Improved data leads to more efficient cruise ships

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Celebrity Cruises, like other Royal Caribbean brands, takes energy efficiency so seriously that it has replaced buffet ice beds with chilled river rocks to slash the power and water consumed by making the ice.

In context, it’s a small thing. So are the LED lights, solar panels to assist in power production, and a long list of other economic and eco-friendly equipment changes to squeeze every bit of efficiency possible aboard RCL vessels.

Celebrity, for one of its brands, is big on any possible power plant efficiency.

“We’re working actively with the manufacturer, and this goes all the way to the highest level of our marine organization and then to the highest level at Wärtsilä,” says Capt. Patrik Dahlgren, referring to the Finnish company whose core business is making diesel engines for cruise ships and ferries. “So we work very closely together with them to invent the future together.”

Key to that future is the ongoing digitalization of RCL ship operations, primarily embodied in the energy management software it began developing in 2009 with the Finnish startup Eniram. The system continuously collects real-time data from all RCL ships at sea and provides guidance for their most efficient operation. As it does so, the “smart” system learns which routes are best in several categories, and blends in such other factors as winds and currents.

Dahlgren, vice president of both marine operations for Celebrity and fleet optimization for RCL, says the cruiseline leads the industry in data-driven efficiencies, which continue to grow as Eniram learns.

“What we get from the optimization is how much load, how much power, what size of engines we need in the future based on the hotel, marine and propulsion loads,” Dahlgren says.

“It’s all connected to such a level on the newer ships that we even know when they switch ovens on and off in the galley.”

The data system – available to any interested maritime company – has grown steadily since its earliest days. Wärtsilä purchased Eniram in June 2016 and this month announced its newest iteration, Eniram SkyLight 2.0. The system now includes more digital tools to make predictive analysis and proactive planning more accessible. To accomplish this, Eniram collects and processes some seven billion data points each day to deliver real-time operational guidance to the captain, chief engineer and bridge crew on each of RCL’s nearly 50 vessels, Dahlgren says.

And now it’s a vital driver of decisions in planning and producing the power plants for new ships.

“In the past we had more of a reactive approach to things,” Dahlgren says. “Now it’s working with the data to look more at predictive asset performance and power plant optimization.”

The use of the Eniram system in consultation with Wärtsilä engineers promises power plants that are optimized for efficiency far more than earlier cruiseline engine design.

And the data is now available not only on the bridge, but on iWatches, iPads and iPhones used by the principal decision makers on each vessel.

Dahlgren emphasized that ships’ captains are still fully in charge of their vessels, and hugely benefit from real-time advice, not orders, presented by the newly available data.