Remote voyages

Remote voyages

Shipping cargoes across the world’s oceans has always been a balancing act between technology and risk – and even today’s high-tech vessels are no exception.

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Antto Shemeikka ABB Marine & Ports, Digital Services Helsinki, Finland,

They routinely travel routes that are far from expert assistance, carry huge, unwieldy cargoes that are subject to extreme accelerations and stresses, and operate on strict schedules that leave little room for error. Making this possible are ABB technologies such as remote diagnostics systems, real-time decision-making support in voyage planning and execution, and vessel motion risk management.

Today’s biggest ships, which can reach nearly half a kilometer in length, may seem to be virtually impervious to the forces around them. But they are not. Ocean-going vessels such as container and cargo ships are routinely exposed to high waves, lashing winds, currents and tides, as well as other, less obvious phenomena, such as the distribution of wave periods and wave direction relative to a ship’s heading – factors that can have a significant impact on a vessel’s safety, maneuverability, and fuel use. Furthermore, the magnitude of the influence that these forces have on ship handling depends on ship size, speed and draft – not to mention rapidly developing weather systems that may require quick changes of plan.

Added to all this are the extreme accelerations and stresses that can affect huge, bulky cargoes such as wind turbine parts, jack-up rigs and even container stacks. Ideally, when adjusting a vessel’s speed and heading, all of these factors should be considered with a view to their influence on motions such as roll and pitch.

Whether a vessel is transiting the North Sea to deliver components to a new wind farm, negotiating the narrowest sections of the Suez Canal, or attempting to avoid a rapidly developing storm surge in the East Indies, ships and their cargos need all the support they can get. The following sections take a look at what such support means in practical terms. In particular, the sections examine the ABB Ability™ OCTOPUS Marine Advisory System, a ship operations performance management package; the ABB Ability™ Remote Diagnostic System for Marine, and the company’s new online platform, ABB Ability™ Marine Fleet Intelligence.

OCTOPUS: Widening the operational window
According to the International Energy Agency, global offshore wind capacity may increase 15-fold and attract around $1 trillion of cumulative investment by 2040 [1]. As this trend accelerates, demand is increasing for vessels servicing this growing segment. With its wide portfolio of electric, digital and connected solutions, ABB has a long history of supporting wind turbine installation vessels, service operation vessels and cable laying vessels.

One key way in which the safety of such vessels can be maximized is the reduction of unwanted vessel motions and accelerations. In this connection, ABB Ability™ OCTOPUS – Marine Advisory System software helps protect high-value payloads in transit, while at the same time boosting vessel efficiency by optimizing the route, based on vessel motions resulting from weather and wave conditions.

Heavy lift operators such as United Wind Logistics are increasingly turning to OCTOPUS for enhanced voyage planning and execution →01 [2], with ABB estimating that the easy-to-install or retrofit platform supports 90 percent of the semi-submersible heavy lift ships in operation worldwide.

01 Module deck carrier VestVind will be able to increase its operational window with ABB software.
01 Module deck carrier VestVind will be able to increase its operational window with ABB software.

A recent example is United Wind Logistics’ module deck carrier VestVind, which will rely on the OCTOPUS System to support real-time decision making as it transports large windfarm components such as turbines, foundations and blades to offshore installation sites. Indeed, the technology will allow the module deck carrier to increase its operational window, during which it will be able to perform tasks safely and efficiently even during weather-sensitive operations.

Installation of ABB’s market-leading solution on board the 130-meter, 10,238-DWT VestVind follows successful application on board United Wind’s module deck carriers BoldWind and BraveWind, both of which were delivered in 2020.

The technology is seen as having growing significance due to the fact that offshore wind power installations are being outfitted with larger, more expensive wind turbines, which require larger, more sophisticated vessels. As this process evolves, the importance of motion monitoring and forecasting is increasing steadily.

Digital Journey
ABB’s digital portfolio is designed to reinforce the monitoring and maintenance of assets while, at the same time, optimizing day-to-day operations, all of which can extend intervals between equipment overhauls. ABB Ability™ Remote Diagnostic System for Marine, for example, is capable of reading data from a wide range of ABB devices and providing a holistic view of a vessel’s entire powertrain. The results are increased uptime, lower service costs, and 24/7 access to technical support engineers and the global network of round-the-clock ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations Centers →02 – all of which turned out to be immensely valuable during the Covid-19 crisis →03.

02 ABB Ability™ ­Collaborative Operations Centers around the world providing 24/7 support to customers.
02 ABB Ability™ ­Collaborative Operations Centers around the world providing 24/7 support to customers.

Furthermore, ABB’s Remote Diagnostic System and the services built around it are both proactive and reactive. In other words, ABB experts may pick up an anomaly in the condition-monitoring process; or an engineer aboard a ship may seek advice on a specific issue. For example, an ABB duty engineer in an ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations Center recently picked up a critical trip notification from a tanker. The engineer analyzed the data, contacted the ship, informed staff that the data pointed to a faulty power supply and provided troubleshooting instructions. The crew found the faulty power supply in an inverter unit and replaced it with a spare. The ship’s operations were not interrupted, no time was lost, and no expenses were incurred.

03 ABB’s remote support systems help to streamline maintenance and cut costs.
03 ABB’s remote support systems help to streamline maintenance and cut costs.

Examples like this illustrate how ABB’s goal is to reduce its customers’ total cost of asset ownership by 30 percent through partnerships designed to steadily improve lifecycle maintenance.

Fleet intelligence
A new online platform, ABB Ability™ Marine Fleet Intelligence – Advisory →04 [4], combines the power of cloud-based analytics and reporting with user-friendly visualizations to help shipowners, managers and charterers optimize ship performance fleet-wide. The platform is being offered as a Software as a Service (SaaS), which can collect data from a wide variety of vessel systems. The solution provides a complete overview of all data collected from shipboard systems, making it possible to compare the operational performance of ships built to the same specifications in an entire fleet.

04 ABB Ability™ Marine Fleet Intelligence provides insights and advice on fleet performance to ship operators.
04 ABB Ability™ Marine Fleet Intelligence provides insights and advice on fleet performance to ship operators.

ABB Ability™ Marine Fleet Intelligence – Advisory is a single platform featuring uniform reporting for customers seeking a robust analytics service capable of fleet-wide data collection. For instance, the platform provides verifiable emissions data, thus making onboard energy use transparent and supporting compliance with tightening greenhouse gas regulations.

The platform draws on system data points on navigation, propulsion, fuel consumption, loading conditions, weather and speed logs. Based on all of this, it delivers an integrated evaluation of a ship’s fuel, energy and emissions efficiency, its operational availability, technical condition and safety, and compares results to fleet performance.

In addition to integrating with ABB’s onboard systems, the platform can combine other data retrieval solutions to support analytics, reporting and display. Users can access operational performance information by signing into the ABB Ability™ Marine Fleet Portal. Based on Microsoft Azure and integrated Power BI business analytics from Microsoft, the online platform offers interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities with an intuitive interface that allows end users to create customizable reports and dashboards. In short, ABB’s new Advisory platform puts operational vessel data in the context of smart KPI dashboards and reporting functions, thus opening the door to valuable insights that help to optimize vessel maintenance scheduling throughout a fleet. 

[1] IEA. Offshore wind to become a $1 trillion industry. Available: https://www.iea/news/offshore-wind-to-become-a-1-trillion-industry. [Accessed: March 31, 2022].
[2] ABB. United Wind takes ABB advisory software fleetwide to boost safety and efficiency of operations. Available: [Accessed: March 22, 2022].
[3] ABB. Remote diagnostics: fresh push for the digital shift in shipping. Available: [Accessed: October 9, 2021].
[4] ABB. New digital solution helps optimize ship performance across fleets. Available at: [Accessed October 10, 2021].


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