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Digitalisation enhances Shell's ship operations

Wed 04 Oct 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Digitalisation enhances Shell's ship operations

Shell explained the benefits of optimising ship operations through the digitalisation of their fleets during London International Shipping Week

Shell has transformed its maritime and shipping business through digitalisation, but still faces challenges. The energy giant is ahead of others in shipping in analysing large data packages from its fleet of ships to make smarter decisions and integrate logistic chains. It operates a large fleet of 10 crude and product tankers and 40 liquefied natural gas carriers (see box). 

Ships operated by Shell have more than 500 data points and connections to shore, providing information to ports and terminals and enabling Shell to enhance its operations, said general manager for shipping and maritime Carl Henrickson.

Shell has invested in data analytics to “optimise performance” of ships and make changes in real-time to vessel operations. “We are creative with data analytics and creative in interventions and have automated our systems,” he said at a seminar in Inmarsat’s head offices during London International Shipping Week in September.

But digitalisation presents issues. Mr Henrickson counted these as the cyber risks that come with connected ships, concerns about the transition from physical-based to cyber-based business practices and what he called “a rush to digitalise”. He urged other shipping companies to “embrace change to make it happen” and to have “strong leadership towards digitalisation”.

As shipping becomes more digitalised there will be winners and losers. The conference delegation identified shipbroking and ship chartering as the main segments of the industry that are the most vulnerable to digital disruption. However, shipping needs to flow with the changes, said Mr Henrickson. “Technology change is already happening so you need to be ready and doing this,” he said. “You have to have different mindsets and change company culture.”

“Technology change is already happening so you need to be ready. You have to have different mindsets and change company culture”

In the panel discussion, Lloyd’s Register vice president for digital commercialisation David Ryder said internal friction to change in organisations was the biggest challenge to the adoption of digital practices. He encouraged shipping companies to “employ chief technical officers to adopt digital change, engage with customers, invest in IT and learn from digitalisation of other sectors.” Mr Ryder said smaller shipping companies could use cloud computing and online applications to compete with operators that have larger funds.

Ship connectivity

This takes into consideration that ship connectivity is a key enabler of the digitalisation of shipping. Inmarsat provides that through the use of Fleet Xpress, its hybrid Ka-band and L-band service (Marine Electronics & Communications, 3Q 2017).Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout expects this connectivity will enable software and hardware on ships to be interconnected. “In three to five years, ships will be connected to logistics and end-users will demand integrated networks and more information,” he predicted. “It is coming together and shipping will change.”

In a video interview with Marine Electronics & Communications, Mr Spithout said there would be dedicated bandwidth within Fleet Xpress for providers of smart shipping solutions. This will include bandwidth for engine monitoring, ship optimisation and crew welfare applications.

In September, Inmarsat signed a memorandum of understanding with Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea to provide bandwidth for smart shipping applications. This will result in new ships being installed with Inmarsat-approved terminal hardware for operators to use a range of applications. These would cover remote machinery diagnostics, weather information and security camera services using Inmarsat’s satellite, from the moment the ship is delivered.


Shell shipping fleet

40 LNG carriers

  • A-Class (Brunei to Japan/S Korea)
  • B-Class (Brunei to Japan)
  • NLNG-Class (Nigeria LNG)
  • G-Class (global trading)
  • Nakilat Q-Max
  • Nakilat Q-Flex
  • NWS-Class (NW Shelf Australia)

10 tankers

  • A-Class (small product)
  • B-class (MR product)
  • O-class (VLCC)
  • T-class (LR product)

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