Autopilot adjustment and use

Autopilot is the use of an automatic system to control the rudder on the vessel. Use of autopilot can reduce the fuel consumption by smoothing out the large angle rudder movements used to hold a steady course. Efficient and adaptive autopilot operations allow small deviations to course-line, but will use fewer and smaller angle rudder movements to maintain the course-line. This decreases the rudder movement and consequently reduces fuel consumption.

Applicability and assumptions

Autopilot adjustment and use is applicable for all vessel types and vessel ages.

Autopilot optimization is quick to implement, assuming that autopilot is already installed on all vessels. However, it will need some effort to check whether right settings have been applied by the crew and the complexity of the system is low due to adaptive self-learning systems on board.

For optimal adjustment and use of autopilot, best practice in shipboard procedures must be implemented (including recommendation on optimal number of rudder movements and angles for different sea conditions). The crew must be properly trained to achieve the saving potentials.

Adaptive autopilot operation allows small deviations to course-line

Adaptive autopilot operation allows small deviations to course-line, source: DNV GL

Cost of implementation

There is no cost of implementation assuming that autopilot is already installed.

Reduction potential

Estimated reduction on main engine fuel consumption is 0.25% to 1.5%, through effective autopilot and rudder settings.

Other References

  1. Marine Insight / 10 Things to Consider While Using Auto-Pilot System on Ships
  2. Ship Efficiency: The Guide / Fathom / Ship energy efficiency with focus on ship design, propulsion, machinery and strategies and energy management software / 2013

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