Rainhard Kohler talking with ship’s captain, Stefan Bruske.

One unit measures the supply and one measures the return flow between the service tank and the engine. The difference is the actual consumption, and this is presented in realtime on a display located on the bridge. “We developed a new system in which all of the components are together on one panel,” said Rainhard Kohler, sales engineer and project manager with Austrian manufacturer KRAL AG. The entire system can now be found in two small control boxes in the machine room, directly below the service tanks. Up on the bridge there is an A5 display (21 cm by 14.8 cm) that goes along with it. That’s it.

The gas tanker is powered by a MaK diesel engine.

Until now the devices, developed cooperatively by KRAL and the French shipping company Thomas Services Maritimes (TSM), have been used on tugboats. This has been a big success – through more conscientious ship operation, on average about in 5% could be saved in fuel costs. Now, for the first time, a customer active in inland waterway shipping been found: Imperial Shipping. In total three gas tankers are to be upgraded with the KRAL system. “Our newly built ships already have usage metering on board,” said Inspector Horst.

Final work on the installation of the fuel consumption measurement system.

Actually fuel consumption measurement is technically nothing new. As early as the 1970s, the first attempts were being made. Nonetheless the systems were not fully developed, and the cost pressures of today were not present; this is in contrast to the price war we now have on the water. In contrast to the past, the modern system from KRAL are technically very highly developed. “If we want to save fuel, then we also have to provide our crews with the necessary tools,” said Horst. An analysis of the data would also be possible, though that has not yet been planned.

The obligatory test drive on the Rhine near Cologne.

The Imperial Gas 84 edged slowly out of the shipyard. This is the mandatory test trip in which all of the updated systems on board the ship are put into service and tested. The ship’s skipper, Stefan Bruske, cautiously pilots the ship through the narrow access to the Rhine and swings round downstream. “Until now we’ve always been traveling at rpm,” he says. The experienced inland ship operator simple knows the right engine output for the conditions at hand. The consumption climbs the more he “puts the hammer down”.

The display shows current and average consumption.

From the start, the new display constantly shows him the current exact fuel consumption values. While the tanker is traveling downstream at 400 rpm and just under 20 kilometers per hour, fuel consumption is at 72 litres per hour. “The ship’s operator can completely control the consumption,” says KRAL engineer Kohler. “If he dials the throttle back a little, fuel consumption drops without there necessarily being a marked decrease in speed.” As GPS is also integrated, the consumption per kilometer travelled is also displayed next to the average consumption value that is also always up-to-date.

“In the end, we make our money with the engine,” says Captain Bruske. “That means we also have to run it with care.” If in the process fuel can be saved, “that’s a fine thing.” He’ll certainly be making use of the system in order to monitor how he’s operating the ship, and possibly make some adjustments. Only one thing bothers him: the display is mounted flat on the console making it difficult to read, so sometime soon it ought to be repositioned to the middle of the console.

In the meantime, on the deck the sprinkler system and the fire suppression hoses are being tested. Down below in the machine room, the overhauled engine is adjusted and broken in. After an hour Bruske turns his tanker around so that it’s heading upstream. Now the engine runs at 700 rpm, though the speed of the ship has dropped to just over 11 kilometer per hour. The digital readout on the usage display races upwards – all the way to 195 litres per hour. “That’s never been so clear to me before,” notes Bruske.

Just how much fuel can be saved in the end depends on a lot more than the person operating the ship; rather, there are many additional criteria – including the water level, the weight of the cargo and how it’s loaded, upstream or downstream travel, and the local conditions in which the ship is being operated. The time targets coming from the shipping company or the charterer also have to be considered. “The operator is the one who can conserve the most fuel”, says Horst.

This was part 4 in our series on the fuel consumption measurement with Eco-Pilot.
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KRAL AG | Bildgasse 40 | Industrie Nord | 6890 Lustenau | Österreich

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