Royal Caribbean’s industry-first fuel efficiency software

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You can hear it in his voice, the unalloyed thrill of being virtually omniscient.

There’s nothing supernatural about Capt. Patrik Dahlgren’s ability to know what he needs to know, minute by minute, as head of the energy management group for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

It comes down to a simple digital display of green, yellow and red lights – like a traffic signal – that Dahlgren and his team can see on flat screen monitors on their office walls, tablets and smartphones.

The simplicity of the display is deceptive, representing data continuously collected from RCL’s fleet of more than 40 ships using over a trillion points of measurement, all related to the efficient use of fuel. Industry-first custom software, still being expanded and refined, boils it all down into three signals – a green light for peak energy efficiency, yellow for an area that needs attention, and red for immediate correction.

“The main purpose is to drive down (RCL’s) whole carbon footprint,” Dahlgren says. “As a company with a World Wildlife Fund partnership, of course the consumption of fuel is a key element, and we are the leader in the industry in that.”

In 2009, RCL began working with a start-up in Finland, Eniram, to develop the energy management software that now collects real-time data from Royal’s ships at sea, analyzes it, and provides guidance both to the bridge of each vessel and to Dahlgren and his shoreside team.

Initially used on Quantum of the Seas – one reason that vessel was billed as the world’s first “smartship” – the software calculates the optimal choices in three operational areas.

The first is trim, properly balancing the ship so it floats evenly at its waterline, and not low at bow or stern.

“Then you have speed,” Dahlgren explains, “most effectively operating the engine power.” Taking into account weather forecasts and currents and the real-time operating characteristics of other vessels sailing at the same time, the system recommends how many engines the ship should use, and at what times and settings, to achieve top fuel efficiency while keeping to its itinerary.

“The third leg is route optimization,” Dahlgren continues, “looking at the optimum route from A to B again based on currents and wind, predicted and data that’s taken from other vessels.”

“The system is smart. It learns over time which route is most effective and it just adds the factor of currents and winds.”

All of this information is displayed on the bridge of each ship and shoreside, where it provides a type of omniscience for Dahlgren and his team because they’re able to see the performance characteristics of every RCL ship at sea, as they operate, displayed in the colors of a traffic light.

Other sources of energy loads – galleys, deck facilities, staterooms – and data derived from them are continually added to the software as it is further refined into a holistic monitor of and tool for energy efficiency.

And while they’re at it, Dahlgren adds, Eniram engineers are adapting the system for display on a smartwatch.

It will be another industry first, another eco-monitor, another tool for RCL to keep its ships operating efficiently.