Smart Steaming & De-stressing the Supply Chain

'Smart Steaming' benefits all stakeholders in the supply chain

Smart steaming offers the potential for significant cost savings, reduction in GHG emissions and increased reliability in global shipping operations.

The SYNCHRO-NET project has identified new ways of de-stressing the supply chain by optimizing ship operations and integrated hinterland logistics.


SYNCHRO-NET - Smart Steaming and Synchro-modal Optimization

What is Smart Steaming?

Smart steaming is an enhanced version of the well-known slow steaming approach that has been used by shipping companies for many years as a way to reduce fuel usage and therefore costs.

However there has been some criticism of slow steaming by the customers of shipping lines, because the strategy means that goods are in transit for longer, effectively increasing the cost to the customer in the form of higher inventory levels.

The SYNCHRO-NET solution aims to address this, adopting a multi-stakeholder approach that includes a wider range of factors, and addresses the operational optimization of shipping and port operations.

Strategically, when designing new shipping routes and schedules, smart steaming includes not only the ship's costs, but also takes into account the customer's interests.

Furthermore, the impact on reliability is considered: if a ship is planned to operate at less than full speed for a significant part of the voyage, it has the option to speed up to make up for time lost due to delays or poor weather.

Tactically, when the customer is making a booking, they can choose from a wider range of options, supported by synchro-modal logistics optimization algorithms which plan the door-to-door multimodal route for the shipment.

Operationally, during the voyage, the smart steaming algorithms intelligently re-optimize the ship's course and route, taking into account the status of the destination port.

An Operational Example

For example, the image below shows the data from a case considered in SYNCHRO-NET. Originally the ship was scheduled to berth at 20:00.

However, a delay in the port meant that the earliest possible berthing time moved back to just after 00:00 the next day.

(The voyage was relatively short, around 20hrs in total, so this delay of 4hrs is significant proportionally.)

If the ship maintained its original target ETA (20:00) it can be seen that the estimated cost of the fuel is around 38,000.

However, if the ship slows down for a revised ETA of 00:00, the cost reduces to around 26,000 i.e. a saving of ~30%.

The corresponding emissions reduce as well, as shown by the other lines on the chart.

Chart showing how the later arrival time of the ship significantly reduces fuel use and emissions.

How the later arrival time of the ship significantly reduces fuel use and emissions

The IMO's Just-in-Time Operations Initiative

The International Maritime Organization's GloMEEP project is supporting the uptake of energy efficiency measures for shipping, to reduce GHG emissions.

An important focus area is Just-in-Time Operations, which is related to the 'operational'-level smart steaming mentioned above.

GloMEEP is addressing the legal, operational, communication and contractual aspects of Just-in-Time Operations, while SYNCHRO-NET has focussed on the development of the AI-based algorithms needed to maximise the benefits.

As shown by the example above, the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly is clear, and we hope that initiatives such as GloMEEP and SYNCHRO-NET will accelerate progress in these areas.

It's Not Just About the Ships!

The SYNCHRO-NET tools allow ship operators to analyse and optimize their schedules, using a holistic approach which includes more complex factors such as reliability and service offering.

Integration with synchro-modal logistics modelling tools enables end-to-end supply chains to be analysed accurately.

This means that shippers, freight forwarders, ports and terminals can cooperate in the synchro-modal supply chain. The SYNCHRO-NET model provides collaborative tools to optimise the supply chain and choice of transport modes/options based on a holistic model, allowing the user to balance and analyse cost vs environment vs reliability vs service.

For example, maybe fastest does not always mean best - a slightly slower but much more reliable service could mean massively reduced 'safety stock' inventories along the supply chain.

The SYNCHRO-NET smart steaming approach means that genuine opportunities for cost savings and environment impact reduction in the supply chain can be identified. Faster theoretically means cheaper but not if it is at the cost of reliability.



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