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Interview
„You can only save a limited amount of energy from land"

It comes down to the crew: Interview with Hannah Ohorn, Superintendent for the Hamburg Süd shipping company.

Some 10,500 containers in total – then the Cap San Raphael is fully loaded. The ship has traveled the world’s oceans for the Hamburg Süd shipping company for five years. According to load, route, and weather conditions, this ship and its five sisters burn between 90 and 100 tonnes of fuel per day. They are the largest of the 46 ships in Hamburg Süd’s bright red fleet. Hannah Ohorn, Superintendent at the Hamburg Süd shipping company, sees substantial potential for savings in this number, without sacrificing convenience. At more than 400 dollars per tonne, the work quickly pays for itself. We spoke with Hannah Ohorn in Hamburg to learn which measures the shipping company – a new member of the Danish Maersk Group – will implement and how they plan on including the vessel’s crew.

We are currently standing on the bridge of a container ship, which is considered one of Hamburg Süd’s most modern vessels. Are there any possibilities left for increasing efficiency in shipping?

Ohorn: Oh, yes, of course there are. One goal of our energy efficiency projects is, for example, to save one tonne of fuel per ship every day. This can be implemented in a relatively easy way if everyone on board looks closely at things and makes an effort.

Where exactly should people be looking?

Ohorn: Let’s use the seawater cooling pumps as an example. These supply the necessary amounts of cooled water to the engines over multiple circuits when the ship is in motion. If the ship is docked, or if the primary engine is running at a reduced load, then the cooling requirements are reduced significantly to the point where it makes sense to switch pumps off. However, this means that after docking, someone has to think about this and go down and turn off the pumps. Then, it also becomes necessary to close this valve or that one in order to prevent pressure losses.

It that a lot of work?

Ohorn: No, but it is additional work and that can irritate the crew sometimes. I know this myself from my time on board. If a shipping company stipulates these types of activities as necessary for increasing energy efficiency, then the crew must also understand the reasoning behind them. The company has to calculate how much the crew saves by switching off the pumps in the harbor. These types of small actions can quickly add up over the day to fuel savings of more than a tonne.

Does your shipping company reward crews that think about such activities?

Ohorn: We are considering a bonus program at Hamburg Süd and have held discussions about it. The people backing this include the captains, chief engineers, first officer and the second engineer.

How has that turned out as a whole?

Ohorn: We have jointly decided against a monetary program of bonuses, because we feel a moral obligation to save energy. We have agreed that at Hamburg Süd, we are ultimately paid to bring ships safely and efficiently into harbor. In general, however, the question remains as to how we can correctly configure such a bonus system. We have discussed this internally for a long time.

Do you have another example for effective efficiency measures?

Ohorn: Yes, the diesel generators. There are five installed on this ship, with each having an output of 4500 kW. Now let’s assume that the current load is 3600 kW. I see it all the time: Two generators are running, even though the need could easily be covered by one system. An optimal operating level for a generator is an 85 percent load. Due to undefined safety considerations, when one generator is running at an 80 percent load, then a second is often switched on; this means that both will run at just a 40 percent load. This gains nothing, because fuel consumption exorbitantly increases due to the poor efficiency. And we are precisely interested in specifically optimizing fuel consumption.

For that, you need to measure and evaluate everything. How do you collect the data?

Ohorn: We collect the data available on board using a Bluetracker and provide this to the crew. In additional, we run an evaluation at the office so that we can compare different ships with each other. We are currently at the beginning of the evaluation and validation phase.

The Cap San Raphael is underway for the Hamburg Süd shipping company – data recorded on board is collected by a Bluetracker and provided to the crew. The live data at sea are transmitted to the land-based office every five minutes. The performance monitoring system records around 800 data points. Hamburg Süd relies on WAGO’s I/O system as the core of the data logger in the Bluetracker.

What is so difficult about that?

Ohorn: First, we have to make sure that the sensors, which are installed on board, are actually suited for the purposes that we want. It gets particularly interesting when the data does not agree with what is displayed on board. We continuously discover how much work lies in the interfaces alone.

How do the data arrive at your organization?

Ohorn: Live data is transmitted to us on land every five minutes. Unser Performance- Monitoring-System nimmt dabei etwa 800 Datenpunkte auf. We are nearly finished retrofitting all Hamburg Süd and Alianca ships with this tool.

What kind of data are you getting?

Ohorn: We gain an overview with regards to the load status of the ship, about the number and type of containers. Engine and navigation data are also available, which we can use to determine whether the measures agreed upon with the crew are being maintained. That would be the control function, which is not viewed as favorably on board.

How do you deal with skeptics?

Ohorn: We have to create acceptance for what we do – and we are always well aware that the ship is autonomous. Data can be manipulated, transmissions can be interrupted – however, both have not yet happened at once.

Does this mean that digitization has arrived at Hamburg Süd?

Ohorn: The availability of reliable data is an absolutely basic requirement before anyone can enjoy the advantages of digitization in any economic sector. The Bluetracker plays an important role in this. We receive data that is transmitted to our office for further evaluation; however, the crew has the current access. Thus, they have the potential to react immediately if there is a decline in any of the performance values. By using data tracking, we want to achieve a point where we can actively react while the fuel is being combusted – and not after it is already gone, due to time delays. The ship’s crew must be able to see what needs to be done. That is why the ability to determine system states more easily has become so important.

But your colleagues are trained for that ...

Ohorn: Trained, yes; no question. They also understand how the relationships function. However, one cannot pay equal attention to everything on board a ship over the course of the working day. That is perfectly normal.

Do you see improvements here through digitization?

Ohorn: Intelligent systems are tools that we pass into the hands of those on board, so that they can more easily determine system states. We create an awareness – even if only through the fact that someone from outside is also looking at the data. This increases the focus. However, it must be clarified that those at sea and in the office on land are all colleagues, who are pursuing the same goal – we just do it from different locations.

Where have you already run into limitations?

Ohorn: Architecturally, we cannot do much more. The hull of the Cap San Raphael and her sister ships has been optimized for two depths and speeds using mathematical modeling. If other traveling profiles are required, the shape of the bulbous bow can be changed. There is scarcely any room for improvement linked to ship’s trim.

Hannah Ohorn, thank you for the conversation.

Concise Personal Information

It is advantageous to know the view from both sides of the desk. Ohorn traveled the oceans for three years as a ship’s engineer aboard one of the fiery red container ships before returning to land as a technical inspector for the Hamburg Süd shipping company. Since 2014, everything has revolved around increasing efficiencies in ship operations, just like the Northern Lights hovering near Lübeck. She began by studying nautical science in Bremen, and concluded with a degree in marine engineering.

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