Out of Balance

It’s all very well the innovators creating commercially attractive and practical solutions to improving efficiency and making shipping smarter but where are the demand-side players?

On the push side international and national funding bodies and entrepreneurs have invested strongly in developing viable projects which first stage testing and analysis show to be very promising. 

Ship owners seem, on the whole, surprisingly reluctant to participate.

Innovators, generally, don’t have the resources to act on a whim or promote fanciful pet projects.  Considerable effort and resource is invested only after significant early research and analysis demonstrates significant potential. There’s a good deal of talk about the ‘conservatism’ of the shipping industry delaying progress, but we often see behaviours amongst ship owners that could be characterized as so far from a conservative approach as to be reckless.

Where is the pioneering spirit, the enquiring mind that seeks to avoid costly reactive responses that will be necessary when change is enforced – one way or another.

We know of a fully funded EU research project where there’s a requirement for a ship owner to participate in the fitting of an unobtrusive retrofit technology that has been model tested to deliver between 12 and 20% fuel savings. The designers have planned fast installation to fit around a regular maintenance programme, they need 80m of free deck, 5m above deck level leaving room for all the existing deck equipment. In return the ship owner/operator gets to keep any fuel savings.

So, there’s an immediate financial benefit, an understanding of the long term commercial potential for optimising performance of the vessel, and the opportunity to be part of a long term, lucrative business opportunity.

Yet the research team is struggling to find willing owners to participate. This reluctance may be rooted in some anxiety or concern about the technology, maybe it’s more down to lack of communication, or trust, or certainty that change won’t happen. Whatever the blocks are until the push/pull axis is more balanced valuable technology, brilliant ideas and our publicly funded research programmes will be wasted.

Please do get in touch if you have access to a vessel which may like to participate in the funded research programme of any comments or feedback on what holds back the demand side.