Ship performance monitoring: Resist the change or change the resistance?

February 1, 2019

By: Marc Timmer (R&D Engineer Hydromechanics)
Image: The Four Days Fight (1-4 June 1666, painted by Van Soest)

Since the early days of naval history, communication has played an important role, both ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore. You can imagine that for a strategic move during your epic sea battle, it is convenient that your fellow combatants also know what the plan is. Before the days of radio communication this was done with signal flags or semaphore signalling, although funny, not ideal and not great bandwidth I guess.
Semaphore singalling (source: 

Luckily, since then significant technological progress has been made, enabling the transport of information over long distance and across the globe. The effects on the maritime industry and in fact, the world’s population, has been tremendous.

These technologies have created a platform on which high resolution data can be gathered, sent and viewed in the blink of an eye.  Nevertheless, part of the maritime industry, traditional as it is, insists on sticking to the archaic ways: Noon-reports. Traditionally the noon report was made up because in the time of sextant navigation, this was the only time of the day when the ships latitude could be determined accurately.

Then there was merit to the concept. Nowadays though, these error prone, low resolution, handmade datasheets are the shipping industry’s VHS tape equivalent to our HD streaming world; completely outdated.

If so, then why resist the change from noon reporting to continuous monitoring, you might ask?

My conception is convenience: everything necessary to gather the noon reports data is in place, seafarers are familiar with it and no costs for implementing new technology have to be made. And as long as this is sufficient and no real incentive is given to move forwards, why would you?

For the purpose of insight, would be the obvious answer. As a race we strive to ever progress and evolve. But apparently, sometimes the luring gains of progression aren’t enough to overcome the fear of change[1]. Even though the gains can be significant and often easily obtained.

Where are these obvious gains to be found?

The high resolution data that we gather at VAF Instruments with our IVY® system enables us to get a glimpse of the behaviour of shipping companies and sailors. Something we encounter frequently is suboptimal sailing habits, e.g. rushing to the harbour, only to lie waiting for several hours before being allowed to berth. When looking at the speed signal over a voyage, this is easily spotted. But if only one data point per day is available, these trends are not so obvious. So there is the incentive, improve your performance and sailing habits in order to reduce fuel consumption, saving money and simultaneously sparing the environment[2].

There are many more fruits to be reaped from your high quality data. For instance, a key element in our IVY® software is insight in the deterioration of your hull and propeller due to fouling. Quantifying the effect of fouling enables you to make a proper cost-benefit analysis of any actions you have undertaken to change your ships resistance. Whether it was cleaning, a fresh layer of anti-fouling or the addition of an energy saving appendage. Without proper data, you will most likely never find out if your investment  actually made a difference.

Real insight in high quality data (Source: VAF Instruments' IVY)
Real insight from high quality data (Source: VAF Instruments' IVY®)

I could go on for a while exemplifying the benefits of high resolution data, but it would soon become tedious, so I won’t. Instead I will end with my view on the subject: move along with our information hungry society and embrace the insights and competitive advantages it can give you instead of playing your old VHS until there nothing left but a static image.


[1] The human behaviour during a transition: 
[2] A virtual arrival shipping contract to account for port delays with large possible savings:



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