4 ways to reduce ship fuel consumption

Nov 16, 2022 | Blog

Even though it may seem obvious, there are many different types of actions that ship owners and charterers can put in place to optimize consumption. Consumption optimization is a topic that isn’t one-dimensional. It’s one part of a complex group of factors that impact the operations of a ship.

How can you reduce ship fuel consumption?

Here are some examples of ship fuel consumption reduction actions:

1. Speed reduction, but not any reduction

The first step to reducing fuel consumption is understanding where the losses are. This seems obvious, if we navigate slower, we consume less. However, the reality of shipping and marine offshore operations is that ships have schedules and can’t necessarily slow steam. Speed reduction can only be achieved with proper real-time monitoring and historical data analysis to understand when slow speed is suited without operational impacts.

Another aspect of speed is understanding the economical speed of each vessel design and respecting this speed when suited. Slow speed can reduce consumption but sometimes increase it. Optimal speed, however, can reduce consumption and optimize other aspects of operations – such as time to destination or time at sea and maintenance.

2. Shore Power

Shore power is an essential solution for reducing fuel consumption and air pollution for marine vessels at berth. This method involves using a giant electrical plug. It allows vessels (anything from cruise ships to container ships to tugboats) to plug into green electric power while at the dock, eliminating the need to run diesel engines while at berth.

This particular action requires both the pier infrastructure and the maritime vessels themselves must be equipped with the capability (and the plugs) to use shore power. It represents significant fuel consumption reduction at port but also minimizes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at port by up to 95%.

3. Optimizing engine utilization

For some types of ships, like marine offshore, a ship can perform multiple operations in a short period. For such vessels, it’s crucial to collect data on engine usage to understand their fuel consumption. Many vessels remain to do standby using more engines than needed.

There may be processes available from charterers that state the engine usage for specific operations, however, it’s difficult to know for sure what’s happening at sea without the appropriate monitoring.

Clients’ demands, weather conditions, and the limited time given to crews to adjust the engine’s configuration all significantly influence the proper utilization of ships’ engines. To ensure the best possible outcome, companies must ensure that their teams understand and follow the appropriate engine utilization procedures. That there is adequate engine maintenance and that they operate according to the engine manufacturer’s instructions.

In a perfect world, captains would easily switch off engines and change configurations to respond to the slightest changes in weather or operational conditions. However, this is not the reality of our seafarers out there. Collecting and analyzing data is an excellent way to understand the behavior and engine configuration utilization. Digitalization plays a vital role in understanding each vessel’s particular behaviors, including, of course, the utilization of their engines.

4. Optimizing high-consumption operations

Operational standby is one of the main operational behaviors that tend to drive down fleet productivity and efficiency. This is when a vessel is fully ready to operate with all engines running and all equipment ready for deployment but is forced to wait for a particular reason. The reasons include waiting for paperwork, a crane operator, a helicopter landing, etc. This behavior causes vessels to unnecessarily burn up to 50% more fuel. A way to minimize this phenomenon is by collecting data from the vessel’s operations to understand the engine running hours and waiting time at each location. By analyzing this data, operators and shipowners can find patterns that connect these standby periods to particular assets.

When multiple companies and suppliers interact in the same operational ecosystem, inefficiencies are expected due to the complexity of the activities and the large number of stakeholders involved. Collecting, centralizing, and sharing information amongst these stakeholders is essential to mitigate these inefficiencies (shipowners, charterers, ports, etc.). By analyzing your standby information, you can understand how your assets are utilized and your planning is executed. Therefore, you can minimize operational standby with specific data analysis, change management, and procedure dispatch.

How to measure a ship’s fuel efficiency?

How do you measure your ship’s fuel efficiency? The answer lies in remote monitoring solutions that provide fleet-wide data collection and analysis capabilities, allowing you to make informed decisions based on concrete facts rather than guesswork.

For example, collecting and analyzing data can help identify sub-optimal use of engines and generators, give more insight into engine RPM and propeller usage, and highlight areas of improvement. It assists in the reduction of unnecessary journeys and ensures that vessels are deployed at optimal times. It reduces non-productive operations, minimizing consumption. In the longer term, data can better understand a company’s specific operational constraints and a more precise portrait of the fleet that would best suit its needs – informing key decisions on vessel numbers, types, and designs required to deliver optimized operations.

Main takeaways

  1. Data integration is crucial for improving fleet efficiency
  2. Many actions can be put in place, but all require measuring to assess the success
  3. Fuel consumption optimization is a strategy and not a one-time effort
  4. Companies can rely on technologies and expertise like the ones proposed by Opsealog
  5. Reducing consumption now is a critical part of the transition to carbon neutrality in shipping

The latest advances in technology enable shipowners, operators, and ports to collect a wealth of real-time data on the fleets. The data collected will be the fuel to any fuel consumption reduction strategies. Without the knowledge of what’s happening at sea and why maritime players will be highly challenging to minimize effectively. Our performance management service, Marinsights, helps companies assess their starting point. It enables understanding potential improvements and taking the steps needed to deliver those efficiency gains. The good news is that many of these gains will immediately impact bottom lines.


Data-driven changes make for leaner, smarter operations. It makes companies more resilient in the face of sudden changes in the market or the operating context. Yet to achieve the best results, it is vital that to collect good quality data.

There are many other actions that you can put in place to reduce fuel consumption. At Opsealog, we gathered experts from various parts of the maritime sector in our team. Our goal was to create a team that could tackle any fuel optimization project, from ferries and cargo ships to supply vessels.

Are you interested in learning more? Talk to one of our experts.

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