allowing better solutions at lower cost per ship. Few ship owners are big enough to support their own developments of state-of-the-art performance monitoring solutions. Most buy the service or software in, focusing on the application and turning insight into action.

Largely unnoticed by the wider maritime world, we see a similar evolution of the big getting bigger and marginalizing some traditional players in the field of performance monitoring. Stormgeo and market leader DNV GL consolidated their fleet performance portfolios under one banner. Wärtsilä got into pole position with the acquisition of Transas and Eniram, adding satellite and Big Data know-how to offer even wider integrated services.

Classification society Bureau Veritas entered the game in 2017 by joining forces with Singapore-based performance monitoring provider Ascenz. With tongue in cheek, Akzonobel’s alliance with BMT may be called a British »island solution«. For the future, it is likely that the large shipping companies will resort to the services of a handful evolving large performance monitoring providers. The economies of scale and considerable financial requirements for R&D and ICT infrastructure make for a hostile business environment for smaller players.

Combine & conquer

Performance monitoring offers many challenges. One of them is the multidisciplinary character of it. State-of-the-art solutions combine Big Data exploited by Artificial Intelligence techniques (mostly artificial neural nets), high-fidelity CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and advanced sensor technologies (such as optical measurements). The required mix of competence comes often from strategic alliances. Business alliances and technology alliances both make the resulting joined forces stronger in the market.

Information fusion is a term now often used in performance monitoring. Come together, data and information. In »edge computing«, data is processed at the »edge«, i.e. at or close to the sensors. For example, several sensors are compared and outlier readings from individual sensors are filtered out.

Also, information from different sources may be compared, e.g. crew observation of sea state, weather data from weather providers, acceleration sensors on-board the ship and simulations of seakeeping behavior of the ship. The comparison not only allows filtering out implausible data, but also points towards systematic errors in data capturing, such as ill-calibrated sensors or human bias in reporting.

ISO 19030 gets harnessed

Performance monitoring can be used for many applications, e.g. as a base for contracts between suppliers and owners, charterers and owners, fuel efficiency improvement projects, maintenance trigger, etc. It is gratifying that the wheel is not reinvented in related initiatives, but rather ISO 19030 taken as a base and built upon with specific adaptations for the purpose at hand.

Johnny Eliasson (Chevron Shipping) reports on American initiatives, where a working group of NACE International supports organizations developing guidelines for antifouling measures. This working group (NACE TEG532X) is open to all, and participation is encouraged, particularly for ship operators. Intertanko has a working group, chaired by Francesco Bellusci (Scorpio Group), on giving recommendations to its members concerning performance monitoring. »There is a big regulatory move around performance and that matter is not easy,« summarizes Bellusci. IMO has a working group on how to assess fairly and realistically measures to improve energy efficiency (going well beyond vendor promises). Noah Silberschmidt (CEO of Silverstream Technologies) promotes this initiative: »For us, HullPIC is a vehicle to both debate and articulate best practice within industry«. Come together, regulators and guideline developers.

Good blend of stakeholders

Part of the alchemy of HullPIC is the blend of operators, coating companies and developers. This has been reflected in the program of the conference over the years. Where the first HullPIC conference had mainly presentations by developers, HullPIC 2019 has notably many presentations where well-known operators report their experience and concerns, such as Maersk, Chevron Shipping, or the US Navy. We also see contributions on the increase, where companies present the fruits of joint work, such as DNV GL with Scorpio Group, NAPA with MOL, or JMUC and NYK Line.

Let’s hope that this trend continues, and new friendly alliances are forged during the conference. We have every reason to be optimistic. The concept of a boutique conference, so popular with those who can attend, has a downside, though. In response to the limited lecture hall size and the growing interest, the organizers imposed a strict rationing of tickets which left many stakeholders baffled.

»I know it makes us unpopular with those who cannot participate this year, but we don’t want to compromise on the unique quality of HullPIC,« explains co-organizer Geir Axel Oftedahl (Jotun).

As a consolation, the proceedings are freely downloadable from And rumor has it that there will be a venue with more capacity next year. For the ship performance aficionados to come together …