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Science and innovation

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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 - a declaration of commitments to fight climate change by using innovative technologies and raising personnel awareness on environmental protection - was approved in March 2019.

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. These are some of the key developments in this respect from 2019:

  • SCF Training Centre in St. Petersburg became the first in Russia to provide training for crews of ships subject to the IGF Code (International Code of Safety for Ship Using Gases or Other Low-flashpoint Fuels), with a training programme developed in-house based on the experience of operating ‘Green Funnel’ LNG-fuelled Aframax tankers
  • SCF Training Centre in St. Petersburg collaborated with several parties on developing national-level standards for LNG fuel bunkering, at Gazprom’s invitation
  • New types of LNG-fuelled vessels were researched and developed
  • Through extensive simulation, the SCF Training Centre in St. Petersburg has determined the conditions for safe navigation within the seaway channel at the Gulf of Ob. Based on the resulting recommendations, the Russian Ministry of Transport decided to reconstruct the channel
  • The functional capabilities of the Marine Operations Centre in St. Petersburg were expanded. In particular, SCF developed and launched Ice Observer, a mobile application that simplified and systematised collecting ice condition data from SCF vessels
  • The Marine Operations Centre digitised the database of ice observations collected from SCF’s vessels from the start of operations at the Prirazlomnoye, Varandey and Novy Port projects. The database is used to teach AI systems that map ice conditions, plot the safest and most optimal route in ice, and identify areas with dangerous ice formations
  • SCF continued to systematise and share its vast experience of ice navigation. In January 2019, the Group published a new edition of its training manual ‘Practical Recommendations by SCF Captains for Ice Navigation.’ Over the year, another manual was prepared for publication, ‘Practical Recommendations for Operating a Vessel with three Azipod Propulsion Units in Ice Conditions, based on the Yamal LNG Project experience,’ which came out in April 2020.

In addition, SCF’s R&D activities in 2019 were focused on the following:

  • Improving the energy efficiency of vessels. As a result, the LNG carrier SCF La Perouse, delivered to SCF Group in February 2020, became one of the first vessels globally to feature a boil-off gas partial re-liquefaction system
  • The practical feasibility of introducing alternative technologies to reduce the environmental impact of vessel operations
  • Developing technologies for the automated and remote control of large-capacity commercial vessels
  • Optimising the performance of vessel engines in terms of compliance with conventional requirements.

Sovcomflot regularly receives national and international awards for its innovative achievements:  

  • Sovcomflot Group won the award for ‘Company of the Year’ at the 2019 Lloyd’s List Europe Awards. In particular, the jury noted the successful implementation of technologies for using cleaner LNG fuel for large capacity tankers, inauguration of a state-of-the-art operations centre and industry-leading safety record, which comes despite operating in some of the worlds’ harshest conditions.
  • The Gagarin Prospect tanker was named ‘Ship of the Year’ at the Marine Propulsion Awards 2019. Also, the vessel won the Next Generation Ship Award 2019. Gagarin Prospect is the lead ship in the ‘Green Funnel’ series of Aframax crude oil tankers using LNG as the primary fuel. As at 31 December 2019 the SCF Group fleet included six tankers running on LNG. The results of the first year of operation of the series showed that the use of LNG allows for a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared to similar vessels that run on conventional heavy fuel.
  • Gagarin Prospect and Lomonosov Prospect received Green Award certificates, a quality mark for vessels that significantly surpass convention requirements related to navigation safety and environmental protection.
  • Yevgeny Primakov, a multifunctional icebreaking platform supply vessel, was named Support Vessel of the Year by Offshore Support Journal, an international trade publication. The vessel was accepted for operation in 2018 and is employed to support offshore oil and gas platforms of the Sakhalin-2 project on the continental shelf of the Sea of Okhotsk and Sakhalin Island under a long-term agreement with Sakhalin Energy.     

Sovcomflot stimulates professional development among its staff and encourages employees to pursue additional education in order to gain in-depth knowledge of modern technologies in fleet management. SCF’s engineering staff have very high scientific capabilities: currently, 33 seafarers, who completed post-graduate studies and received the title of Candidate of Technical Sciences or are preparing to defend their theses,
work in the Company’s fleet.

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 level of R&D financing expenditure at PAO Sovcomflot. The target is no less than 0.4 % of the annual net revenue;
  • The level of navigation safety and the Company’s compliance with customer requirements - the average number of observations from inspections by OCIMF member companies for all SCF vessels during the reporting period. The target is no higher than the industry average, which is calculated annually based on ship inspection results according to OCIMF and INTERTANKO data;
  • 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 %;
  • The level of vessel crew costs, determined as a percentage of industry average (based on data from independent analytical sources). The target is less than 100 %.
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