Sends a warning to ship owners
The increasing number of computer controlled systems, and the lack of computer understanding among the ship owner staff is a challenge in the marine automation business.
Kåre Høglund, founder and president of Høglund Marine Automasjon A/S.
For over a decade Høglund Marine Automasjon A/S (HMA) in Tønsberg has delivered automation and power management systems all over the world. Founder and president, Kåre Høglund, is worried about the electrical equipment on board vessels.
- All offshore vessels built today have got diesel electric propulsion, where the installed electrical equipment is very complicated. All package suppliers, like suppliers of engines, thrusters, burners, compressors, cranes and pump, have developed a standalone system, and will always keep their standard system, explains Høglund.
Over 100 different systems
That causes the number of computer controlled systems, or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), onboard to increase continuously. For some vessels the number may easily pass 100. As none of these PLCs are of the same brand, you end up with a random mix of different brands and types.
- There is no ship owner today that fully understands the electrical and computer systems installed onboard the vessels in their fleet. And for years the electrician’s position on board the vessels has been neglected, and reduced to light bulb replacing, says Høglund.
Programmable Logic Controller (PLC).
- The result can be that the owner of the vessel does not have any overview of the systems, and no one has the knowledge required to understand the functions in each of the installed computers, he adds.
Due to this, one small PLC with a cost of $100 may set a 100 million dollar vessel out of operation. Høglund points out that his scary consequence is not common to people outside this narrow business, and not known to an engineer.
- The introduction of the PLC has been seen as a modernization, where everybody just looks at it as a modern design. The PLC is also a huge cost saver, compared to traditional relay control.
Høglund recommends vessel owners to take precautions.
- Each ship owner should at least try to minimize the use of PLCs and rather try to integrate each of the sub systems into the IACS (control system). When the ship is delivered, the ship owner should require a list of all computer based systems installed, and with detailed information of each unit.
However, Kåre Høglund sees the problem as a huge challenge to solve completely.
- 20 years ago, Statoil set a new standard for offshore platforms, and required only one brand of PLC to be mounted onboard the platform. This solved one problem, but introduced a cost for all subsystems to be included in the main control system.
This is the ideal solution, but no ship owner has the mussels, neither the budget to require that building an offshore vessel, as the cost would be enormous.
For over a decade Høglund Marine Automasjon A/S (HMA) in Tønsberg has delivered automation and power management systems all over the world.
Full speed ahead
HMA have had a tremendous development in the Marine Automation in the last decade, and been expanding from five to 30 people in ten years.
After working as a consultant company for ABB Marine, HMA was suddenly out of business when ABB decided to close down the automation business back in 2002.
A former client’s confidence
For a company with only five employees it was a real challenge to compete with well-established automation suppliers. Nevertheless HMA decided to take advantage of the market left by ABB.
- Langsten Shipyard, which at that time was a self-standing yard, and where we have done projects together with ABB in the past, showed us confidence to deliver our first system, based upon the job we had done earlier on several Ramform Vessels. Just when the first system was delivered the marked exploded, and we had soon many similar orders, says Kåre Høglund.
HMA then started the development of their own operator station, control library and a sophisticated software generation tool.
- This development resulted in a new product named HC800, and was introduced at the NOR Shipping event in 2004. Since then, some 200 vessels have got the system installed – an achievement we are very proud of, says Høglund.
Before and after an upgrade done by HMA.
In addition to deliver complete systems, HMA also supplies the software libraries for other suppliers to use.
- We decided to offer our software library to other system integrators, who needed the logic for controlling a modern offshore vessel. Today we have several customers who produce our system based upon a license deal, and they put their own brand name on the product, says Høglund.
This software license concept has now been used for some 100 installations around the world.