Roger Holm

Wärtsilä’s Smart Marine Ecosystem – A year later

In 2017, technology group Wärtsilä introduced its vision of a Smart Marine Ecosystem to reimagine the future of shipping. A year later, we take stock of how it has helped empower colleagues, customers and the entire marine industry.

In 2017, technology group Wärtsilä introduced its vision of a Smart Marine Ecosystem to reimagine the future of shipping. A year later, we take stock of how it has helped empower colleagues, customers and the entire marine industry.

Across the world, the shipping industry continues to be hampered by challenges such as reducing emissions, cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. These challenges are compounded by various factors including sub-optimal utilisation of onboard equipment, high traffic congestion in ports and lack of real-time communication and collaboration between stakeholders.

Wärtsilä launched its vision for a Smart Marine Ecosystem in 2017 to lead the industry into a new era of connectivity, super-high efficiency, greater safety, and enhanced environmental performance. The corporation is harnessing the capabilities of emerging technologies like AI, Big Data to create a superior, digitally-connected ecosystem.

Setting trends for the world

Wärtsilä’s efforts in this regard have been recognised by the marine industry with Roger Holm, President – Marine Solutions at Wärtsilä being named number one on Lloyd's List Top 10 most influential people in shipping.

Lloyd’s List also stated that Wärtsilä “stands out for going above and beyond short-horizon maritime technology.” The maritime intelligence agency added that “Wärtsilä’s commitment to leadership in the smart marine ecosystem space has been hugely impressive.”

“We took a strong stand and stated that Wärtsilä will use connectivity and digitalisation to lead the shipping industry’s transformation,” says Holm. “We shifted our attention beyond the ship, and started looking more actively at its interaction with the surrounding environment and other stakeholders.”

Always on the cutting edge

To ensure the availability of critical in-house technologies under the new vision of a Smart Marine Ecosystem, Wärtsilä made key acquisitions including the likes of Transas, Eniram and Guidance Marine. The company has also expanded its industry-leading offering of products, systems and integrated solutions with hybrid propulsion solutions, energy management systems, wireless battery charging, automated docking procedures, and much more.

Wärtsilä has also dedicated itself to creating the digital infrastructure needed to connect Smart Vessels to Smart Ports; a platform enabling the sharing of real-time data about ETA and ETD between vessels, port authorities, and logistics partners. This will allow smart routing based on slot availability, dynamic slot pricing and detailed information for related port services.

As the Smart Marine Ecosystem becomes the industry’s preeminent operating model, sharing capacity will improve fill rates and reduce unit costs and big data analytics will optimise both operations and energy management. Smart vessels will enable automated and optimised processes and smart ports will deliver smoother and faster port operations.

In a world first, the company has already successfully demonstrated the remote control of a vessel sailing in the North Sea from a control point on the other side of the world in California. This was followed up by another pioneering achievement, with Wärtsilä technology enabling a large ferry to sail its entire route, from dock-to-dock calling at ports along the way, entirely without human intervention.

Advanced Intelligent Manoeuvring (AIM) gives precise automated predictions to prevent collisions or groundings, and hybrid operation with wireless charging of the batteries is now a firmly established part of Wärtsilä’s offering.

Creating the future together

This year, the company has commenced work on a state-of-the-art Smart Technology Hub in Vaasa, Finland, where the city, universities, suppliers and customers can all co-exist and collaborate to realize the Smart Marine Ecosystem. Wärtsilä has also established Acceleration Centres in different parts of the world to enable and enhance co-collaboration efforts with its customers.

To bring the Smart Marine Vision to market in an impactful way, Wärtsilä also launched its thought leadership initiative ‘An Oceanic Awakening’ at the SMM exhibition in Hamburg in September 2018. A global initiative focused on the radical transformation of the world’s marine and energy industry into one supremely efficient, ecologically sound and digitally connected ecosystem, it emphasises the need for change by bringing together all stakeholders to make the goals achievable.

Recognising that collaboration is needed on a broader, global scale, a new forum was set up. The SEA20 is an international forum for the world’s foremost Smart and Ecologically-Ambitious marine cities, dedicated to making this happen. The SEA20 helps bring politicians, industry experts, NGOs, private companies, academics, and interested citizens together to plot the course to a sustainable future. At this stage, the cities of Hamburg, Helsinki and Rotterdam have officially joined the network and the initiative aims to have 20 cities onboard by 2020.

Going ahead, the proposition for 2019 is to deploy all the technological advances derived from the Smart Marine Ecosystem with a wide customer basin and to demonstrate, with real data taken from the field, the enormous potential that connectivity, information-sharing and data-enabled services can unleash for the shipping industry. The future is very much within our grasp.

Written by
Nikhil Sivadas
Senior Editor at Spoon Agency