The year that shipping got smart?

The year that shipping got smart?
Wärtsilä’s Smart Marine Ecosystem (SME) strategy, which highlights the importance of optimising not just a vessel, but the entire operation of shipping right from the start

The past year has been dominated by news of weakening economies, rising geopolitical tensions and increased uncertainty about global trade. Stir in the latest climate science and the urgency of investing in a brighter future is clear.

Amidst the seeming chaos there is opportunity for those with the vision to tackle today’s problems. Newly appointed UN special envoy for climate action and finance Mark Carney recently said that great fortunes could be made by those working to end greenhouse gas emissions. Wärtsilä has set its sights on leading shipping’s transformation into a sustainable industry.

In the deeply interconnected modern world, geopolitical bottlenecks and climate change are two examples of global issues that can have a huge effect on transoceanic shipping systems. To face such challenges maritime players must work together to enable smarter shipping practices and a better connected Smart Marine Ecosystem. This realisation was the starting point for the “An Oceanic Awakening’ initiative launched by Wärtsilä in September 2018.

An Oceanic Awakening aims to galvanise the entire value chain of the marine industry, encouraging more openness, broader co-operation, better connectivity, deeper collaboration and more ambitious undertakings. That ambition was evident in abundance across several initiatives throughout 2019. From intelligent systems that close the information gap between ship and shore to powerful new collaborations, this may be remembered as the year that shipping started to get smart.

Working towards zero

The single biggest contributor to lowering shipping’s environmental footprint is fuel choice. The internal combustion engine will continue to play a critical role and Wärtsilä is investing heavily in research on alternative fuels that are compatible with existing combustion engine technology, but without the harmful emissions. These include bio- and synthetic fuels, ammonia and hydrogen.

Wärtsilä Marine vice president Europe & Africa Tamara de Gruyter says: “Since vessels built today will still be in operation 30 years from now, fuel flexibility de-risks today’s investment decisions. LNG presents the best route to decarbonisation, transitioning from fossil-LNG to bio- and synthetic-LNG. Our engines can accommodate this transition, but we are also ready for other fuels.”

Wärtsilä worked with five companies to initiate its Zero Emissions Energy Distribution at Sea (ZEEDS) project. Along with partners Aker Solutions, Equinor, DFDS, Grieg Star and Kvaerner, the company investigated the potential for a network of clean energy hubs located close to the world’s busiest shipping lanes, capable of supplying and distributing clean fuels to the global fleet.

ZEEDS is just one example of collaboration towards the crucial goal of reducing emissions. Later in the year Wärtsilä joined the Getting to Zero Coalition, a partnership between the Global Maritime Forum, the Friends of Ocean Action, and the World Economic Forum. Building on GMF’s call to action in support of decarbonisation in 2018, the coalition’s goal is to have commercially viable deep-sea vessels with zero emissions as a notable share of the global fleet by 2030, a major milestone in the IMO’s target to reduce GHG emissions from shipping by at least 50 percent by 2050.

Smart solution pipeline

Vision is one thing; proving real progress towards its realisation is quite another. In 2019 Wärtsilä delivered some major advances towards the Smart Marine Ecosystem.

Wärtsilä’s Fleet Operations Solution (FOS) unites all navigational processes and voyage data on a single platform, allowing crew and shore operations centres to work in harmony. Last month Wärtsilä announced the largest digital deal in maritime history to bring ship manager Anglo Eastern’s global fleet online with FOS.

De Gruyter says: “FOS provides an online infrastructure to enable full ship-to-shore reporting and fleet performance management. This is a retrofittable system built to combine individual processes that are otherwise separated including voyage planning, weather routing, fuel consumption, vessel speed and fleet efficiency maximisation.”

Just-in-time ship arrivals will alleviate the wasteful burning of fuel and consequential creation of emissions caused by ships waiting at anchor for berthing. Wärtsilä has developed a solution based around the FOS system, which unites all the fragmented navigational processes and voyage data onto a single platform. This delivers an optimal route and speed allowing the ship to arrive at an allocated time. Key to the solution is the real-time exchange of data between the ship and the port to establish the time of arrival. Pilot trials for this solution are already in full swing.

FOS follows the launch of Wärtsilä Expert Insight earlier in the year. The system relies on artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced diagnostics to monitor equipment and systems in real-time. Meanwhile, in the second phase of the IntelliTug project between Wärtsilä and Singaporean tug operator PSA Marine – aimed at developing a smart, zero-emission tugboat – the use of electric or hybrid technologies to further reduce emissions has been identified as a key area for cooperation.

Great minds together

As part of the Oceanic Awakening wake-up call, Wärtsilä established the SEA20 network, aiming to connect 20 of the world’s most influential maritime cities. A highlight of the year was a high-level meeting held in Helsinki in June. The event attracted politicians and industry leaders from countries around the world along with analysts and activists working on sustainable maritime issues. The meeting was primarily a brainstorming session, aimed at generating ideas for how to create an interconnected maritime sector that prioritises efficiency and sustainability.

City of Helsinki head of unite, enterprise services, Ulla Tapaninen said: “The port of Helsinki and the city of Helsinki are jointly developing port-city ecosystem by enhancing operational efficiency, digitalisation and sustainability through innovation and experiments. We see SEA20 as a great way of sharing these kinds of experiments with other cities and tackling challenges together.”

A newly published SEA20 study reveals how sustainable shipping practices can save coastal cities from climate change damage. Contributors highlighted data-sharing as an example of an efficiency-increasing practice that is widely adopted among other logistics industries, but still untapped by maritime. The full study can be downloaded here.

“The maritime industry has enormous and largely understated opportunities for ordinary citizens,” says Washington state governor’s maritime sector lead Joshua Berger, one of around 70 experts who contributed to the study. “It is important not only to involve diverse communities when planning for maritime, but also to draw on their energy as agents of change, beneficiaries and individuals who care about a sustainable future.”

To the future

These examples show a commitment to raising efficiencies and combating emissions.  The clean fuel agenda will continue to expand as we move forward towards a maritime future that is smart, clean, safe and efficient. All the indications are that the new decade will see shipping accelerate towards full digital acceptance, with all the benefits that the latest technologies can offer. The Smart Marine Ecosystem will move from vision to an ever-firmer reality. And the Oceanic Awakening will help everyone in to benefit from the transformation.

Author: Laura Quinton, marketing, Wärtsilä Marine