When data hits the waves

Onboard data can provide energy efficiency edge for ships – starting with reducing fuel emissions

article picture: When data hits the waves

photo: PIXABAY

The research project Data Analytics for Zero Emission Marine (DAZE) will explore the use of data to significantly reduce emissions from shipping. The three-year project will start in September 2023.

Globally, there is great potential for significant reduction of energy used in shipping. This is achieved by utilizing actions such as speed reduction, improved port operations, propulsion, and ship internal energy optimization.

The project is run by Åbo Akademi University, located in Turku, Finland. Jerker Björkqvist, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Information Technologies from Åbo Akademi University, serves as the coordinator for the DAZE project. He says that data analytics can be a big game-changer for energy savings upon the seas.

Jerker Björkqvist, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Information Technologies from Åbo Akademi University says that data can, for sure, be the ‘new oil’ in the sense that it makes operations smoother – for example, optimizing operations and reducing unnecessary operation delays due to unplanned maintenance.

“Research data says that data analytics has the potential of achieving fuel savings of 10–50%. However, the high end savings can only be reached if speed reduction is utilized, which is not always an option,” says Björkqvist.

photo: PEXELS


The often-repeated phrase “data is the new oil” suggests that we live in a new data economy where deft controlling and processing of data can be the difference between success and failure. But just like crude oil, data is only valuable if it is properly refined: data must broken down and analyzed for it to have significant value. Björkqvist is onboard with the comparison:

“Data can, for sure, be the ‘new oil’ in the sense that it makes operations smoother – for example, optimizing operations and reducing unnecessary operation delays due to unplanned maintenance,” he says.

In the DAZE project, on-ship data will be used to analyze the energy efficiency of operational vessels by utilizing energy models of ship components and providing the tools to perform real-time energy optimization. Data will also be utilized for model-based component monitoring, enabling performance optimization and diagnostics features. The project will develop the computing architecture for performing novel integrated on-ship computing, supported by cloud computing services.


The energy analysis will be used for analyzing and retrofitting new propulsion upgrades and to give insights into how the hybridization of vessels can improve performance. Electrification and the introduction of fossil-free synthetic fuels like ammonia and methanol require next-level vessel energy efficiency to provide competitive vessels for shipping companies.

“We’re expecting DAZE to deliver concepts for gathering and analyzing data from a vessel, with the help of which decisions can be automatically taken to optimize energy consumption and reduce emissions,” says Kenneth Widell, Senior Project Manager at Wärtsilä leading the Zero Emission Marine Program.

“The data modelling is expected to predict the most economical path to reduce emissions according to the desired reduction targets,” adds Widell.

photo: PEXELS


Jerker Björkqvist comments that it is very rewarding for Åbo Akademi University to contribute to the next generation of shipping, where energy efficiency and zero emissions are a high priority.

“Our long experience of cooperation with the shipping cluster along the Finnish west coast is further strengthened through this project. At the same time, we get to cooperate with technical universities, both in Finland and the Nordic countries, with regards to technology that aims for zero emissions,“ Björkqvist says.

According to Björkqvist, the most challenging part of the research project is to achieve a high-precision virtual thrust sensor.

“This is where data would provide information on what actual, momentary thrust is provided by the propulsion system. Generally speaking, the combination of data-driven and model-driven methods for energy optimization and diagnostics is a broad way of achieving improved value from data,” he says.


“The big expectation for the project is to provide research that can “significantly improve” the competitiveness for the maritime sector,” says Björkqvist.

“We can accomplish this by providing the necessary background knowledge to produce new products and services, utilizing data at a new level.”

Björkqvist believes that Finnish marine is in a great position to make a big leap in data analytics. “Finland has a strong legacy in building wireless networks, as well as connected services for those networks, including Edge computing. This gives an advantage for implementing and operating data collection, management and analytics systems in remote locations like ships,” he says.

“For the marine sector, the strong competence in computer-aided engineering makes it possible to use that knowledge to get a much better understanding of what the data means and how to use it.”


The research project DAZE is funded by Business Finland and the project partners are, in addition to Åbo Akademi University, Tampere University, University of Vaasa, University of Oulu, Aalto University, Wärtsilä, Wasaline, Wapice, SiloAI., Nextfour and Meriaura.

The DAZE project is directly linked to the Business Finland Veturi ecosystem ‘Zero Emission Marine’ (ZEM) program lead by Wärtsilä (2022–2025).

The work is deemed important since estimates show that about 90% of data generated onboard the ship never leaves the deck. This means operators are losing out on valuable insight and analytics that can improve performance. However, if one manages to get all that data into the right hands, it becomes viable to not only boost efficiency and cut down CO2 emissions – it will take the industry a lot closer to creating a cohesive, connected marine ecosystem that is smart, sustainable and safe.

by: Sami J. Anteroinen

Blue carbon showed the way

Leveraging data to bring marine emissions down has been a hot topic for a while now. For example, in 2020, Wärtsilä’s Blue Carbon Project won first place in United Nations’ AIS Big Data Hackathon. The winning idea revolved around providing a comprehensive picture of the true state of maritime emissions.

In the Hackathon, the Wärtsilä team created a global map to upgrade the reporting accuracy for ship emissions by breaking them down geographically. The map can aid regulatory development for shipping, and also help research institutions to attain greater accuracy in their measurements by using this data to eliminate emissions generated by ships.

The team recognized that reduced fuel consumption equals reduced emissions – which is a winwin solution for both businesses and the planet. This is not exactly news: also IMO’s Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) guidelines list a variety of options to improve fuel efficiency – from speed optimization and optimized weather routing to timely hull maintenance and engine load efficiency.

However, Wärtsilä has a Fleet Operations Solution (FOS) that is targeting these very areas very diligently. In practice, this means realtime weather forecasts, auto-optimized speed and routes that give the best fuel efficiency while ensuring voyage safety. The solution also supports predictive maintenance for propeller, hull and engine condition to ensure that vessel performance is optimal at all times.
by: Sami J. Anteroinen

- four-year ecosystem project led by Wärtsilä

– the goal is to reach 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction in maritime by 2030

– also, all the Wärtsilä Veturi ecosystem products will be carbon-neutral or carbon-negative by 2050

– brings together e.g. fuel manufacturers, energy producers, shipping companies, logistics providers, research organizations

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