Interview of Eleni Polychronopoulou to Naftemporiki

Eleni Polychronopoulou, President & CEO at METIS

Aided by AI, shipping is moving away from the traditional reactive mode of vessel operations, towards a proactive model whose most fundamental aspects are precise planning, control and prevention, says Eleni Polychronopoulou, CEO, METIS Cyberspace Technology.

METIS, a pioneering company that this year marks its seventh year in business, collects real-time vessel data and can predict – with a high degree of accuracy – the future behaviour of a vessel, helping owners to make informed decisions regarding the operation of their fleet.

The METIS platform is one of the most complete solutions on the market and highlights the tools contributing to the reduction of emissions, which she believes to be the biggest challenge facing the maritime industry today.

Ship owners are now having to meet decarbonisation requirements not only related to charterers but also related to banks and financial institutions, and METIS aims to provide the tools to put companies on the path to ensure compliance and achieve competitive advantage.  Our solutions can help to reduce fuel consumption by up to 10% and support an annual improvement in a vessel’s Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) rating of up to 12%.

In the past few years, METIS has established itself as one of the leaders in efforts to digitalise the maritime industry. How easy is it for a digital technology company to stand out from the competition?

It is not at all easy. It relies on a strong vision, in-depth knowledge of the subject, trust, drive, patience, close monitoring of developments and of course a team who can turn an idea into a product with added value for the customer.

Marine technology is advancing rapidly, and every passing month brings new data that must be taken into consideration by various industry stakeholders. This is why it is such a challenge to be at the centre of developments. We have a long road ahead of us filled with bumps, but this is why we are here – for the journey and for the challenges it brings.

Competition improves us all. We need it, and we pursue it. Besides, we are used to working in a competitive environment – not only in Greece but also globally as many of our competitors have an international presence.

In any case, I really appreciate that we have managed to gain the trust of both the Greek and international markets, not only on a ship-owning level but also on the level of maritime equipment manufacturers, service providers and organisations in other sectors.

Which issues of daily vessel operations do METIS solutions resolve?

The METIS platform is now one of the most integrated and complete solutions on the market as it is able to cover the needs of different departments, roles and levels of management at a maritime company.

METIS helps executives to increase their productivity in everyday tasks by contributing to the reduction of fuel consumption, which represents a vessel’s greatest operational cost, and the optimisation of performance at various stages of a voyage.

The solution also assists with compiling charter parties with the best-possible terms; understanding and resolving technical issues; optimising speed, identifying the most efficient route based on weather conditions; and monitoring and documenting CII.

With such large volumes of data available, METIS is a pivotal decision-making tool for maritime companies.

How can digital tools help companies to comply with the increasing regulatory requirements for the reduction of vessel emissions?

The reduction of GHG emissions and the greenhouse effect they produce is probably the greatest challenge currently facing by the global shipping community.

Requirements have increased substantially, and automating processes based on reliable data will enable approaching goals set and hence the deadlines in the best possible way.

The most important element, however, is that companies now have insight into the exact behaviour of their vessels, which helps them to optimise their performance on a vessel by vessel basis, to meet emissions-reduction goals while maximising commercial gains.

The decarbonisation imperative is transforming the environment in which vessels operate, and ship owners are having to comply with the requirements of not only charterers but banks too. We, therefore, aim to provide the tools to put companies on the right path.

How is the CII challenge dealt with?

The CII is an example of the challenges facing ship owners. Since the factors that influence this indicator relate to a vessel’s operation, we provide tools such as Weather Routing, which indicates the most efficient route for a vessel to take based on the weather conditions.

We can also determine the correct speed profile for a vessel. Ships are designed with a defined range in which the engine operates. So, for example, when we decide to reduce speed, fuel consumption does not necessarily decrease by a proportional degree, as the engine is not designed to work that way. Each vessel has its own characteristics, meaning that, to achieve the best results possible, different decisions are needed in each case.

Our measurements demonstrate that the METIS platform’s high-resolution data can enhance a ship’s CII rating by between 2% and 12% annually while yielding reductions of 5% to 10% in average yearly fuel consumption.

Can METIS predict the future?

The solutions we provide work across three periods: in the past, where we analyse and rate a vessel’s performance on previous voyages; in the present, where we monitor its operations in real-time; and in the future, where we try to predict the vessel’s behaviour on its forthcoming voyages, which is where the main challenge lies.

We are moving away from the traditional reactive mode of vessel operations, with the aid of artificial intelligence, towards a proactive model whose most fundamental aspects are precise planning, control and prevention. With AI and machine learning, we can predict situations that may take place in the future. For each vessel, we create a digital twin – a model in which we enter the vessel’s operational parameters, data from sea trials, engine performance and how it works overall. We then “feed” this model with real data so the model is trained and is able to reproduce the performance of the vessel in multiple situations and under different conditions.

As time passes and more information is entered into the model, the better its understanding of the vessel gets, and the better outcomes are produced. By learning from the data it receives, the model can make predictions about how the vessel will behave in the future depending on the conditions it will face.

The digital analysis of data seems to be the new way of managing a vessel. Do you think that small-scale companies and those that lack the resources or capabilities to implement innovative technological solutions for their vessels will disappear?

Cost is not an obstacle to the adoption of new technologies. Today, mature solutions are available at a cost that does not prohibit a smaller-scale company from adopting them.

Digitalisation is the way forward for all shipping companies. In fact, I believe that smaller companies especially will thrive as they will obtain access to specialised teams equipped with high-end digital tools. In this way, they will gain insight into the functions of their properties and will thus be able to manage them more effectively.

Of course, large-scale companies will also reap the rewards of digitalisation. A company with 100 or 200 vessels will need to digitalise its operations to be able to manage the huge volumes of data its fleet produces and overcome any obstacle that comes its way.

It is also important to note that the shipping industry has changed completely in recent years. There is not a single company that is unaware of digitalisation and its benefits.

When we started, most companies took a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to new technologies. However, according to a study we conducted recently, at the end of last year, 75% of shipping companies were in the process of evaluating digital solutions, indicating the importance of technology today.

What is METIS’s economic profile and what is its investing plan for the next three years?

We currently have 47 clients with over 350 ships; these numbers will increase significantly in the next months as we have a significant pipeline of cases that are about to be finalized.

Aside from our central offices in Athens, we also have a subsidiary in Singapore and have established a presence in every global shipping hub with the aid of our local representatives.

The investment plan set out for the next three years will focus on the enhancement of our product in two main areas: first, in enhancing its ability to upgrade vessel performance in real-time; and secondly in advancing its predictive capability in a full range of real sea conditions.

The evolution of maritime technology is impressive, and we try to adapt our investment plan by taking into consideration the latest developments. Our goal is for METIS to become a benchmark in the area of analysis services, data collection and data sharing.

This interview was given to Georgios Georgiou, Naftemporiki

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