New engine technologies, alternative fuels and various technological enhancements that are intended to bring down consumption are a common enough topic, but TSM did not have a specific project with decreased fuel consumption as the goal. “We absolutely had to bring down fuel bills,” says Loïc Thomas. “I wanted a metering and display system that could help with this.” He did purchased a finished solution, but it turned out to not be up to the task. The systems available on the market were most notably lacking in terms of safety; one has to keep in mind that in the end, a fuel consumption measurement system is a part of the engine system. Thomas decided to develop a solution for himself. The 36 year old was able to find an electrical engineer who had developed failsafe electronics for the automobile industry. At the heart, fuel consumption measurement consist of flowmeters and electronics to handle the interpretation and display of the data. Every system requires a flowmeter to measure the amount of fuel flowing to the engine, and a flowmeter to measure the amount of fuel that flows back to the fuel tank. The difference between flow to and away from the engine equals the amount of fuel used. An electronic unit has to gather the measurement data from the flowmeters, offset the amounts, display and save the information, and if needed relay the data to other systems (see the graphic).

The search for suitable flowmeters turned out to be unexpectedly difficult. As the user for the most part only sees the display unit, the developer has to give special attention to the metering part of the system. Specifications regarding measurement precision and safety aspects led to an intensive selection process. The decision was made to go with KRAL AG, merging their know-how into TSM’s independent development of Eco-Pilot.

The first thing Thomas did was to modernise his entire fleet, equipping them all with fuel consumption measurement – he likewise outfits all news ships with the system he developed. He reports that it’s been a success. Simply as a result of his captains being more aware of fuel consumption, costs could be decreased by about 5%. At just 36 years of age, the ship owner is concerned about positive interactions with all TSM employees. It’s not about simply giving orders; instead, discussions are held with the crew. Loïc is interested in the next shipping job as well as the concerns of the captain and the team. For him it is just a matter of respect when he asks a captain’s permission to come aboard. Inspired by its success, the company decided to next go ahead with marketing Eco-Pilot in France. In the meantime, about 60 ships belonging to other ship owners have opted for the TSM fuel consumption measurement system. Nonetheless, as a maritime operator TSM lacked a worldwide distribution network in order to expand the business. It seemed obvious to Loïc Thomas to involve KRAL. The manufacturer of precision measuring devices has been producing and marketing systems that measure fuel consumption for more than 20 years, predominantly for fuel oil systems on high seas ships and engine power plants.

Further cooperation between TSM and KRAL was an easy decision. Since then, the Austrian firm has been marketing Eco-Pilot outside France. One focus has been their over 60 years in the traditional business of inland waterway shipping in Germany. “Ship owners need accurate fuel consumption measurement,” says Thomas. With a straightforward investment, the crew is provided with a precise tool for increasing awareness of fuel consumption and costs. The best results can be achieved if the individuals who are responsible are included from the start. The precision realtime measurement system is installed in the wheelhouse so that the captain always has the display in view. The first effect here is purely psychological, says Thomas. The captain gets a clear indication of current fuel consumption and is personally motivated to alter the ships operation. Later on he tries out different behaviours, and in time changes the way he operates the ship. The ship owner notes that it’s important that the crew has control over the system. Whenever it seems reasonable to the captain, as in some operational situations fuel consumption climbs enormously, with the push of a button he can take the Eco-Pilot system out of the fuel system via a bypass – and he doesn’t have to explain this to anyone. A working relationship based on trust is the basis of success says Thomas.

This was part 1 in our series on the fuel consumption measurement with Eco-Pilot.
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