Data in the palm of your hand

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A lot of time and a lot of work are going into disruptive activities on the bridge of every ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. That’s a good thing.

While the market buzz phrase “disruptive technology” hasn’t commonly been used in the maritime world, it is precisely what’s at work in a sea change of operations management at RCL.

What began in 2009 with industry-first energy management software developed with Finnish startup Eniram has expanded into a data-driven, predictive analytics approach to fleet operations.

“This is not just energy,” says Capt. Patrik Dahlgren, vice president of marine operations for Celebrity Cruises and fleet optimization for all RCL brands. “It’s also safety and navigation – it’s all of that in there.”

It’s all in there because this digital management system collects and processes seven billion data points every day to deliver real-time guidance to the captain, chief engineer and bridge crew on each of RCL’s nearly 50 vessels.

And, in keeping with the digital transformation, the information can now be delivered to an iWatch, iPhone or iPad, whichever and wherever the user chooses.

“We call this the Mobile Operations Center,” Dahlgren explains. “Some cruiselines and some companies have this big operational center where lower-level officers sit 24/7 and monitor the fleet. We are monitoring the fleet 24/7 as well. However, we’re doing it with the right data going to the right people, focusing on who should get the right data at the right time.”

For starters, the system sifts weather data from 46 providers around the world, as well as wave heights, wind and more related to the itinerary entered by a ship’s captain. If the results exceed a predetermined threshold, the system includes an alert that is also sent to the fleet captain of the brand.

During the voyage, the system may also provide a more efficient route based on weather, energy efficiency and other factors.

But the captain remains master of the ship, free to make independent choices, whatever the system may suggest.

“We are not telling the captain to follow that route,” Dahlgren says. “We’re telling the captain to look at the information available, a collective global oversight view of that specific voyage. Then, if he decides to change the route, to plot this in the normal manner.”

There was some early resistance from bridge bosses accustomed to doing their jobs and making their decisions a certain way, even if it entailed phone calls, paper printouts, email exchanges and other “very old-fashioned” methods, Dahlgren says. “But once they start using it, they’re becoming almost obsessed with getting all this information from real-time data moved directly to your device that you’re wearing.

“Ultimately, it still comes back to people. This is not Big Brother watching from shoreside. The captain is in charge and we just want to make sure that the right data comes to the right people to make the right decisions.”

Fully operational since February, the data-driven system is now being prodded to find new efficiencies in onboard HVAC use, turnaround times in port and more.