Finnish company NAPA is a familiar name to cruise line operators; most already use its stability and voyage optimisation software. Over 30 years the company has built itself into a leading global provider of software and data services for ship design and operations, with its key goals being to improve safety and sustainability through smarter solutions. Now, it is intending to raise the bar with the latest version of its stability software.

Almost 95% of new builds in the global passenger fleet today, are built by NAPA’s customers, making the company’s ship design software essentially the industry standard. Stability management and operations data services are also key uses for NAPA technology. It is widely recognised for its expertise in cloud-based voyage optimisation and fleet efficiency solutions, which are a feature in the technology infrastructure of a growing number of fleets.

Its latest market offering is a new suite of stability management software for passenger vessels – aptly named NAPA Stability – was recently approved by Lloyd’s Register and DNV. The question is how much of an improvement this makes over existing software; how much can realtime stability data impact operational decisions, in terms of safety and sustainability metrics.

“As more of our vessels experience NAPA Stability, we already see significant changes that will improve work processes and reduce workloads for our crews,” commented Iain McConnachie, senior manager of nautical and marine safety at Carnival UK, at the launch of the solution. “Moreover, having real-time data at hand for all situations will [not only] enable us to strengthen the safety support provided to our teams at sea, but also increase our overall daily stability awareness and fleet support capabilities.”

“This solution will help the passenger ship industry adopt an important safety tool rapidly whilst raising standards across the board,” added Mark Darley, COO at Lloyd’s Register. “The approval in principle (AiP) signposts a crucial landmark for safety at sea as digitalisation on board cruise ships continues to gather pace.”

A digital tool for collaboration

“NAPA Stability is built on the foundation of its predecessor, NAPA Loading Computer, a passenger ship industry gold-standard when it comes to managing on board vessel stability,” explains Esa Henttinen, executive vice-president of NAPA Safety Solutions. “What makes NAPA Stability a game changer and the next generation in this technology is its ability to connect with the shoreside using cloud technology.”

Traditionally, stability matters have been managed by the onboard crew, but this new solution connects with the cloud-based NAPA Fleet Intelligence platform to enable seamless ship-to-shore data sharing. Consequently, stability management becomes a shared responsibility between on-board crew and shoreside teams, leading to better utilisation of resources and improved safety.

“Ultimately the decision-making always lies with the captain, of course, with the shoreside being in a supporting role,” Henttinen adds. “Ship owners, operators and managers can now proactively monitor their whole fleet’s stability conditions from shoreside fleet operation centres (FOC) in real time. This not only helps increase transparency in daily operations but enables ships to navigate more safely, by reducing crew workload and streamlining processes.”

Shoreside teams can now support administrative on-board tasks in demanding at-sea situations, freeing the crew to concentrate on more critical issues, such as the safe operation of the vessel.

“For example, the system might alert the crew about some issues with the vessel’s longitudinal strength, bending moments, or in-general stability improvement possibilities,” explains Henttinen.

“The on-board crew can alert the onshore team, who can then investigate the best possible solution by running extensive simulations based on historical data as well as live information from on board. This frees the crew to fully concentrate on navigating the ship safely – duties no one else can perform.”

“What makes NAPA Stability a game changer and the next generation in this technology is its ability to connect with the shoreside using cloud technology.”

Similarly, stability-related voyage planning tasks, such as bunkering or ballast water management, can also be shared with the FOC. FOCs can even run simulations to check the viability of plans, provide a comprehensive picture of the stability risks a vessel faces throughout a journey and proactively alert the on-board team of any risks or gaps to avoid incidents.

“The data also helps in running life-like simulations for various emergency training scenarios,” Henttinen continues. “And if there’s an incident, this same ship-to-shore data sharing helps [to] better manage the situation by sharing critical data with FOCs and emergency response services of classification societies, enabling faster response time and better decision-making based on actual on-board damage information.”

Safety, stability and sustainability

NAPA Stability enables ship and shoreside teams to share all stability data, from loading conditions to stability margins, watertight doors status and much more. This means there is always a comprehensive picture of the stability risks a vessel will face throughout a journey.

This has obvious operational advantages as it encourages a more proactive approach to voyage safety and planning, but this is only one aspect of how the solution improves vessel management. It also supports efforts made by ships to operate more sustainably.

“NAPA Stability can advise on how to adjust traditional safety margins – such as reducing fuels or ballast water – to make voyages more efficient while still maintaining ship safety, stability, and other operational parameters.”

“The proactive approach to voyage safety and sustainability planning is a by-product of three factors – greater data availability and accuracy, information transparency and collaboration,” says Henttinen. “NAPA Stability is a pioneer in making stability data available on the shoreside. Plus, it is available via our Fleet Intelligence cloud-platform which integrates various other data sources, both from NAPA solutions such as NAPA Logbook, as well as third-party information like weather and AIS data.

“When you have access to such accurate big data in a standardised format, data analysis and running extremely realistic simulations becomes much easier – automatically enabling you to plan better. And since this data is available in realtime, even dynamic parameters – such as weather, currents and more – can be easily factored into the planning,” he adds.

“Further, these insights gained from the big data can be shared easily across teams, both on board and onshore. This helps them coordinate and collaborate with one another at an unprecedented level.”

The digital side of decarbonisation

Decarbonisation is a dominant theme within the cruise industry, so it is to be expected there is a firm focus on sustainable measures, such as switching to alternate fuels to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Nevertheless, digital tools can play a vital role in helping vessels to operate more efficiently and, therefore, reduce their carbon footprint.

NAPA is able to support decarbonisation primarily by ensuring ship safety and stability are not compromised. As new green technologies emerge, it is vital that they do not compromise safety. Such technologies – as well as alternative fuels – will require space and may bring additional weight, thus impacting stability.

“As shipping is on a fast track to reducing its emissions, decarbonisation activities need to take stability and other risk factors into account right from the start,” says Henttinen. “Be it alternative fuels, carbon capturing, navigational tech, or performance optimisation tools – everything has an impact on a ship’s safety profile and will have to be implemented, considering factors such as ship stability, longitudinal strength and other operational safety parameters.”

The 3D models that power NAPA’s stability solutions create a safe framework within which new emissions reduction measures can be implemented. This helps to ensure that the retrofitting of new systems, such as newer fuel-efficient engines, include a comprehensive assessment of their effect on the vessel’s long-term safety profile.

“Also, with deadweight management, NAPA Stability can advise on how to adjust traditional safety margins – such as reducing fuels or ballast water – to make voyages more efficient while still maintaining ship safety, stability and other operational parameters,” Henttinen continues. “By connecting the dots between a ship’s loading condition, logbook data from the deck, engine room waste management data, tank and bunkering information, we can help identify the gaps in daily operational efficiencies.

“Furthermore, greater awareness and the use of stability data, including trim and balance optimisation, help run the ship in the most optimal way in terms of energy efficiency,” he adds.

“But it is not just about fuel efficiency. A big challenge for the decarbonisation transition is data management, compliance and reporting. With the upcoming implementation of CII reporting, along with green financing, the need for further transparency and the value of accurate data capturing, and analysis, is only becoming more apparent.”

Reports suggest that 90% of data generated on-board ships never leaves the deck. This means that every day, ship owners, operators and managers are losing valuable insight that can improve safety, performance and efficiency. NAPA aims to change that with a truly collaborative tool that should raise the bar both for safety and sustainability.