Clean marine technologies on the rise

Wärtsilä’s recent merger with Hamworthy has brought together an unrivalled range of complementary technologies that can help shipping companies to reduce their environmental impacts across the board.


Shipowners are striving to reduce harmful emissions from their vessels, aiming to meet the increasingly tough environmental controls that are currently being phased into international maritime legislation to help clean up the world’s seas and combat climate change.

“There is massive potential for growth today in the markets for environmental solutions for marine vessels,” says Juha Kytölä, Vice President of Wärtsilä Ship Power’s new Environmental Solutions business line. “Combining the complementary strengths of the previous product offerings of Wärtsilä Ecotech and Hamworthy will help us to meet this demand.”

The environmental solutions within this newly expanded range include an impressive variety of water treatment systems, inert gas systems, compressors and emission scrubbers. These rapidly advancing technologies minimise both waterborne and airborne emissions from ships.


“We can now provide all the necessary water systems from drinking water supply to sanitation and sewage for all kinds of vessels,” says Kytölä. Multi-stage flash desalination technologies can make high-quality fresh water from salty seawater. Advanced onboard wastewater treatment systems such as membrane bioreactors can even meet the needs of large cruise ships with thousands of passengers.

Ever stricter maritime legislation is encouraging shipping companies to limit all kinds of ecologically harmful effluent. Wärtsilä can also provide a range of treatment systems specially designed to cope with problematic mixtures like oily water and bilge water.

International controls on the release of ballast water aim to prevent the spread of exotic sea creatures into new waters where they can disrupt local marine ecosystems. “These rules will be tightened over the next couple of years, obliging as many as 60,000 ships worldwide to have effective ballast water treatment systems in place,” explains Kytölä.

Incoming or outgoing ballast water can be filtered, chemically treated, or screened with ultraviolet light. These ensure that stowaway ’invasive alien species’ do not hitch a free ride into new waters where they could wreak ecological havoc.


Stringent emission controls are targeting reductions in the concentrations of harmful sulphur oxides (SOX) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) in ships’ exhaust gases. These pollutants are powerful greenhouse gases, and they also lead to the acidification and eutrophication of ecosystems at sea and on land.

Many of the world’s busiest seas have already been designated as Emission Control Areas, where ships must either use cleaner fuels or clean their exhaust gases to high standards. “By 2020 tighter controls over sulphur emissions are due to be extended to the rest of the world. Even earlier, from 2016 reduced NOXemission levels will be compulsory for all new ships completed anywhere in the world,” says Kytölä.

“Our existing product portfolio is well prepared to cope with legislative requirements until 2020. It’s helpful that changes in environmental regulations are announced well in advance, as this enables us to develop and market the necessary products proactively.” Wärtsilä now has the widest range of marketed solutions for scrubbing flue gases at sea, including Selective Catalytic Reactors (SCRs) and NOXReducers (NOR).

“In future we expect that shipping companies will be required to monitor their own emissions and demonstrate that the emission-cleaning technologies fitted to their vessels are actually in use. We are convinced that this will become an important issue across the industry, and we already have suitable emission monitoring systems ready,” Kytölä adds.

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Vessels and offshore rigs often require considerable quantities of non-combustible inert gas to enable the safe transportation and storage of petrochemicals and other chemicals, or for their flue gas systems. Wärtsilä Hamworthy’s inert gas generators are designed to produce pure nitrogen or inert gas mixtures from air or exhaust gases. These solutions are specifically designed to be compact facilities that do not take up too much valuable deck space.

Innovative products under development include inert gas generators that can be fuelled with liquid natural gas, and combined inert gas generation and compression units.   

The increasing use of compressors in ships and offshore rigs can have environmental benefits. “Up-and-coming applications relate to the increasingly wide use of compressed gas fuels, the pumping of compressed air into rigs’ floating feet to stabilise tensioning systems, and the use of compressed air bubbles in seismic prospecting of the sea bed,” explains Kytölä. 



Kytölä feels that the integration of solutions formerly provided by Wärtsilä and Hamworthy has gone smoothly. “It’s actually been amazing to see how good the fit is between the two companies’ product ranges in this vital sector. This significant expansion of our range allows us to understand and meet all of our customers’ needs better, through a comprehensive portfolio of onboard systems that can reduce emissions.

“This year our challenge has been to harmonise our product information and materials, and spread awareness among our people of the synergic benefits of the merger. This will help us to promote our whole range using both Wärtsilä’s extensive worldwide sales network and Hamworthy’s established agents.”

The new Environmental Solutions business line within Wärtsilä Ship Power has its headquarters at Poole in the UK. Design, production and sales operations are also located in China, South Korea, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

“In the past, Wärtsilä primarily sought to provide environmental solutions for vessels with its engines. But with so many shipping companies now working to reduce their environmental impact, we want to integrate or retrofit such systems into all ships new and old,” says Kytölä. “This directly targets Wärtsilä’s key strategic goal of growth in environmental solutions, and our mission to create better technologies that benefit the customer and the environment.”

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