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How ship databases boost service quality

Tight schedules and expensive docking fees mean shipowners need to keep downtime to a minimum. To do this, it is important to know exactly which parts need replacing—and when. But with so many components on a ship, and vessels changing owners more frequently, maintaining an overview can be difficult.

Vessel downtime can result in extremely high costs for shipping companies. This makes it all the more important that the ship operator, the shipyard, and the supplier are all fully prepared to carry out necessary work. Ship databases are proving to be a useful tool in this endeavor.

Keeping track of vessel history

A lot can happen during a vessel’s lifetime. Over a typical 25–30-year service life, a ship will have had numerous repairs, upgrades, modifications, inspections, and is likely to have changed owners at least once. To be able to provide better recommendations and a more efficient service, OEMs and suppliers need to be able to gain an overview of this entire history.

For this reason, service suppliers often use databases to record information. SKF Marine, for example, keeps a record of around 50,000 vessels, including information such as technical specifications, maintenance history, service reports, and equipment on board. By combining these records with data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence, the company can gain an insight into the status of a ship (in service, laid up, scrapped, etc.), which classification society it operates under, and when it is next due for class renewal.

Using the past to plan the future

There are numerous benefits to be gained from this approach. Firstly, the supplier is better able to advise the customer and can offer replacement parts or recommend upgrading to more modern technology. In addition, as the supplier knows what components are installed, they are more prepared, can ensure product availability, and minimize the risk of delivering the incorrect parts. This helps prevent extended docking periods, delays, and increased costs.

But databases not only help suppliers respond to inquiries; they also form the foundation for proactive planning. For example, in annual meetings with customers, they can plan out shipping and maintenance activities for the next 12 months. The result is that both parties have a complete picture of all upcoming maintenance work and inspections, facilitating faster, better quality service.

Today, ships are changing hands increasingly often. While in the past, shipping companies might have purchased one or two ships at a time, we’re now seeing entire fleets change owners—and it is therefore crucial to have an overview of every vessel’s history.

Christoph Tunn, Spare Parts Section Manager, SKF Marine

The importance of understanding vessel history

In light of recent market consolidation and tightening environmental regulations, ship databases will become increasingly valuable. Due to region-specific regulations, shipping companies have to pay extra attention to onboard components. VGP 2013, for example, requires vessels to use environmentally acceptable lubricants (EALs) when operating in US waters.

By referring to information in databases, shipping companies and their suppliers have a clearer understanding of vessels, enabling them to plan dry docking time and required spare parts accordingly. And in times when margins are thin, with mergers and acquisitions on the rise, this overview has never been so important. Shipowners could therefore have much to gain by turning to a service supplier who maintains a comprehensive ship database.


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