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Oil Tanker Planning, Scheduling & Assignment Optimization in 3 Clicks

There are over 3,500 oil tankers around the world today. With good reason; oil tankers are a fundamental link in the supply chain of the world’s oil from their extraction site to refineries or distribution centers. However, scheduling these tankers is often a time-consuming, error-prone, manual endeavor that oil majors feel in their bottom line.

The objective function of planning is to minimize the estimated cost of oil transportation. The assignment means allocating vessels to the various jobs to satisfy the oil demand in various discharge ports.

The Challenges of an Oil Tanker Operations Teams

Scheduling indicates the scheduling of vessels to the ports which satisfy the port and vessel constraints, and there is no other team in the oil tanker industry that feels the pressure to optimize scheduling quite as much as the tanker operations teams. They face a herculean task of dealing with demand volatility, pressure to maximize utilization of time charter (TC) vessels, incompatible oil grade loading, finding vessels to spot charter when time charter vessels are fully utilized, and disruptions due to weather, strikes, accidents or unrest.

Add to that, port limitations for each port (and there are multiple ports to include for each tanker), such as day-light arrival only, minimum depth, port window, allowed LOA, WL to manifold, allowed beam, length of wharf, arrive during the tidal window, load or discharge rates, plus congestion delays. The very idea that the operations teams must manually take all of this into account, plus to meet the demand of the consumption of oil cargo and ensure stocks do not dip below minimum safety stock levels, all the while trying to attain zero waiting time and optimize costs, is ludicrous. Yet, this is what they have been doing.

Until now.

The Automated Oil Tanker Scheduler that Optimizes Costs

Solverminds, a leading global technology company that is well known in the maritime and liner industry for their enterprise resource management solutions (ERP), as well as consulting and data analytics, has developed a solution that is the much-needed link between business and technology. The Tanker Fleet and Service Optimizer from Solverminds is a rather long name for a very clever tool that does exactly what the name says: optimizes tanker fleets and their deployment within a network of services by using artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning (ML), time series forecasting and optimization engine.

Says Captain Vijay Minocha, Chief Commercial Officer at Solverminds, “Our in-depth domain expertise and advanced technology platforms mean that – not only do we know first hand what the challenges are that these tanker operations personnel face – but we have the means and expertise to solve it.”

While oil majors’ challenges revolve around managing multiple vessels and oil grades while balancing sensitive variables, the challenge of minimizing costs is often unresolved. “The true hidden cost behind manual scheduling is the cost of operational inefficiency,” says Capt. Minocha. “This is seldom or never computed or even discussed. Nor is the question broached as to whether the schedule could be generated in a better way. But we have asked ourselves that question, and the answer is unequivocally yes! It must.”

Click, click, done!

Solvermind’s Tanker Fleet and Service Optimizer is a game-changer for tanker scheduling. The optimizer’s primary objectives are to minimize cost, satisfy demand at the discharge port, and maximize the utilization of time-chartered vessels. Plus, it is so easy to use, and so user-friendly, it is easy to forget that there is a very clever, hardworking optimizer engine in the background.

Optimizer window showing the list of load ports and discharge ports, with key parameters, and the list of Time chartered vessels in fleet and spot charter vessels available for hiring as well as a list of constraints that are applied to the optimizer.

The Tanker Fleet and Service Optimizer uses time-series forecasts to generate the demand forecast at the discharge port, based on seasonality, trends etc. The Optimizer engine generates an accurate scheduling of tanker vessels while considering every factor, limitation, variation, and cost optimization possible. Practical and easy to use, fleet scheduling is done with a few simple clicks and processed within a matter of minutes. 

Here’s what you can expect. 

With the Optimizer, a schedule can be created that spans a 30, 60, or 90-day period that drills down to weeks or days, per vessel. Multiple vessels that deliver multi-grade oil cargo from multiple load ports to multiple discharge ports can be catered to.

A 60-day schedule generated by the optimizer for Time and Spot chartered vessel. All demand surges (seasonal) satisfied by Spot and regular demand satisfied by Time Chartered.

The demand of the consumption of oil cargo at discharge ports can be met, ensuring stocks do not dip below minimum safety stock levels while mitigating changes in demand. The reliable delivery of cargo at discharge ports is achieved while navigating scenarios such as congestion, vessel breakdown, berth maintenance, planned off-hires, and arrival at specific port windows.

A daily closing balance of tanks in port, showing the optimizer trying to maintain the close balance between minimum threshold (orange dotted line) and the maximum tank capacity (green dotted line).

Additionally, daily forecasting for each grade, at each discharge port, is provided using time series forecasts. The ideal number of vessels of mixed sizes used for time charter for maximum utilization can be identified. This also ensures compliance with restrictions such as Draft, Air draft, LOA, Beam, Vessel age, Vessel flag, Drydocking, and so on. It also gives planners the ability to plan revised schedules that factor in disruptions reported by the vessel or at the port – a major cost-saving feature. The schedule can easily be adjusted to handle disruptions that are required to satisfy demands.

Vessels for spot charter are brought in from the market data when the deployed TC vessels are fully utilized, and demand cannot be met by TC vessels alone. The Optimizer also ensures vessels load oil grade that is compatible with the loaded grade from the previous voyage. It also adds tank cleaning periods into the schedule if the grades are incompatible. Further complexities added by other port constraints such as daytime arrival, draft limitations, tidal range, and minimum waiting time at port are automatically added.

Time Window of vessel arrival at discharge ports showing vessels arriving at port constrained by daylight navigation and arrival at High Tide and minimizing the waiting time at port due to tide or Daylight navigation.

Finally, the Optimizer allows the tanker operations teams to compare costs between ships to know which is the most cost-effective selection and can generate cost per ton-mile for comparing costs for each vessel. 

In conclusion, what does this mean for the oil tanker industry? 

Oil majors will be able to satisfy demand while protecting their operations costs. For oil tanker operations teams, they will be able to focus on increased efficiencies and productivity, while the Optimizer and AI does the heavy lifting when it comes to the scheduling of oil tankers – quickly, quietly, and accurately. 

In short, the days of laborious planning, manual scheduling, and lack of clarity into demand and forecasting are over, thanks to AI and technology, such as Solverminds’ Tanker Fleet and Service Optimizer.
Whether you are in the business of chartering vessels, oil tankers, product, bulk or liner ships, contact enquiry@solverminds.com to understand how the Tanker Fleet and Service Optimizer application can be used in your business and help you automate your scheduling in a few clicks.

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