When a chartered bulker sails to a port to load a cargo, it often does so at its top service speed, only to then wait at an anchorage until a terminal is available.

This is not only inefficient, given the additional fuel and potential demurrage costs, but increases greenhouse gas emissions that will negatively affect its Carbon Intensity Indicator rating.

The Blue Visby Consortium says it has demonstrated that its solution — to slow ships down without anyone losing money — can help solve this.

The solution is a mix of new contract clauses that cover the use of general average to share the gains of a fuel-saving system that includes technology, and having more than one vessel involved.

The consortium, consisting of shipowners, ports, industry associations, legal firms and technology outfits, has been developing a system-wide approach to tackle the “sail fast, then wait” problem.

And now two vessels on charter to Blue Visby member CBH Group, an Australian grain producer, have sailed on charter contracts under the Blue Visby model in prototype trials to demonstrate that the system-wide approach works.

The 80,446-dwt Gerdt Oldendorff (built 2014) and 61,102-dwt Begonia (built 2022) sailed to the shipper’s Kwinana terminal near Perth.

Rather than sailing to Kwinana, then waiting at an anchorage, they used the Blue Visby system to determine a better sailing speed.

The project announced CO2 savings of 28.2% and 12.9%, respectively, based on each vessel’s emissions when operating at full-service speed.

Haris Zografakis, partner at UK law firm Stephenson Harwood, is one of the Blue Visby project co-ordinators.

This is not about virtual arrival, he told TradeWinds. Nor is it about route or voyage optimisation, although these are certainly factors individual ship operators will deploy.

Blue Visby is about looking at all the ships sailing to a given port, determining their arrival time and putting them in an order, slowing them down a bit and then sharing the cost savings.

“It is like having an air traffic control system for shipping,” he said. “It is about solving a system inefficiency in the shipping industry.”

There is a technology base to the Blue Visby system, developed by Finnish maritime tech firm NAPA. A global map shows vessel positions and their track to their destination port. As the system is under trial, it also shows a virtual position of these vessels if they were under the Blue Visby system.

The idea is to allow individual ships access to their own insights into Blue Visby by integrating data into ship navigation systems, notably using a new S100 framework under development for electronic chart display and information systems.

Zografakis gave the example of 33 ships waiting at anchorage at Port Hedland, a bulk iron ore terminal in Western Australia, with more than 100 vessels sailing to the anchorage, only to anchor and wait their turn.

Haris Zografakis is a legal adviser to the Sea Cargo Charter initiative and leads Stephenson Harwood’s work in coordinating the Blue Visby project. Photo: Stephenson Harwood

“We cannot, as shipping, solve the port problem,” said Zografakis talking about port inefficiencies that could lead to vessel delays. “We can, however, as an industry, solve the sea side of this, and synchronise and optimise the ocean passage.”

This synchronisation and optimisation of the incoming vessels does not prevent ships from adopting their own voyage optimisation solutions, or any other fuel efficiency measure, he added.

Using general average

While it is possible to use software to optimise the flow of tonnage into an anchorage or port, it is another to encourage shipowners, charterers and cargo owners to change charterparty arrangements and a shipping system that has been functioning for decades under the Hague Visby rules.

The idea of using general average helps deal with the inertia caused by split incentives of fuel costs, explained Zografakis.

“Nothing will happen unless there are benefits,” he said. “Everyone gets a share of the general average, and the shipowner will also see an improvement to its vessel’s CII, while shippers will also see improvements in their Scope 3 emissions.”

Blue Visby has been working with Bimco, which has already developed charterparty clauses on slow steaming and just-in-time arrival, and these have been adjusted for charterparty contracts under the Blue Visby Consortium.

The recent trials by two vessels are just the beginning. As the consortium members begin to realise the financial benefits, the plan is to draw in more members and formalise the project into a more commercial solution, possibly an association.

It also needs to ensure the agreement of the instruments to slow vessels down, calculate the impact on demurrage to enable that to be paid off, and then the fuel savings shared out at an agreed market rate as supplied by the Baltic Exchange, another Blue Visby member.