Full steam ahead to the marine industry’s new normal

The maritime sector is at a point of inflection. Faced with a new set of challenges and opportunities, the industry needs to gear up to sail in unchartered waters. Here’s how Wärtsilä can help ship owners and operators stay ahead of the curve.

The maritime sector is at a point of inflection. Faced with a new set of challenges and opportunities, the industry needs to gear up to sail in unchartered waters. Here’s how Wärtsilä can help ship owners and operators stay ahead of the curve.

Twenty years from now, vessels built today will still be sailing the seas around the world, but regulations, emission standards, technologies, geopolitics, connectivity, and many other factors will have changed dramatically. 

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) elaborated on some of these expected changes in its recently published Maritime Transport Review 2019. According to UNCTAD, there is a ‘new normal’ reshaping the maritime sector, which is characterised by trends such as supply chain restructuring in favour of regionalised trade flows, a larger role for technology and services in logistics, intensified and more frequent climate-related disruptions, and an accelerated environmental sustainability agenda.

The report points out that sustained consolidation and vertical integration in container shipping is putting pressure on the shipping industry, which is also facing challenges from imbalances in the market and increasingly stringent emissions standards. 

Given these shifts currently underway, what can ship owners and operators do today to ensure that they remain relevant tomorrow? 

Andrea Hernandez, Manager, Strategy, at Wärtsilä Marine, says the answer lies in part in working with trusted partners.

“Fluctuations in macro-economic trends and trade will continue to put pressure on the industry. Companies like ours need to seek solutions to help owners and operators withstand the vagaries of the commercial market,” Hernandez says. “We work to maximise fleet-utilisation and enable better operations in a volatile market while ensuring the least environmental impact.”

“Future-proofing” investments 

Wärtsilä helps ship owners and operators “future proof” their businesses. One way of doing this is by investing in engines capable of running on LNG. Even though LNG currently offers the best route to decarbonisation, Wärtsilä is constantly testing and developing combustion engines and abatement technologies that integrate the use of future fuels and blends, including hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia.

Improving connectivity and use of data is another way to make voyages more efficient. Developed on the foundation of a connected ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System), Wärtsilä’s Fleet Operations Solution (FOS) represents a single, unified, integrated, cyber-secure solution that is built around existing onboard hardware. It enables a 360-degree ship-to-shore reporting and fleet performance management to improve operations via cloud computing. FOS uses machine learning, data analytics, onboard and onshore mobile applications to optimise planning, weather routing, fuel consumption and speed of vessels, among other factors.

Partnering for growth

The shipping industry will continue on a consolidation and integration path, according to UNCTAD report. 

“This is something for us to observe carefully and to take into account when we develop our offering. Big players on the consolidation game have different needs than smaller players with small fleets. This is our focus in driving an increase in partnership business,” explains Andrea Hernandez. 

The company’s Guaranteed Asset Performance agreement with Carnival is a good example. Under the terms of this unique agreement, Wärtsilä took full responsibility for maintaining its products on Carnival ships for a fixed fee and secured 100% of Carnival’s fleet, which is made up of 78 ships with approximately 400 engines. The agreement has helped Carnival achieve a 1.2% increase in fuel efficiency amounting to USD 14 million savings in fuel per year.

Additionally, the company is working closely with the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in several areas including autonomous harbour vessels, connected smart ports, cyber security and maritime data hub exchange to maintain the port’s global edge. 

IntelliTug, is an ecosystem partnership between Wärtsilä, PSA Marine, MPA, the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore (TCOMS) and classification society, Lloyds Register. It aims to develop and test advanced capabilities for autonomous tugboats. The company is also co-creating an automated collision warning system with Germany’s OFFIS – Institute for Information Technology for their research project on safety of navigation, sensor-related research, and automated navigation. 

A connected future

The increasing use of data and connectivity will be a key feature of the future maritime ecosystem.

“Shippers and port operators alike will continue to increase their use of data to improve efficiency, logistics, and performance to ultimately promote transparency," says Hernandez.

This expansion of available data means that even shippers and port operators must be concerned about cybersecurity. Wärtsilä is working with industry, regulators, and operators to identify and bridge dangerous gaps in security for operational technology and industrial control systems.

It’s this holistic approach that keeps Wärtsilä’s Smart Marine Strategy in sync with the UNCTAD’s recent review. Staying ahead of the curve is merely one of the many outcomes. 

Written by
Payal Bhattar
Associate Editor at Spoon Agency