Troubleshooting service across oceans

2013-10-09 - Born five years ago, ABB’s remote diagnostics service (RDS) is still in its infancy. But this brainchild of service technology is growing fast – and its future looks bright.
By ABB Communications

The quality of ABB’s marine after sales service is stepping up a notch with the opening of a new control center in Norway and the addition of remote diagnostics service (RDS) connections fitted to vessels in shipyards.

Systems specialists are available from a control center just outside Oslo to troubleshoot faults in electrical installations onboard ships anywhere in the world. And for those customers who have signed up for 24/7 RDS, engineers are on call around the clock to offer support.

RDS is one in a range of ABB’s global remote solutions available to help with continuous monitoring and periodic maintenance. With the data that has already been collected, engineers are developing the capability to tell owners how to improve their operations, increase their vessel’s availability and reduce their maintenance costs.

The life of the RDS began on a floating production storage and offloading vessel (FPSO)
RDS monitors, measures and provides fault alerts on vessel thruster systems, propulsion systems, drilling systems, motors, drives and switchgear through to protection relays, instrumentation and automation systems.

Rune Braastad, Vice President of ABB’s Marine Services
Rune Braastad, Vice President of ABB’s Marine Services, says the service began as a pilot project on an FPSO in the Gulf of Mexico in 2008: “The owner wanted 100 percent uptime, but was operating on the Mexican side of the Gulf, where it was difficult to get service engineers on board. So ABB offered them the RDS that they’re still using today.

“We slowly started to roll it out to other vessel segments. LNG tankers, some of which operate in high-risk areas, are quite big on it now. In the last five years satellite has been a revolution for all vessels making connection simple. Now it’s standard, even for sailing ships, so connection isn’t a problem anymore. That’s why RDS is available to any type of ship.”

Currently 38 vessels are connected to RDS. From this year, the service is offered on all new builds delivered from South Korea and Singapore, covering the entire ABB package on board.

Worldwide support
But the technical competence isn’t limited to Norway. While RDS gives immediate support when a customer calls, a query can be routed to a marine service center closer to the customer. A service engineer may then be dispatched, but often this isn’t necessary because the problem is solved from the RDS center.

The team in Norway consists of 14 technical support engineers, but callers can access the resources of 600 ABB personnel around the world.

“Being able to offer a single point of contact is important. Customers don’t have time to navigate through the different vendors in the organization to find the right person. They can get the help they need then and there.

“This not only minimizes downtime, but also increases safety. Some vessels operate in harsh environments and they don’t have much time to act when there’s a failure.
“New builds with ABB equipment on board will automatically have this service, but the existing fleet could also use it,” says Braastad.

A LNG tanker, weighing over 100,000 DWT (deadweight) gross tonnage, sailing from Singapore to Cape Town faced an unexpected trip in the starboard medium-voltage (MV) frequency converter causing an immediate loss of 50 percent of the propulsion. The giant vessel did not lose any of its safety-critical maneuvering capability, but needed to reduce its speed significantly. Slower sailing means longer time to destination, which directly results in higher operational costs and since part of the system’s redundancy is lost, safety margins are reduced.

In a typical case, this would lead to sailing with reduced speed for at least several days, until a qualified service engineer could arrive on board in Cape Town. However, with the RDS system on board and an agreement with ABB to deliver remote assistance, the entire troubleshooting process took about two hours from the first call until the entire propulsion system was back in operation.

Looking to the future
A future scenario where remote engineers are alerted to a ship’s problem, before the crew on board knows about it, is not that far-fetched. “We are looking into continuous monitoring and alarms, so that in the future, an engineer could get an alarm on a mobile phone, see the failure and call the customer.

“We are not there yet,” says Braastad, “but we’re moving in that direction. As we go, we’ll gather more and more information. Then we’ll be able to calculate risk based on historical data.”

“We can already detect problems before they happen through our reports. For example, we see pressure drops in the internal cooling system of propulsion drives by looking at the trend for the last three months,” says Braastad.

RDS also has the potential to move from technical to commercial management. “We get a lot of valuable information that we can use to give advice about operations,” says Braastad.

Not bad for a five-year-old. It’s clear this 21st century whiz kid is going places!

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