The digital future of marine engineering
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,”
said the late Niels Bohr.
The eminent scientist is just one of the historical figures to whom this quote has been attributed. And indeed, could Bohr, the 37-year-old Nobel Prize winner for physics, have predicted that barely
20 years later he and his close friend Werner Heisenberg would find themselves in opposite camps of a nuclear arms race that still largely defines the world order as it is today?
Could he have imagined that his scientific findings would become the foundation to what is probably the most controversial energy source in human history? Or everyday applications, such as the microwave oven or the DVD player?
State-of-the-art is temporary by definition, just like Bohr’s atom model turned out to be. And it’s hard to predict exactly which applications, enabled by technologies that are available today, will shape the future. In the marine industry, there is no other option than to look far ahead.
The design and construction phases of ships already take several years, and are usually followed by a service life of multiple decades. Add to that the fact that vessels will have to satisfy global transportation needs in a world that is rapidly changing in terms of environment, demographics, economy, and natural resources.
It becomes clear that during design, the goal is to try and convert today’s technologies into applications that will be required in 2030 and later. Digital technologies are powerful tools that are used across transportation industries, and it will be exciting to see if and how these technologies lead to applications that will provide an answer to future challenges.
The pressure on energy efficiency
We all play a role when it comes to protecting the future of our planet. Today, the marine industry is responsible for about 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
That is more than the entire contribution of Germany, or France and the United Kingdom (UK) combined. Any predicted growth in the marine sector in the coming decades is in direct conflict with the Paris Agreement on climate change, which specifies that halving worldwide emissions by 2050 will be required to keep the global temperature increase below 2° Celcius (C) compared to preindustrial times.
The IMO has responded to this challenge, implementing stricter regulations on ship emissions via the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI). By 2025, new ship designs must be 30 percent more efficient than a ship built in 2014.
A changing vision on doing business
Fuel consumption is obviously not only an environmental consideration; it is a substantial part of a vessel’s operational cost as well.
Providing an energy efficient solution can serve a higher economic goal, which is an important factor in the financially competitive marine sector. Vessel orders are usually large investments and quite a big risk for fleet owners, especially those who are into the cyclical shipping business. Any economic recession can strike very hard.
For this reason, shipbuilders can gain a competitive edge by rethinking their customer relationship.
Rather than selling vessels as direct deliveries, they can offer partnership models and take a broader responsibility regarding the entire vessel lifecycle.
For fuel consumption, that means, aside from delivering an energy efficient solution from the start, the shipbuilder could provide continuous improvement through updates and services.
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