Predictive Maintenance in Vessel Maintenance

The maritime industry is the lifeblood of the global economy. According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), around 90% of world trade is carried by sea. Thus, operations continuity is vital as unanticipated vessel downtime will cause operational disruption. It will be costly not only for the shipowners but for other key stakeholders in the supply chain as well.

Moreover, unplanned downtime costs billions in revenue per year for the world’s largest businesses, the maritime industry is no different. Unplanned downtime can cost up to $12 million per year for a drillship. A drillship alone costs $12 million. Imagine the total amount of money spent on unplanned downtime for the entire maritime industry.

Machine failure is one of the main causes of unplanned downtime. In fact, more than 70% of companies are not fully aware of when their equipment is due for maintenance or replacement. This is alarming as unexpected machine failures will lead to unplanned downtime and huge operational delays. This can be pretty costly.

Therefore, unplanned downtime can severely affect profits, competitiveness and reputation. To tackle the issue, you need a more strategic approach for vessel maintenance.

It is time to move into Predictive Maintenance.

What is Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance, termed PdM, provides a ‘crystal ball’ solution to heavy machinery owners by predicting potential machinery failure or breakdown. The system monitors the machine health in real-time with various condition monitoring sensors. Based on past trends observed, the system can accurately predict the likelihood of a machinery malfunctioning. Prompts will be sent to the operational crews and necessary maintenance works can be arranged before the machine fails.

The Value of Predictive Maintenance
1. Optimal Maintenance Schedule

More often than not, crews carry out vessel maintenance such as hull cleaning and propeller polishing based on intuition or routine schedule instead of actual machine performance. This means that they may replace fully operational parts unnecessarily, and dock vessels for maintenance they do not even need. As a result, redundant maintenance costs and time loss are incurred. Furthermore, the crews may not have sufficient or the right spare parts on board should urgent repair works be needed in the event the machine breaks down unexpectedly.

Using predictive maintenance, you can adopt a more proactive approach in maintaining your vessels. Using the insights derived, an optimal maintenance schedule can be planned. This is to allow maintenance to be done before the vessel is far out at sea where it is more challenging to do repair works. 

Also, an optimal maintenance schedule allows you to have proper maintenance management. You can also hoard the right spare parts with the appropriate quantity. Not only that, but it also helps to better organize labour requirements for the maintenance works.  

2. Increase Safety

Ship equipment is often exposed to extremely harsh working conditions. Thus, any machine failure will also affect the crews’ safety. According to Marine Insight, about 96% of maritime accidents are due to human errors, including poor maintenance or lack of maintenance of equipment.

Hence, a better maintenance strategy to reduce accidents onboard the ships is imperative. Why predictive maintenance for vessels? All shipowners do perform maintenance works from time to time, however, it is a matter of whether these maintenance works are fixing the right thing. With predictive maintenance, it can help you to identify the right cause of problems, Thus allowing you to fix the right thing at the right time.

Also, predictive maintenance will help to upkeep the condition of the equipment and ensure compliance with the safety regulations in the maritime industry.

3. Reduce Downtime and Cost

Vessel maintenance is often carried out based on a regular maintenance schedule (preventive maintenance) or when the equipment breaks down (reactive maintenance). However, routine maintenance can over maintain the equipment and negatively affect its lifespan. Moreover, maintenance and spare parts costs in the maritime industry have been gradually rising and account for about 18% of a vessel’s operating expense (OPEX). It is unjustifiable to over maintain the equipment due to the cost involved and yet does not solve the root of the problem. 

Therefore, it is quintessential to perform maintenance works efficiently for better cost-efficiency. By using sensors to monitor the equipment condition and predict breakdowns, you can perform maintenance only when there is an actual need. This helps to better maintain the machinery and contributes to a longer lifespan. Also, it helps in avoiding unplanned downtime that can severely interrupt operations onboard the vessels. At the same time, it can prevent unnecessary costs from routine maintenance by determining an optimal maintenance schedule. 

According to McKinsey, using the Internet of Things (IoT) in ship maintenance can reduce 10-40% in service costs and 50% less downtime. This is something that the maritime industry really needs to look into.

How to Better Leverage Technology in Vessel Maintenance

On top of predictive maintenance for vessels, edge computing is another key to the digital transformation in vessel maintenance. Edge computing enables the system to process and analyze data closer to the point where it is created. As such, edge computing provides real-time data analysis even without an internet connection. This is especially useful for vessel maintenance as internet access at sea can be limited and unreliable.

Furthermore, it will also reduce delays in data transfer as data is processed at the locally installed gateways, thus enabling quicker data analysis and actions can be taken immediately when required. 

This means that notifications on the condition of the equipment can be done instantly through the system even if the vessels are out in the open sea. Your crews also get to have a quicker response time should any maintenance work be urgently required. 

Towards the Future

To sum up, the way the maritime industry does business has changed since the introduction of IoT. With more technological advances, we are going to see a digital transformation in vessel maintenance through predictive maintenance. 

Here at, we have extensive expertise in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics. These technologies are highly capable in supporting maritime organizations with the implementations of predictive maintenance for vessels. Have a chat with us to find out more details.