Creating the clean, innovative port ecosystem of the future

Creating the clean, innovative port ecosystem of the future

Wärtsilä’s plan for Vaasa in 2030 is a port ecosystem for co-creation. The marine and energy industries will come together and drive a 100% renewable energy future with the smart marine ecosystem.

Text: David J. Cord Photo: Wärtsilä

Only a few years from now, the port of Vaasa, Finland, could be a very different place. Carbon will be captured from the air and converted into synthetic fuel for ships. Solar, wind and wave power generators will power the port facilities and innovation centre. Business people, scientists and city officials will be cooperating in an atmosphere of open innovation.

“Shipping is not the biggest contributor to global warming, but the industry might double in size while the International Maritime Organization aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50%,” says Erik Jungner, General Manager, Genset Portfolio at Wärtsilä Energy Business. “We realised that we had to do something drastic and bring no less than 100% renewable energy to marine. The place to kick this off is Vaasa.”

From diversity comes strength

This is the vision of one of the Wärtsilä’s 2018–2019 Growth Lab teams. Their idea is a merging of Wärtsilä’s smart energy and smart marine expertise to meet and exceed the IMO’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry.

“We knew very early in the process that this is not something we could do alone. We needed an ecosystem,” explains Maria Tiainen, Senior Project Manager, Marine Digitalisation at Wärtsilä. “For this we brought in other stakeholders for a co-creation workshop. Everyone was very enthusiastic and we had a strong spirit.”

In March 2019, almost two dozen representatives from nine interested parties gathered in Vaasa to begin the process. The goal was co-creation: defining and implementing the carbon-neutral port ecosystem of the future. They included public authorities, business leaders and scientists, as well as the Growth Lab team.

Growth Lab is a leadership development program in Wärtsilä targeting ambitious, forward-looking Wärtsilians who want to be challenged on complex projects and could one day be CEO of the company. Teams are built with a diverse cast of people from different cultures, organisational units and with a variety of skills and experiences. In addition to Jungner and Tiainen, their team included Bernardo Guerra from Brazil, Jon Laibarra from Spain, Annette Engström from Finland and Berend de Bot from the Netherlands.

Clean fuels for clean ships

Vaasa is a perfect location to build this vision of powering marine by 100% renewable energy. Vaasa’s port is small but thriving, with good infrastructure and many nearby experts in both the energy and maritime sectors. Moreover, it is the site of Wärtsilä’s new Smart Technology Hub which will include a Smart Partner Campus for partnership and co-creation.

“By 2022 ships will be using LNG and hybrid propulsion systems,” Tiainen says. “We aim to have a pilot synthetic LNG plant to work on future fuels. It is important to create these fuels using renewable energy to become carbon neutral.”

This is the beginning of the vision where renewable energy on land is captured and transformed into fuels and power supplies for ships, such as through Power-to-X technology.

“Our vision for 2030 is to see this fully developed,” Jungner says. “The renewable energy portfolio in the region is growing and carbon will be captured to be converted into shipping fuels. Fossil LNG will be replaced by synthetic LNG. The Smart Technology Hub will be the platform for innovation and co-creation.”

One small step for a port…

The Growth Lab team created the vision and presented the plan to Wärtsilä’s Board of Management and Board of Directors. Now the challenge is to implement that vision.

“The team did excellent work to define the ecosystem built around the Smart Technology Hub,” says Hannu Mäntymaa, Director, R&D and Engineering at Wärtsilä. “This was a perfect example of great leadership and great minds working together with partners.”

Mäntymaa’s job is to continue encouraging great minds to work together. He oversees the Smart Technology Hub and turns the ideas of an ecosystem into a concrete reality.

“The whole driver for our action is what is happening in the world,” Mäntymaa says. “Climate change is a serious threat and both the energy and marine industries are moving towards climate neutrality. We will shape the energy and marine markets along with our partners.”

“We now have a vision and action plan for the future port ecosystem in 2030, but this in itself is only one step,” he adds.

What will the year 2031 and beyond have in store?

“Smart Technology Hub and the whole ecosystem around will be a concrete example and demonstration of our capabilities,” says Mäntymaa. “It will be a platform to develop, test and implement solutions to tackle climate change. And at the same time we will bring these solutions and implement our vision of smart marine and smart energy around the world.”

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