Applying Digital Twin in Shipping and Maritime

(Image Courtesy: Kongsberg Maritime)

A digital twin is a digital duplicate model of any physical entity that can be utilized for a number of purposes. This virtual replication offers dynamics and characteristics of IoT devices installed at the vessels and also eliminate the need for running any physical test cycles. The basic idea of digital twin concept is to establish a link between the physical and digital world.  This is achieved by analyzing real-time data collected by sensors employed at the physical entity. These monitoring sensors and IoT devices are connected to a cloud-based system.  The existing work environment and other real-time factors are also taken into consideration while analyzing the data in a virtual format.

Digital Twin in Shipping Industry

The virtual replica offers great assistance in optimizing maintenance, performance and designing procedures of the vessels and can also be employed at ports to achieve better efficiency.

Recent Developments

Furuno Hellas has been awarded Digital Twin Ready certification from Lloyd’s Register (LR) for HermAce, a smart onboard system that collects and monitors data on bridge navigation and communication equipment, actively supporting remote troubleshooting and problem rectifications. HermAce, developed by the Hellas team of the Japan-headquartered marine equipment manufacturer, uses a digital twin as a virtual replica of bridge equipment based on data streamed directly from the vessel that offers real-time identification, diagnosis and resolution of problems.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines has signed a contract with the National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology (MPAT) and National Maritime Research Institute (NMRI) on joint research related to a digital twin model development of vessels’ main engine. In this research, MOL and NMRI agreed to jointly develop and verify the digital twin model of two-cycle main diesel engine by using operational data collected from MOL-operated vessels in service, with the goal of enabling visualization of the main engine’s operational status.

Lloyd’s Register (LR) has awarded Approval in Principle (AiP) to Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for its Digital Health Management (DHM) System for a Type B gas containment tank, following a Joint Development Project (JDP) between the two parties launched in November 2019. The system, Hyundai Prismatic Independent IMO Type B Tank eXcellence (HiPIX), has been assessed by LR’s digital experts against LR’s ShipRight Procedure for Digital Compliance, resulting in HiPIX receiving Digital Twin Ready AiP.

KONGSBERG has announced plans to increase investment in maritime digital solutions, focus on building strong partnerships and combine Kongsberg Digital’s two maritime divisions into one brand: Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean will be headed up by former SVP Energy and digital twin expert Andreas Jagtøyen. The benefits and necessity of digitalization are becoming increasingly apparent for the world’s industrial markets. KONGSBERG is spearheading the development of maritime digitalization solutions through our cost-efficient data infrastructure solution for vessel owners and operators, Vessel Insight, adjacent digital solutions such as Vessel Performance and Remote Services, and partnerships with other large maritime vendors such as DNV GL and recently ABB.

(Image Courtesy: ClassNK)

Digital Twin technology for Ships

The most crucial attribute of a digital twin is that it can simulate a ship’s performance without running any tests in the real world. This offers not just flexibility but also cuts down costs to a great extent. Performance, Shipbuilding, and Maintenance of the vessel are three crucial areas where a digital twin acts as a valuable asset.

Performance: The operational history of any vessel holds very crucial information that can be utilized to improve functioning of future vessels. Visualization of a virtual model gives access to all the key factors that affect long-term operations of ships and offers valuable insights to the ship’s structural and functional components.

Maintenance and Inspection: Ship’s life can be extended considerably given proper maintenance regular inspection. A digital twin can be an innovative approach in the direction of carrying out predictive maintenance. Hull or propeller cleaning, retrofitting of batteries, thrusters, etc are some of the segments under maintenance and inspection that can be optimized with the help of a digital twin.

Shipbuilding and Designing: A digital twin can allow the shipbuilding companies and designers to demonstrate technology performance along with checking system quality assurance and predict effects of design choices. A common visual representation can be used to communicate the design features even before building procedures begin.

Ports: At ports, digital twin concept is being used to raise real-time situational awareness. Management of vessel traffic, security, and predictive maintenance are the areas where a virtual model can assist the ports. Port of Rotterdam has been an early user of a digital twin concept. The digital twin of Tuas Terminal mega port will assist in simulating potential disruptions to the operations of port like natural disasters or extreme weather conditions.

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The Road Ahead

A digital twin is, in essence, a computer program that uses real world data to create simulations that can predict how a product or process will perform. These programs can integrate the internet of things (Industry 4.0), artificial intelligence and software analytics to enhance the output. With the advancement of machine learning and factors such as big data, these virtual models have become a staple in modern engineering to drive innovation and improve performance.

Softship, a leading provider of software solutions for the liner industry, as part of a newly launched research initiative by the Singapore government is now working to develop a digital solution to this costly problem. The ‘digital twin’ – a virtual simulation software that mirrors real-world scenarios – will provide real-time answers.

Lars Fischer, Managing Director Softship Data Processing Ltd Singapore said, “While the development of ‘digital twins’ has been around since the early thousands, it is only now becoming possible to apply this process within the shipping industry, now that there is enough real-time data and automated facilities across the shipping supply chain. This pairing of the virtual (or digital) and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to pre-empt problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.”

This technology allows enhancement of strategic trends, prevents expensive failures by using advanced analytical, monitoring and predictive capabilities. The digital twin is not a very new concept. However, it is only recently that improved data quality has led to the better and effective utilization of the concept not only shipping industry but other sectors too. It is believed that by 2021 more than half of the large industries of the world will be using digital twin concept to optimize their operations and maritime has plenty to gain.

(References: Safety4Sea, Ship-Technology, DNV GL, MarineMec, Maritime Executive, Maritime Journal, Geo Spatial World, TWI-Global)

Sea News Feature, September 22

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra

Associate Editor, Sea News