Optimising trim for fuel savings and a smaller carbon footprint

Today, trim optimisation is an integral element of efficient voyage execution and by that an important contribution to achieving our decarbonisation targets. Thanks to the daily commitment on board and on shore, we are able to reduce both our fuel consumption and emissions.

The trim of a ship describes its floating position in a longitudinal direction – or, in other words, whether the bow or the stern of the ship is sitting deeper in the water than the other. The trim can have a significant impact on a vessel’s energy demands for propulsion during sailing. Mainly sea water ballast is being used for adjusting the trim. This ballast water can be taken on board in certain specific locations to achieve the desired trim.

Trim by the bow...
...and by the stern of a vessel.

Hapag-Lloyd introduced trim optimisation to its fleet a long time ago. This initially only involved our own vessels under our own management. But, owing to the successful results of these measures, we rolled it out to vessels managed by third parties as well as to long-term chartered vessels. Today, 173 out of the 253 vessels we operate are equipped with trim-optimisation tools. In the first nine months of 2022, optimising the operational trim saved 16,500 tonnes of fuel oil, the equivalent of approximately 50,000 tonnes of CO2. On average, this represents a decrease in emissions of roughly 1.5% for each vessel. This may sound relatively small, but it adds up to a very impressive amount when you take the entire fleet into account.

The success of our trip-optimisation efforts is mainly due to the masters and officers on board, the stowage planners on shore, trainings, the sharing of experiences, and the transparency of the results. On board, the crew checks the actual loading conditions, bending moments and shear forces before consulting the trim-optimisation recommendation and ultimately deciding which trim would be best, always keeping in mind the crew’s and vessel’s safety. Prior to this, our stowage planners will plan the cargo in a way that will give the vessel the most advantageous trim possible without violating bending moment, shear force and stability limits.

Captain Henri Scheer, Master and Fleet Advisor in Network Operations

When on board, I am focusing on clear and early communication with the chief mate, who is in charge of the trim planning and stability, as well as on an early approach to the (regional) planner’s ‘refreshing’ of the intension to optimise the trim on the long legs. In general, this works out fine. When we underline the topic at the beginning of the coastal rotation, this can be considered in the cargo distribution at an early stage. However, in very rare cases, we have not been able to perform trim optimisation owing to inoperable or unfavourable cargo distribution. But even then, it has been possible to minimise the negative effects on fuel consumption if the ship and planner remained in close cooperation.

Essam Wahby Amin, Network Operations Stowage Expert

It’s one of their main targets on each vessel in terms of reducing bunker consumption to the lowest possible level as well as one of the main drivers of how the cargo/bunker/ballast weights are optimally distributed from each port to maintain the required optimum trim on sailing legs longer than 800 nautical miles. At the same time, there are some challenges that can have a negative impact, such as port rotation inconsistency, low booking forecast accuracy and terminal operation restrictions.

Furthermore, an active captain from the fleet, who is in the Network Operations office for three to six months, monitors the trim potential of our fleet in addition to providing assistance with ship-shore communications and discussing trim-related issues with the vessels.

Captain Henri Scheer, Master and Fleet Advisor in Network Operations

While in Network Operations, we focus on evaluating the potential for fuel savings and supporting the fleet in their efforts to achieve an optimised trim. Using a dashboard, we have been able to identify which vessels may have some potential to save more fuel and how we can help them to do so, if possible.

Finally, instead of merely sending an anonymous programme to vessels and expecting our crews to use it, we provide compact but meaningful instructions, give ship-specific feedback on performance (e.g. for the trim on board), and conduct trainings with the crews under our own management.

Collectively, the steps discussed above have made our trim-optimisation efforts uniquely successful in our industry.

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