at Wärtsilä in Denmark

Three revolutions on the waves

Cracking the longitude mystery

In the 1700s, sea-borne travel was booming and a key challenge for navigators at the time was in calculating longitude accurately. Following the disastrous Scilly naval disaster where over 1500 British sailors lost their lives (in part due to inaccurately calculated navigation), the Longitude Act of 1714 was passed. The Act promised financial rewards to anyone who could develop a method to calculate longitude correctly. Years later, a self-educated clockmaker and carpenter named John Harrison developed the marine chronometer, which would come to revolutionise navigation around the world, enabling safer travel across great distances.

When arriving from long voyages, navigators found it difficult to calculate the longitudinal position of the ship correctly. If small calculation errors were made along the journey, these would ultimately cumulate to weaning off course. Calculating longitude accurately helps position any place on Earth to its correct location east or west of the Prime Meridian. When at sea and approaching land, this information is vital to navigating a vessel safely to shore.

Enabling global trade

The shipping container might seem an unlikely contender for the title of the most influential invention of the 20th century, but it could be argued that it has had a bigger impact on humanity than any other innovation across the last 70 years. The invention of shipping containers revolutionised the movement of goods, driving efficiency throughout the global supply chain. In 1970, the standardisation of containers to the twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) went on to become the industry standard for referencing cargo volume.

Today, container handling is a key focus area for the application of automation in container terminals’ operations. As both the size of container ships and the cargo they carry continue to grow, the demand for operational efficiency is at an all time high to keep goods and materials moving seamlessly from one port to another.

Marine enters the digital age

The third revolution on the seas is like nothing before it. Rapid advances in digitisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics have been reshaping and disrupting maritime in recent years. While industry has proceeded relatively cautiously to date, more and more container terminals are beginning to adopt state-of-the-art automated solutions to meet the challenges of larger vessels, taller cranes, greater competition and their resulting demand for better performance and productivity. Similarly, ports are stepping up their game, leveraging emerging technologies to create new business opportunities for the benefit of all stakeholders.

As consumer demand increases, maritime businesses are faced with major opportunities to improve operational inefficiencies that impose significant negative impact on profitability and sustainability. From autonomous ships to floating harbours, the future of the marine industry is about improving global transport for a world in flux.

Digitisation enables maritime to tackle some of its biggest challenges. Emissions, congestion, stifled communications are just some of the issues to address. Tackling these inefficiencies proactively is at the core of Wärtsilä’s drive to activate a fully-integrated smart ecosystem.


Learn about Wärtsilä’s Smart Marine Ecosystem here.

Visit to learn more about ‘an oceanic awakening’ – a global movement focused on the radical transformation of the world’s marine and energy industries.

Picture credit: Tapio Lehtinen, Finnish skipper taking part in the Golden Globe Race.

© 2021 Wärtsilä