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Ship to Ship Operations (STS) explained - Product update

This article examines recent progress and initiatives by the shipping industry to meet new IMO targets and provides Signal Ocean Platform data on emissions developments and trends.

The Signal Group
April 2, 2024

Ship-to-ship operations are very common, especially in the larger tanker vessel classes like VLCCs and ULCCs that can carry massive quantities of oil, sometimes up to 4 million barrels. The Signal Ocean Platform helps commercial shipping professionals track ships and the commercial operations they are engaged in, so it can provide a wealth of information on Ship-to-ship operations; but let’s start with the basics.

What is a Ship-to-Ship operation, why is it more common in tankers and what are the benefits and possible risks?

In most cases, load and discharge operations take place between a ship and a port terminal. There can be cases however, when it can be useful to transfer cargo from one ship to another in the open sea; this is what a ship-to-ship operation is. In this type of operation, one vessel acts as the terminal whilst the other one will moor to it. The ship receiving the cargo is called the daughter vessel and the delivering vessel is called the mother vessel. Cargoes typically transferred this way include crude oil, liquefied gas (LPG or LNG), bulk cargo, and petroleum products.

STS operations can be especially useful when dealing with very large vessels, such as VLCCs and ULCCs, which could face draught restrictions at some ports. They can also be economical compared to berthing at a jetty since both the berthing and mooring times are reduced, thus affecting the cost. Additional benefits include avoiding  port congestion, since the vessel will not enter the port. 

STS operations, however, need very effective operations and risk management to ensure that all risks of accident or an oil spill are eliminated.


Oil tankers performing hip to ship Operation (STS) on open sea

How STS operations report work in the Signal Ocean Platform

The STS Operations report displays all Ship-to-Ship Operations carried out at specific areas or ports, within a selected time frame, going back 12 months. Users can select a combination of areas and/or ports to focus on.


Ship to Ship STS report at the Signal Ocean Platform
Ship to Ship (STS) Operations Report in Signal Ocean Platform

The report focuses on 3 types of STS operations, including Lightering (when a bigger vessel operates with a smaller one), a Cargo Transfer (when vessels of the same size operate) and FPSO/Storage (when the operation involves a Storage or FPSO vessel). The data are displayed in a table format with filtering and sorting options per column. The table includes information ranging from Vessel names,Operation types and IMO, to Commercial operators.

Visualization of STS operation inside voyage history in Signal Ocean Platform
Visualization of STS operation inside voyage history in Signal Ocean Platform


Why is monitoring STS operations useful for players involved in commercial shipping and commodities trading?

Understanding STS load and/or/ discharge operations can be very useful when trying to track vessels and understand cargo flows. There are well-known areas (like the US Gulf and Singapore) that constitute key hubs for STS operations, mainly due to port restrictions preventing larger vessels from entering.

How are STS operations identified, using data and technology?

Signal has developed state-of-the-art Machine Learning algorithms that fuse different data sources like AIS data, commercial market data, and a proprietary geofencing, to accurately identify when two vessels are in the process of conducting STS operations. The algorithms exhibit generic and robust performance and are capable to efficiently recognise STS operations across the globe. Complex scenarios can also be recognised like STS operations involving multiple active or storage vessels. 

By carefully tracking each vessel across a specific sector the objective is to identify vessels that are in proximity at the same period of time. Having such information the next step involves understanding the operation type of each vessel that participates in the STS operation as well as other detailed characteristics that can enable us to model different aspects of the operation like flows of cargo. The final event is estimated by understanding the final time period of the operation. All events are then fused in the Signal system with a plethora of different data sources and state-of-the-art models to produce the actual itinerary of a vessel. 

The data is also available via API or export on our premium plans, allowing users to feed their systems and  models (e.g. for commodity trading) while looking for signals that drives their trading or other processes. 

To learn more about Signal Ocean, and get access to additional Analytical and Market Reports, as well as access to APIs and the data behind The Signal Ocean Platform,  request a demo

Creating a sustainable world requires us to embark on a journey towards a zero emission future, where every step is a commitment to preserve our planet for future generations.
Albert Greenway
Environmental Scientist, Sustainability Expert
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Increased Use of Renewable Energy:

Shipping companies are embracing renewable energy sources to power onboard systems and reduce emissions during port operations. Solar panels and wind turbines are being installed on vessels to generate clean energy, reducing reliance on auxiliary engines, and cutting down emissions. Shore power facilities in ports allow ships to connect to the electrical grid, eliminating the need for onboard generators while docked.

Collaboration and Industry Partnerships:

Recognizing that addressing emissions requires collective action, shipping companies, governments, and organizations have formed partnerships and collaborations. These initiatives focus on research and development, sharing best practices, and promoting knowledge transfer. Joint projects aim to develop and deploy innovative technologies, improve infrastructure, and create a supportive regulatory framework to accelerate the industry's transition towards a greener future. The Zero Emission Shipping - Mission Innovation.

To pave the way for a greener future in shipping, the availability of alternative fuels plays a vital role in their widespread adoption. However, this availability is influenced by factors such as port infrastructure, local regulations, and government policies. As the demand for cleaner fuels in shipping rises and environmental regulations become more stringent, efforts are underway to improve the accessibility of these fuels through infrastructure development, collaborations, and investments in production facilities.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) infrastructure has seen significant growth in recent years, resulting in more LNG bunkering facilities and LNG-powered vessels. Nonetheless, the availability of LNG as a marine fuel can still vary depending on the region. To ensure consistent availability worldwide, there is a need for further development of LNG supply chains and infrastructure. For biofuels, their availability hinges on production capacity and the availability of feedstock. Although biofuels are being produced and utilized in various sectors, their availability as a marine fuel remains limited. Scaling up biofuel production and establishing robust supply chains are imperative to ensure wider availability within the shipping industry.Hydrogen, as a fuel for maritime applications, is still in the early stages of infrastructure development. While some hydrogen vessels have been tested or introduced in the first quarter of last year, the infrastructure required for hydrogen production and distribution needs further advancement.

Ammonia, as a marine fuel, currently faces limitations in availability. The production, storage, and handling infrastructure for ammonia need further development to support its widespread use in the shipping industry.Methanol, on the other hand, is already a commercially available fuel and has been used as a blend with conventional fuels in some ships. However, its availability as a standalone marine fuel can still be limited in certain regions. Bureau Veritas in October 2022 published a White Paper for the Alternative Fuels Outlook. This white paper provides a comprehensive overview of alternative fuels for the shipping industry, taking into account key factors such as technological maturity, availability, safety, emissions, and regulations.

Creating a sustainable world requires us to embark on a journey towards a zero emission future, where every step is a commitment to preserve our planet for future generations.
Albert Greenway
Environmental Scientist, Sustainability Expert

Increased Use of Renewable Energy:

Shipping companies are embracing renewable energy sources to power onboard systems and reduce emissions during port operations. Solar panels and wind turbines are being installed on vessels to generate clean energy, reducing reliance on auxiliary engines, and cutting down emissions. Shore power facilities in ports allow ships to connect to the electrical grid, eliminating the need for onboard generators while docked.

Collaboration and Industry Partnerships:

Recognizing that addressing emissions requires collective action, shipping companies, governments, and organizations have formed partnerships and collaborations. These initiatives focus on research and development, sharing best practices, and promoting knowledge transfer. Joint projects aim to develop and deploy innovative technologies, improve infrastructure, and create a supportive regulatory framework to accelerate the industry's transition towards a greener future. The Zero Emission Shipping - Mission Innovation.

To pave the way for a greener future in shipping, the availability of alternative fuels plays a vital role in their widespread adoption. However, this availability is influenced by factors such as port infrastructure, local regulations, and government policies. As the demand for cleaner fuels in shipping rises and environmental regulations become more stringent, efforts are underway to improve the accessibility of these fuels through infrastructure development, collaborations, and investments in production facilities.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) infrastructure has seen significant growth in recent years, resulting in more LNG bunkering facilities and LNG-powered vessels. Nonetheless, the availability of LNG as a marine fuel can still vary depending on the region. To ensure consistent availability worldwide, there is a need for further development of LNG supply chains and infrastructure. For biofuels, their availability hinges on production capacity and the availability of feedstock. Although biofuels are being produced and utilized in various sectors, their availability as a marine fuel remains limited. Scaling up biofuel production and establishing robust supply chains are imperative to ensure wider availability within the shipping industry.Hydrogen, as a fuel for maritime applications, is still in the early stages of infrastructure development. While some hydrogen vessels have been tested or introduced in the first quarter of last year, the infrastructure required for hydrogen production and distribution needs further advancement.

Ammonia, as a marine fuel, currently faces limitations in availability. The production, storage, and handling infrastructure for ammonia need further development to support its widespread use in the shipping industry.Methanol, on the other hand, is already a commercially available fuel and has been used as a blend with conventional fuels in some ships. However, its availability as a standalone marine fuel can still be limited in certain regions. Bureau Veritas in October 2022 published a White Paper for the Alternative Fuels Outlook. This white paper provides a comprehensive overview of alternative fuels for the shipping industry, taking into account key factors such as technological maturity, availability, safety, emissions, and regulations.

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Ship to Ship Operations (STS) explained - Product update

Posted by
The Signal Group
|
June 7, 2021

Ship-to-ship operations are very common, especially in the larger tanker vessel classes like VLCCs and ULCCs that can carry massive quantities of oil, sometimes up to 4 million barrels. The Signal Ocean Platform helps commercial shipping professionals track ships and the commercial operations they are engaged in, so it can provide a wealth of information on Ship-to-ship operations; but let’s start with the basics.

What is a Ship-to-Ship operation, why is it more common in tankers and what are the benefits and possible risks?

In most cases, load and discharge operations take place between a ship and a port terminal. There can be cases however, when it can be useful to transfer cargo from one ship to another in the open sea; this is what a ship-to-ship operation is. In this type of operation, one vessel acts as the terminal whilst the other one will moor to it. The ship receiving the cargo is called the daughter vessel and the delivering vessel is called the mother vessel. Cargoes typically transferred this way include crude oil, liquefied gas (LPG or LNG), bulk cargo, and petroleum products.

STS operations can be especially useful when dealing with very large vessels, such as VLCCs and ULCCs, which could face draught restrictions at some ports. They can also be economical compared to berthing at a jetty since both the berthing and mooring times are reduced, thus affecting the cost. Additional benefits include avoiding  port congestion, since the vessel will not enter the port. 

STS operations, however, need very effective operations and risk management to ensure that all risks of accident or an oil spill are eliminated.


Oil tankers performing hip to ship Operation (STS) on open sea

How STS operations report work in the Signal Ocean Platform

The STS Operations report displays all Ship-to-Ship Operations carried out at specific areas or ports, within a selected time frame, going back 12 months. Users can select a combination of areas and/or ports to focus on.


Ship to Ship STS report at the Signal Ocean Platform
Ship to Ship (STS) Operations Report in Signal Ocean Platform

The report focuses on 3 types of STS operations, including Lightering (when a bigger vessel operates with a smaller one), a Cargo Transfer (when vessels of the same size operate) and FPSO/Storage (when the operation involves a Storage or FPSO vessel). The data are displayed in a table format with filtering and sorting options per column. The table includes information ranging from Vessel names,Operation types and IMO, to Commercial operators.

Visualization of STS operation inside voyage history in Signal Ocean Platform
Visualization of STS operation inside voyage history in Signal Ocean Platform


Why is monitoring STS operations useful for players involved in commercial shipping and commodities trading?

Understanding STS load and/or/ discharge operations can be very useful when trying to track vessels and understand cargo flows. There are well-known areas (like the US Gulf and Singapore) that constitute key hubs for STS operations, mainly due to port restrictions preventing larger vessels from entering.

How are STS operations identified, using data and technology?

Signal has developed state-of-the-art Machine Learning algorithms that fuse different data sources like AIS data, commercial market data, and a proprietary geofencing, to accurately identify when two vessels are in the process of conducting STS operations. The algorithms exhibit generic and robust performance and are capable to efficiently recognise STS operations across the globe. Complex scenarios can also be recognised like STS operations involving multiple active or storage vessels. 

By carefully tracking each vessel across a specific sector the objective is to identify vessels that are in proximity at the same period of time. Having such information the next step involves understanding the operation type of each vessel that participates in the STS operation as well as other detailed characteristics that can enable us to model different aspects of the operation like flows of cargo. The final event is estimated by understanding the final time period of the operation. All events are then fused in the Signal system with a plethora of different data sources and state-of-the-art models to produce the actual itinerary of a vessel. 

The data is also available via API or export on our premium plans, allowing users to feed their systems and  models (e.g. for commodity trading) while looking for signals that drives their trading or other processes. 

To learn more about Signal Ocean, and get access to additional Analytical and Market Reports, as well as access to APIs and the data behind The Signal Ocean Platform,  request a demo

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