Columbia’s Performance and Optimisation Control Room takes smart shipmanagement to a new level

New advances in digitalisation and smart technology are regularly being seen in the global shipping industry as practitioners seek to drive in more efficiencies to add value to the vessel operating bottom line. And this March to greater efficiency has not been blocked by the COVID-19 pandemic: if anything, its purpose has been even more clearly defined.

But while many see it as a way of taking cost out of the operating equation, the importance of digitalisation as an aid to increasing transparency and openness cannot be overstated.

We at Columbia Shipmanagement were one of the first to realise that optimising navigational, operational and commercial performance was the way ahead if we were to deliver that added value back to the customer.

One of the first things we did was to forge close working partnerships with two leading players in the marketplace. Lufthansa Industry Solutions and Blue Dynamics, because we wanted to commit to a digital agenda in quality ship management that could learn lessons from the aviation industry and create a digital vision of a truly transformational digital environment.

Bringing our clients more closely into the vessel management process was very important and through a dedicated Client Portal, a 24/7 web-based e-platform, they were able to access a variety of operationally relevant information about their vessels:

  • Vessel information and Tracking
  • Office contacts and assigned staff
  • QSHE
  • Crewing
  • PMS
  • Purchasing
  • Accounting and Finances
  • Vessel Post-fixture Operations

At the same time we developed a Crew Portal facility which gives our crew 24/7 access again to an e-platform containing relevant information of their profiles.

  • Crew information, career sheet and assignments
  • Evaluation and profile recommendations
  • Certificates, Medical, etc
  • Calendar for on/off sign
  • Reading and learning material
  • Company News Updates
  • Open Reporting System

This system is important because it delivers quality connectivity services to the crew, with full accessibility from onboard our vessels or from their homes. Again, it is user-friendly and fully responsive on all mobile devices.

But a digital milestone was reached when Columbia launched its Performance Optimisation Control Room (POCR) at its Headquarters in Limassol, to enable our clients to optimise all aspects of their navigational, operational and commercial performance. This took our management processes to a completely new level. Via a state-of-the-art digital platform, the POCR harnesses the very latest technology and digitalised techniques in a wholly confidential and data secure environment.

As Mark O’Neil, CEO of Columbia Shipmanagement, said: “We have been at the forefront of maritime innovation for over 40 years, and now we have built a system that is revolutionising the future of shipping, finance and trading.”

Monitored by specialists 24/7, the POCR allows clients to have a greater level of transparency and visibility of their operations. As a web-based solution, the POCR functionality can be immediately transferred to clients’ offices at zero cost, therefore meaning they can access remotely to the services. The set-up is fully customisable, and the majority of features require no onboard equipment installation, although camera, sensor and automatic data collection technology can be provided where necessary.

The POCR solution is available to any operator within the international maritime industry, irrespective of whether that operator has a pre-existing relationship with Columbia Shipmanagement. Services and functionality are modular and individually priced, based on a very flexible and focused service set-up.

By participating in the POCR, maritime operators can differentiate themselves from their competitors by achieving levels of cost savings, efficiencies, and economies of scale, which render them much more competitive and attractive to the market.

The POCR allows for daily data quality and performance alerts and provides comprehensive and customisable monitoring for all types of vessels. It allows office operators to check the performance of a fleet by combining vessel reported data combined with industry information and inputs. 

Through the POCR, we can deliver quality services of the highest level in a trusted and transparent manner via a system that is user friendly and fully responsive across all mobile devices.

The Control Room provides comprehensive and customisable real time 24/7 fleet monitoring for all type of vessels across the entire shipping industry, with a well thought out range of features for each industry grouping.

Ship owners, Operators, Managers and Pools can optimise speed and consumption, weather routing and disaster avoidance, vessel positioning, crew training and rotation, loadport/disport delays, preventative maintenance techniques, condition and survey reporting, Marpol compliance, bunker management and casualty response. Such overall performance optimisation renders their vessels more attractive to the market and enhances their employability. Again, all of this is available on mobile platforms where users can see the position and status of their fleet at a glance. They can view departure times and ETA details as well as technical data like engine consumption, RPM and power. They can also check speed and weather data based on the vessel position.

When it comes to the Banks, Funds and Financial Institutions, they can monitor and control their assets’ real time location, condition, compliance, efficiency of operation and contemporaneous payables/receivables and debtor/creditor position.

It is also important for Charterers and Commodity traders who might want to monitor their chartered vessel’s overall real-time performance and add in any additional commercial and post-fixture parameters which they require to be adhered to and monitored.

In the area of vessel performance, the POCR is able to report on:

  • Route optimisation
  • Speed optimisation
  • Fuel consumption optimisation
  • Hull & propeller monitoring 
  • Energy management 
  • Trim optimisation
  • Emission compliance monitoring
  • Vessel Data Recorder (VDR) 
  • Preventative maintenance 

It is true to say that digital routing services and optimisation have been around for some time, but the full prospects of big data and machine learning in these technologies have only recently been close to being realised.

Navigation at sea is significantly affected by weather being dynamic, moving and changing. Winds, currents, waves, temperature, ice can alter a vessel’s route and its operational costs.

Intelligent applications, fed with destination, departure/arrival time windows, vessel specs, cargo information (type, weight), bunker prices and regulations (emission requirements), can produce reliable weather forecast. And, powered by AI algorithms, they can produce operator verified navigation plans with unparalleled benefits. Time, fuel, emission savings/reduction while reducing risks and operating costs just to name a few.

POCR fully harnesses these applications allowing clients to gain and maintain a competitive edge on their competitors, always looking to drive optimisation and efficiency, while pushing forward cutting edge technology. At POCR, we take an incremental rather than a transformative approach with the aim of augmenting rather than substituting the human element. We aim to understand the type of tasks each technology can perform and, based on our business needs, develop the appropriate plans.

Through high quality weather forecasts and machine learning, patterns from large historical data sets are analysed and discovered while bringing value to optimal route plotting. Avoiding extreme weather can save days and hundreds of tons of fuel during a long passage.  Our POCR team are in direct communication with the vessels’ crew to monitor all aspects related to route, speed and fuel consumption. This means recognising the details of voyage execution and focusing on results, while maintaining the safety of crew, vessel and cargo. The team interacts with the technical managers, helping to solve complex issues and finding innovative solutions to optimise vessel operations.

Increasing efficiencies

But it’s not only about avoiding extreme weather. In the long run, the most substantial efficiencies will come from optimising performance in all weather conditions; small changes can add up to large savings: the combination of waves, currents and winds apply resistance on the vessel’s hull. Superior weather and sea state data, combined with machine learning, result in optimised routes which are adjusted as the voyage progresses.

Regular and high-quality data makes it possible to plan on-the-go route adjustments. Acknowledging the fact that some weather service providers have more advanced algorithms and multi-model numerical weather products while others have more basic ones, led us to deploy multiple providers in our platform. Different voyages/ clients/ vessels require different qualities of data.

Looking at the important area of commercial optimisation, areas covered by POCR include:

  • Charter Party compliance
  • Claims mitigation
  • Real time TCE evaluation
  • Port congestion and closure warning
  • Demurrage assistance 
  • Competition monitoring 
  • Stoppages and off-hire monitoring for charterers 
  • Round trip voyage calculations 

For post voyage analysis, we can use a variety of tools available to us, depending on customer requirements, from time charter party comparison reports to contractual performance and claims assistance.

Asset preservation as stipulated above, is very important to the banks and the finance houses and again the POCR can assist in a number of key areas:

  • Safety monitoring 
  • Security monitoring
  • Hazardous event monitoring
  • Preventative maintenance 
  • Sensor based data collection 
  • Zone based monitoring for war risk 
  • Digital logbook 
  • Performance investigation assistance 

Case Study

POCR helps a shipowner optimise his vessel’s route and save on bunkers as well as time.

By using Columbia’s POCR, we were able to save an owner around 18 hours steaming time and $7,350 in bunkers during a single voyage.

Case details

Voyage: Santos, Brazil to Songxia, China

Vessel Type: Bulk Carrier

POCR’s route analysts meticulously assessed the Master’s intended route and recommended the most efficient route for the voyage. This analysis took into consideration real-time weather forecasts, incorporating client specific instructions with regards to arrival times. Paying attention to all details, the proposed route was broken down and optimised at various stages of the voyage (Sunda strait, Selat Gelasa).


Compared to the Captain’s intended route, the steaming time at sea was cut by approximately 18 hours, allowing the owners to complete the voyage earlier and get the vessel ready for her next employment sooner. By following POCR advice, the owner saved approximately 25 MT of fuel. With the price of VLSFO at around $300/MT, this meant the company saved around $7,350 on this voyage.

For a live demo and to discuss trial opportunities and POCR packages please contact: [email protected] .

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Why Choose Columbia Shipmanagement

  • 9 ship management offices and 14 owned Crewing Agencies
  • Customer focused and commitment to tailor-made client solutions
  • State-of-the-art Performance Optimisation and Efficiency Control Room to provide highest rate of optimisation and efficiency when it comes to vessels and shore operations under 24/7 monitoring
  • Complete Transparency / Openness / Flexibility in respects to management fees structures
  • Unrivalled reputation for operational excellence and relationship with oil majors
  • Significant Procurement Pool via GenPro, with all benefits returned to Clients on a transparent basis
  • Agreement with Adobe Systems for LMS implementation, becoming the first shipmanager to use a reputed high-tech Software company that is not exclusively dedicated to the maritime industry for e-training / learning
  • I Care Philosophy – ‘I CARE’ is the commitment adopted by the company to live by our core values, vision, mission, policies and procedures and to apply these principles in everything we do.
  • 24/7 Mental Health Support Services (MHSS)  to crew and short staff