What Are the 5 Smart Maintenance Technologies That Could Transform the Maritime Industry?

As the role of automation is currently growing in ships and systems. Together with that, we have to consider: How to solve problems with maintenance onboard the ships? Smart Maintenance in the Maritime industry is still at the beginning of the development road. Smart maintenance systems are more commonly used on existing ships, however ashore these are already well-developed standards. And they will be a key factor for future autonomous ships. What are the biggest game-changers in this area? I will start very boring (I am sorry), but first things first!

Proper architecture of systems for easy maintenance

Where we should start with thinking about the maintenance? First the most important is to adjust the architecture of systems. This is the first step, to making maintenance easier. It is very important to design systems sustainably. I always strongly support redundancy. That is always the easier way, to increase the reliability of the system. Additionally, it’s easier to do the maintenance. In the technical specification for new building ships, redundancy has to be considered.

Redundancy can be done in multiple ways, the most simple is the installation of 2 systems. We can also make redundant only key components. By redundancy, we can increase reliability and buy ourselves time, between the maintenance periods. If one of the pumps will fail or will be close to failing, we can reposition the valves and use standby pumps.

Additionally, we have to install the equipment with correct maintenance access. Very helpful in this are all 3d based models software, which is creating a digital twin of an existing project. This is one of the elements, which can simplify the operation and maintenance of ships over time.

But how to estimate when the pump can fail? Here we go to the next point.

Preventive Maintenance in the maritime industry – current measurement

We have a really good solution to estimate the condition of electrical equipment: Motor current signature analysis. This is a technique that helps to determine the operating condition without disturbing of operation. By current measurement, we can detect a deviation in power consumption. This can help to identify such events like:

  • Unbalance/misalignments
  • Defective bearings
  • Rotor bar damage
  • Load issues
  • Condition of main contacts in the contactor

This means that the most common issues, and components that get used, can be checked. That’s a really good solution, which can be easily installed on the existing ship. Constant measurement gives chance to collect the data, and react faster to changes, than during normal maintenance activities. I think this is the best solution, currently available to monitor the condition of electrical equipment. However, this is not the only kind of equipment that we can meet onboard.

What is the effect of vibration on smart maintenance in the maritime industry?

Another very popular maintenance technology that is commonly used, is based on vibration. Vibration is a different parameter than current. It’s also covering quite a lot of issues which we can meet at the electrical machines. However, vibration measurements are beneficial that can be used also with no electrical equipment. We can measure the vibration of pumps. Usually ball bearings in the electrical pump, are getting damaged from the pump. This means that vibration monitoring at the pump can provide us with information about the deviation faster, than the current measurement at the electrical motor.

Issue of vibration can be really serius!

Additionally, we can monitor issues like:

  • Equipment vibration
  • Bearing condition monitoring
  • Gearbox vibration monitoring
  • Rotor vibration monitoring

Oil analysis as a continued measurement

Currently onboard the ship we have a lot of mechanical equipment which requires lubrication. Every engine, gear and etc. is equipped with lubrication oil. The condition of the oil itself translates to the condition of the mechanical equipment.

Oil analysis predictive maintenance methods are very advanced. It’s quite common that the crew will do the analyses onboard. If there are any suspicious, samples of the oil with laboratories to do the checks. But there is a much better way than doing the visual inspections, contamination inspections and etc. I also remember that the results of analyses were high depending on, who was doing them. So there hasn’t been a strict correlation between the intervals, every person has a bit different results.

Continued monitoring of trends, with data collection, is a good step forward. Sensors can connect data, and we can have reliable analysis over time. Automation measurement eliminates human faults and they will never be forgotten. Each measurement will be compared over time because once calibrated sensor will last long. Even a small raise in the analysis values can record, and we can schedule maintenance. Example of Oil Analysis sensor You can see here.

Automated fault predictions – online fault analysis

Fault threes are well known in engineering. But how fault prediction can help us in maintenance in the maritime industry?

However, this is not so popular to see automated fault prediction and consequences analysis, running in real-time. Usually, analyses are done, and architectural constraints are covering the scenarios. and finito. However, fault prediction systems can be fed with current measurement, vibration measurement, and oil analysis. In simple words, automated fault prediction can react to the issues in the system, before they will happen. Connection of multiple fault threes, with constant analysis of parameters, can predict all kinds of issues coming in the very complex system.

Additionally, this kind of system can be equipped with Artificial intelligence or machine learning, however, this is not a top requirement. The most important is to know what kind of events You want to prevent. Do Your measurements and prevent the event before it happen! We write some article about the data, check it here!

Smart maintenance in the maritime industry

Maintenance in the maritime industry is still done by people. And if we have autonomus ships, it still be. However, we have already the tools, which can limit constant supervision by human. Use of proper maintenance technologies can


  • Mateusz Białas

    Researcher of Autonomous and Remotely Controlled ships. Since 2014 in Maritime Industry. Experience gained at Ro-Ro, Ferry, Container, and Heavy Lifts, design of Navy Ships.

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