Science and innovation
SCF is strongly focused on preserving and advancing its technological leadership, to retain a principal competitive advantage. The Group achieves this through actively and consistently improving technologies and equipment, developing and adopting unique engineering solutions that set ever higher safety, efficiency and sustainability standards for the shipping industry.
As a result, SCF has introduced several pioneering game-changing vessels to its fleet. The Group consistently remains amongst the most technologically advanced companies within the global energy shipping market.
The Sovcomflot Group’s Green Charter is a declaration of commitments related to sustainable development approved as part of the РАО Sovcomflot Strategy. The document lays down the strategic areas of SCF's activities aimed at sustainable development and proclaims the Company's commitment based on compliance with the requirements of international industry regulations and standards.
SCF Group puts a lot of effort into developing its in-house R&D practice, based on a strong engineering heritage. The locus of R&D activities is SCF Engineering Centre, integrated with SCF Training Centre and Marine Operations Centre at SCF’s headquarters in St. Petersburg. The Engineering Centre team is involved in designing all the game-changing vessels for SCF, both already introduced over the recent years and those yet to come.
SCF’s R&D activities are particularly focused on further introducing LNG fuel across the shipping industry and raising navigational safety whilst operating in challenging ice conditions.
The main areas of innovative activities and scientific, R&D and technological projects of Sovcomflot Group in 2020 were as follows:
Exploring opportunities for improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon, sulphur and nitrogen oxides emissions:
using a boil-off gas reliquefaction system to return boil-off gas to the cargo tanks or use it as a fuel for the ship power plant on gas carriers (implemented as part of the construction of SCF La Perouse- class vessels);
using a hull air bubble lubrication system to reduce the resistance and increase the speed of the ship for SCF La Perouse- class LNG carriers (implemented as part of the construction of the fourth vessel of the series);
installing direct-drive permanent magnet shaft generators (the generator rotor is integrated in the shaft line) to reduce fuel consumption for power generation for LNG carriers (implemented as part of the construction of the fourth SCF La Perouse-class vessel);
fitting rotor sails to LNG-fuelled Afrarnax vessels (the solution has not been implemented at this stage, has been preliminarily worked through and is being considered in the context of future projects).
Working on projects for new types of LNG-fuelled vessels - Afrarnax and VLCC tankers, bulk and dry-cargo carriers.
Preliminary assessment of prospects for using alternative low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels on vessels ordered by the Group.
Preliminary working-through of innovative technical solutions from the viewpoint of prospects for using them on the company's vessels (for example, stabilisers of different types).
Participating in the development of automated and remote control technologies for large-capacity commercial vessels, which involves creating and validating technical tools and drafting requirements to be incorporated into Russian and international legal and technical regulations that create conditions for operating unmanned vessels. In 2020 SCF Group masters participated as part of an expert council in preparations for the first stage of pilot operation, which includes the testing of the basic automated and remote control algorithms on shore test-bed based on the array of data received from vessels.
Participation of SCF Group employees in research, conducting calculations and experiments to select optimal parameters for ship power plants in terms of compliance with conventional requirements.
In the reporting period specialists of the SCF training centre in St. Petersburg participated in the modelling of vessel marine operations in the port water area and on the approaches to the port to determine critical hydrometeorological conditions in the area of marine transhipment centres in the Murmansk region (Kildin Strait, Gulf of Ura) and to identify opportunities and conditions (constraints) for the safe manoeuvring of vessels in the transhipment centre water area in the Kamchatka region.
Employees from the SCF training centre continued to take part in the research work on the development of regulations for bunkering ships with LNG, which involves the development of national level standards that set uniform requirements for all participants in the open market for LNG bunkering services.
During 2020 the SCF training centre developed and introduced a set of tasks for the software system designed to test the knowledge of vessel crew members on LNG bunkering in accordance with requirements of the Seafarers Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping Code (the STCW Code), as well as a new cybersecurity training programme.
Key achievements in innovation and R&D :
The LNG carrier «Christophe de Margerie» became the first ever large-capacity cargo vessel to complete an eastward passage through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in May 2020, two months earlier than when summer navigation in the eastern part of the Russian Arctic traditionally commences. Thus, the NSR transit window has been significantly extended, as navigation in this part of the NSR commences traditionally only in July. The voyage took 21 days, the travelled distance was 6,047 nautical miles, average speed was 11,7 knots. During the voyage a massive dataset regarding ice conditions in the eastern part of the NSR was collected, which will be taken into account while planning the logistics of future Arctic projects and designing next generations of the Arctic vessels, including icebreakers and high ice-class vessels.
The accumulated experience in vessel operations in the extreme conditions of the Gulf of Ob and the Kara Sea in 2020 formed the basis for two new training manuals, which continued the series of books containing practical recommendations by SCF Group captains for steering vessels in ice conditions. Practical Recommendations for Steering a Vessel with three Azipod Propulsion Units in Ice Conditions in Relation to the Yamal LNG Project were published. The training manual summarizes the experience in steering icebreaking vessels with a powerful power plant accumulated in the Yamal LNG project. Special attention was paid to navigation in the most difficult area - the outlet of the Ob River to the Kara Sea, where large-capacity vessels have to sail along the long and narrow Sea Channel in conditions of constant ice drift. The second training manual is a joint publication of SCF and Scanex dedicated to the analysis of ice conditions based on satellite data. Both manuals were distributed to the SCF fleet and cadets of Russian maritime universities with which Sovcomflot cooperates.
The use of gas engine fuel (LNG) as the primary fuel for six green tankers of the Gagarin Prospect series made it possible to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions (by 33,257 tonnes or 19.5%) in 2020 compared to similar tankers running on diesel fuel.
In 2020, Sovcomflot Group received the award for ‘Shipping Company of the Year' at Seatrade Maritime Awards International. An independent jury, which included representatives of industry associations, financial and research institutions, and classification societies, paid particular attention to the SCF efforts to improve environmental safety and energy efficiency of the fleet, implement advanced technologies and engineering solutions, develop navigation in difficult climatic conditions, and ensure an uninterrupted operation of the company amid the pandemic.
A credit facility agreement concluded by Sovcomflot with three international banks to refinance LNG tankers Grand Aniva and Grand Elena, which was one of the first in the shipping industry to incorporate the Poseidon Principles1 (an international environmental initiative to reduce carbon footprint from ships), was named ‘Project Financing Deal of the Year’ by the jury at Marine Money Awards.
Sovcomflot Group’s innovative activities are carried out in accordance with the requirements and methodological recommendations of the Federal Agency for State Property Management, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Presidential Council for the Modernisation of the Economy and Innovative Development of the Russian Federation. Priority directions for Sovcomflot’s innovative development are determined in accordance with Decree No. 899 of the President of the Russian Federation dated 7 July 2011.
The Company regularly monitors and analyses the integral key performance indicator (KPI) of innovative development.
The integral key performance indicator of innovative development includes four elements:
The ratio of R&D financing to net revenue. According to regulations and the specifics of the industry in which РАО Sovcomflot operates, R&D expenditure includes the cost of scientific and technical activities (including shipbuilding supervision costs) and the costs of personnel training, retraining and skill improvement. Target value: no less than 0.1 %;
The level of compliance with safety requirements of the Company’s customers and international environmental legislation, an estimated coefficient (the less the better). The target is no higher than the industry average for each past year. Industry average is determined annually based on INTERTANKO1 and OCIMF2 reports;
The level of operating expenses per vessel, determined as a percentage of industry average (based on data from independent analytical sources). The target is less than 100 %;
Increase in labour productivity. The target is no less than 5% annually.