Electricity + Control

Digitalisation is currently the driving trend across wide-ranging sectors of industry, and this applies particularly and increasingly to the equipment and operation of merchant vessels and passenger liners.

Expert circles are already referring to Marine 4.0, as the marine world keeps pace with the fourth industrial revolution. Minimising emissions and the resulting increase in efficiency are a must for marine transport, even if only to ensure compliance with the ever more stringent requirements imposed by the law and other regulatory authorities. Instruments such as big data, data mining or virtual copies of real systems known as digital twins can prove enormously valuable in meeting these challenging demands, while also providing real assistance to ship and fleet owners and operators.

Steering towards the digital shipShips today are already equipped with a series of highly engineered installations and systems to assist in areas such as navigation, propulsion, energy generation, energy management, Waste Heat Recovery Systems (WRHS) and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). Predictive maintenance, documentation and the digital logbook, as well as emission monitoring also all belong in this category. All these systems supply continuous data on their status, efficiency and performance. “However, the use of this data for process optimisation is complex, as often it can’t be compared and isn’t consistent,” says Patrick Müller, Product Lifecycle Manager for Automation & Control at Siemens Marine. It was to address this need that Siemens EcoMAIN was developed. The system collects data over a range of different on-board interfaces, processes it using a standard format, and makes it available on a shared platform. This data forms the basis for analysis, calculations and predictions which help the ship’s management and shipping companies make the right decisions and so optimise the operation of a ship or even a complete fleet.

Big Data increasingly gaining importance in the marine sector too

The extent to which the marine industry is already getting to grips with the topic of Big Data, in other words the collation and analysis of large volumes of information, is illustrated by a project completed by Siemens in 2016 on a next-generation cruise ship. The technical systems of relevance on board range from energy management to cabin automation. These generate over 80 000 data points, of which 2 000 are captured every second. The on-board data archive is dimensioned to cope with this huge volume of data, and has a capacity of 18 months. The wide diversity of different data which can be gathered over a short time window during a ship’s operation cannot be processed using conventional methods, but requires the use of special algorithms. These are capable not only of managing the enormous data flood, but also detecting previously unknown patterns within it. This type of process has become known as data mining. However, additional steps are required in order to process the data in such a way that it can deliver useful findings, for instance for navigation.

Another important tool which requires the management of enormous volumes of data is the digital twin, a virtual copy of an actual asset. A digital twin is created using all the available mechanical and electrical design data, as well data relating to the physical behaviour of the object being copied. Ambient conditions also influence the behaviour of the model, and are gradually added to the copy being created in order to provide an ever more accurate rendering of the actual circumstances in which the object is used. For a complex system such as a ship, a whole array of specific digital twins have to be combined to create a complete copy. In this process, the individual digital twins exert a mutual influence on each other. Every step, from the ship’s design through operation to maintenance and servicing, benefits from the use of digital twins. They not only allow the progress of construction to be monitored, but also enable real-time replicas of devices and systems to be modelled in every conceivable operational status, and concrete working conditions or behaviour in real positions to be simulated. In this way, it is possible to obtain diagnostic information and forecasts based on individual applications.

“Electrification will be driven forward by digitalisation, and ever more consistent use of automation will ultimately result in the autonomous ship,” predicts Michael Wycisk. Siemens has already created the underlying technical conditions for this to happen – from the on-board and on-shore infrastructure through to ultra-secure data transfer by satellite for profitable fleet management.

Enquiries: Jennifer Naidoo. Email jennifer.naidoo@siemens.com

Image credit: Copyright: hermione13 / 123RF Stock Photo

 
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