Key trends that defined the use of maritime data in 2023 – and what to expect in 2024

Jan 10, 2024 | Blog

As OSV markets continued to recover after challenging years, progress in digitalizing the sector accelerated in 2023, with industry players realizing the importance of implementing data-driven solutions to track fuel consumption, emissions, and operational patterns. In 2024, a combination of factors will see the exacerbation of a tight market, in which unlocking further operational efficiencies using data is even more crucial to success. Below are the key discussions to put highlight on the maritime data and OSV market trends in 2024.

Importance of digitalization to enhance operational efficiency

The conversation around the importance of digitalization to enhance operational efficiency matured significantly in 2023. The industry is coming to terms with the fact that embracing digital technologies is a pragmatic decision, and that no single solution will solve every challenge they currently face. Instead, frontrunner charterers and shipowners in the OSV segment are now developing their “digital ecosystem”, with data integration and analysis software like Streamlog and Marinsights working in alignment with hardware providers, logistics software, and more.

The benefits are clear: fuel monitoring and analytics enable companies to track their fuel usage, have a better understanding of their energy efficiency, and monitor the technical performance of engines. For fleet managers, having detailed monitoring in place helps them gain insights on how to adjust operations to improve efficiency, reduce their carbon footprint, and control operational costs.

Going forward, a solid digital foundation will increasingly become a major differentiator for companies, essential to remaining competitive. This is especially true as the industry faces mounting pressure to reduce GHG emissions and extend the lifetime of vessels.

The industry’s appetite and business case for any investment, be it on new assets, technologies, or digital systems, is closely related to market conditions. This will therefore also play a role in the continued development and adoption of digital technologies.  

Read more: 5 data-driven steps to boost Marine Offshore Efficiency

A shifting market for offshore support vessels

The OSV sector finds itself at a crossroads, with several factors driving the industry towards greater fuel efficiency. Major oil producing countries in the Middle East and elsewhere are aiming for substantial increases in production, boosting the market for offshore support vessels. The resulting ripple effect is increasing demand for everything from drilling rigs, subsea construction boats, and OSVs.

Growing demand is met with the challenge of an OSV vessel shortage – many of which were scrapped or removed from the market during the pandemic – resulting in drastic increases in day rates. Coupled with high fuel prices, shipowners and charterers alike face a number of implications.

Drivers of change

After several years of low costs, charterers are seeing their global costs increase sharply due to high fuel prices and daily rates. This is driving a push towards digital systems that enable the monitoring of operations, to improve fuel efficiency in the immediate term, and identify the right vessels and fleet size to fulfil their needs in the longer term. Charterers are experiencing a heightened need to boost operational efficiency to reduce costs as much as possible in a fast-evolving market.

For owners, vessel shortages and attractive rates are incentivizing them to maximize vessel availability and make the most of a favorable market. The re-activating offshore market is triggering reconsideration of fleet composition and upgrades. However, high interest rates make finance more challenging and newbuild orders less attractive. The ability to save fuel is central to any investment, but given the current uncertainty around new fuels and regulation, much of the industry is instead focusing on vessel life extension.

Regulatory pressure to decarbonize for OSV operators

In addition to these market challenges, regulatory pressure to decarbonize – while currently indirect – will grow rapidly. Although OSV operators are not yet required to comply with EU ETS regulations, it is likely that they will need to do so in the future, according to the European Council. Offshore ships above 5000 gross tonnage (GT) will be included in the emissions trading scheme from 2027. Meanwhile, the EU MRV will be extended from 2025 to apply to offshore ships above 400 GT, and by 2026 the European Commission will review whether general cargo and offshore ships between 400 and 5000 GT should also be included in the ETS. Beyond the shipping industry, energy majors, and their shareholders, are looking to reduce upstream emissions, while the public watches their progress.

Read more: Emissions Trading System and Its Impact on the EU MRV

From a regulatory perspective, data can play a key role by unlocking operational efficiencies that will help reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from fleets in the short and medium term, enabling compliance with regulations on GHG that are likely to become more stringent, but also to generate significant fuel and emissions savings today. A good example of this would be Opsealog’s Marinsights platform, through which clients typically save 10-15% fuel and emissions within the first two months of installation. Data enables companies to be proactive and pragmatic with their decarbonization journey.

Conclusion

While digitalization has made significant progress in the OSV sector, there remain a number of hurdles that must be removed to maintain momentum. A lack of certainty keeps many owners and charterers in a “wait and see” mode. The abundance of digital systems available has shipowners calling for a clearer picture of the return on investment (ROI) of solutions, and how they can potentially complement each other.

Many companies have small teams managing a fleet of 20 to 50 OSVs without the support of a huge technical department. Solutions therefore need to be turnkey, with providers clearly showcasing the business case for digitalization as a “low hanging fruit” solution – one that doesn’t require major CAPEX investment but can deliver immediate efficiency gains and fuel savings.

Developing data standards for e-reporting under regulation such as EU MRV and the IMO’s CII is a key step in facilitating further adoption of digital technology by the offshore sector. Some industry initiatives are being led by the International Support Vessel Owners Association​ (ISOA), the Smart Maritime Network and Energy LEAP, which show that the industry is already taking meaningful steps to make digital reporting a reality. This process will take time, and getting those standards officialized by regulators such as the IMO and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be crucial to enable the transition from paper and spreadsheets, to fully digitized reporting.

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