The ferry route between Vaasa, Finland and Umeå, Sweden is now being served by a new vessel that is a shining example of what is possible when a visionary vessel operator partners with a global leader in marine technology. The Aurora Botnia and Wasaline’s previous vessel, the long-serving M/S Wasa Express, have something very important in common: both are powered by Wärtsilä technology and protected by a long-term Wärtsilä Optimised Maintenance agreement.
Wasaline has been safely transporting passengers and goods aboard the M/S Wasa Express across the Kvarken strait between Vaasa and Umeå since 2013. Formed as a joint venture between the two cities, Wasaline is proud of the vital role its service plays connecting the two regions. The 140-metre-long Wasa Express, completed in 1981 at the Wärtsilä shipyard in Helsinki, Finland accommodated 915 passengers, 450 cars and 65 trucks, and is powered by four Wärtsilä Vasa 12V32 main diesel engines and four Wärtsilä 4R32 auxiliary engines. Thanks to Wärtsilä’s care and maintenance, and upgrades these axillary engines are still in service today, a record-breaking 40 years after being installed.
The route the vessel sailed is the northernmost year-round ferry crossing in the world, yet this is not the only impressive record it has under its belt. Its engines have already clocked up well in excess of 200,000 hours of operation, a figure that is unheard of in the industry. “Wasaline’s original vision was to provide a ‘floating bridge’ between Vaasa and Umeå, and it has managed to keep this bridge open and running smoothly thanks to good collaboration with partners, a good crew, robust and reliable engine technology and excellent maintenance management supported by a lifecycle agreement,” says Henrik Wilhelms, Director, Agreement Sales, Performance Services at Wärtsilä.
“Wasaline’s original vision was to provide a ‘floating bridge’ between Vaasa and Umeå, and it has managed to keep this bridge open and running smoothly thanks to good collaboration with partners, a good crew, robust and reliable engine technology and excellent maintenance management supported by a lifecycle agreement.
- Henrik Wilhelms, Director, Agreement Sales, Performance Services at Wärtsilä
In 2016 Wasaline signed a four-year Wärtsilä Optimised Maintenance agreement with Wärtsilä covering the Wasa Express’s maintenance. “This type of agreement improves both asset availability and long-term cost predictability by planning and scheduling maintenance procedures according to the customer’s business operations,” explains Henrik. “Customers can rely on continuous proactive support and recommendations from experts in our Wärtsilä Expertise Centres.
When the Wasa Express first began plying the Vaasa to Umeå route in 2013 was it was operating almost as well as it was when it left the shipyard in 1981. During its eight years of service on the route it has undergone several upgrades and improvements, mostly to improve safety and reliability but also to reduce emission levels. These upgrades have resulted in a 20% reduction in the vessel’s greenhouse gas emissions.
All good things come to an end and in August 2021 Wasaline bid farewell to the Wasa Express and welcomed its state-of-the-art replacement, the Aurora Botnia, built by Rauma Marine Constructions in Finland. The 150-metre-long RoPax vessel accommodates 800 passengers and has 1,500 lane metres of space for cargo and vehicles. The Aurora Botnia will reduce emissions by as much as 70% compared to the Wasa Express, meaning it already complies with the IMO’s 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target and the EU’s Fit for 55 package. If the vessel were to use biogas or biodiesel as its pilot fuel it would be close to carbon neutral.
Aboard is an integrated package of Wärtsilä products, systems and solutions that makes the Aurora Botnia one of the world’s most efficient and environmentally sustainable ships. Its hybrid propulsion solution incorporates four Wärtsilä 31DF dual-fuel engines capable of operating on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and/or biogas. Wärtsilä LNGPac™ technology provides the LNG storage, supply control and monitoring capabilities.
In addition, Wärtsilä also supplied the vessel’s tunnel thrusters, catalysators and integrated electrical and automation systems, the latter of which incorporates an energy and power management system to optimise the use and operation of the hybrid power solution. The Aurora Botnia also features the Wärtsilä NACOS Platinum combined control system for navigation, automation and dynamic positioning as well as power and propulsion. The system enables the vessel to be navigated, controlled and monitored from various multifunctional operator stations onboard.
“The vessel sets a new benchmark for efficiency and sustainability and is the culmination of five years of hard work and meticulous planning,” says Henrik. “Combining batteries, LNG and biogas means that she is well prepared for a long and distinguished life at sea just like her predecessor.”
All the Wärtsilä equipment and systems aboard the Aurora Botnia are covered by a 10-year Wärtsilä Optimised Maintenance agreement. Wasaline and Wärtsilä have also made an agreement that allows Wärtsilä to utilise the vessel as an R&D test platform and technology demonstrator.
Wasaline has installed connectivity base stations on islands along the new ferry’s route in order to provide passengers with a reliable data connection and to enable data from the vessel’s systems to be transmitted to Wärtsilä for support and analysis. “The data we gather will be extremely valuable not only in helping Wasaline to optimise the vessel’s performance and further minimise its carbon footprint, but also for Wärtsilä and other partners to test and develop new solutions. Wasaline’s firm commitment to minimising their environmental footprint sets them apart as a forward-thinking pioneer in the industry. We are delighted that they have chosen to continue partnering with Wärtsilä and commend their long-term vision that takes the entire lifecycle of the vessel into account,” Henrik concludes.
"Our cooperation with Wärtsilä goes back decades and I’m really happy to be working with them. The pride of the Wärtsilä technicians speaks volumes about the passion they have for their work. With our old vessel, the Wasa Express, the service contract was a must for budgeting reasons and the technical support that came along with it was invaluable for ensuring reliability. And the cooperation has continued with our new vessel. In addition to providing a range of cutting-edge technology Wärtsilä was also a trusted advisor in the planning phases. Now, with the Wärtsilä Optimised Maintenance agreement, we look forward to optimised performance and reduced carbon footprint, which will ensure a bright future for the Aurora Botnia,” says Peter Ståhlberg, CEO, Wasaline.
“In addition to providing a range of cutting-edge technology Wärtsilä was also a trusted advisor in the planning phases. Now, with the Wärtsilä Optimised Maintenance agreement, we look forward to optimised performance and reduced carbon footprint, which will ensure a bright future for the Aurora Botnia.
- Peter Ståhlberg, CEO, Wasaline
Find out more about the benefits of Wärtsilä Lifecycle agreements.