Ship maintenance

Flatten the roller coaster costs of ship maintenance


Hendrix Yap, End User Sales Manager at ABB Turbocharger Singapore, on the growing importance of data-driven maintenance plans.

“Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The statement may be familiar to some shipowners, especially when it comes to the onerous task of planning and budgeting for maintenance.

Predictive maintenance is one of the great themes of navigation, but accidents and human error can occur, whether in the design, operation or maintenance of ships and machinery on board. And while no crystal ball offers an accurate forecast of when and where maintenance needs might arise, the cost of maintenance can be made more predictable even today.

Too often, the pressures to keep in business mean that shipowners find themselves forced to agree to things in the interest of short-term cost savings; Poor quality service from underqualified parts using questionable original and quality parts. Just as often, what appears to be an effective solution at the moment can turn out to be the more expensive choice throughout the asset’s lifecycle. In a recent case, we were able to advise a customer against installing incompatible components. We avoided further damage that would inevitably shorten the life of the turbochargers and increase maintenance costs. But the thousands of thousands the company spent on buying the wrong parts were already wasted.

The desire to minimize the impact on cash flow when an unexpected maintenance incident occurs is understandable. Ships must be put back into service as quickly and as cheaply as possible. But a longer view can give a different perspective on the costs. A faulty part that is improperly installed may need to be replaced many more times in the life of a vessel than original parts that are used correctly.

Engaging in long-term service relationships with trusted partners can help make costs more predictable. No more cost peaks or cash flow problems in the event of an incident. Better financial visibility, with advantages for asset financing as well as greater ease of doing business.

These relationships can take many forms, ranging from “power per hour” leases common in the aviation industry to more conventional fixed price service contracts. All of these concepts more or less shift the responsibility of maintenance to the OEM.

Some shipowners are already rebalancing their exposure to unforeseen costs. ABB Turbo Charging’s Turbo LifecycleCare, for example, is designed specifically to avoid the unpredictable costs described above. But it’s not always just a question of cost. Operators also need to be sure that in the event of a breakdown their vessels would be up and running quickly, which is why we can also consider including deadlines to resolve issues.

The past two years have further underscored the benefits of having service agreements in place in times of uncertainty. At times like these, vessel operators should focus on how their businesses will weather the storm, rather than responding to unplanned and unplanned maintenance issues. At the same time, the need for quick and remote insight is also better understood than ever. The more knowledge the equipment manufacturers have about the health of the equipment, the easier it will be for them to share the maintenance risk of the shipowners. This approach underpins our latest service concept, ABB Turbo MarineCare, and similar data-driven maintenance plans are set to become the standard in our industry.

This is the real impact of data on maintenance today. New information can eventually allow operators to spot potential faults months in advance, but there will always be unforeseen events that require additional maintenance. On the other hand, the technology and service concepts to make maintenance costs much more predictable are already available today. All it takes is strength, courage, and wisdom to resist the lure of short-term bargains in favor of a longer-term perspective.


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