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Q&A. Wärtsilä’s Smart Shipping Vision

Finnish giant Wärtsilä intends to lead the shipping industry’s transformation toward a smart marine ecosystem. The shift is underpinned by four major trends: big data analytics, intelligent vessels, shared capacity and smart ports. NauticExpo e-magazine talked to marine solutions president Roger Holm.


NauticExpo e-magazine: How do you see big data contributing to your vision?

Roger Holm: It will change the way we work. We’ll start to offer more of our services via the cloud. Take a simple example—weather. Why not talk to the cloud all the time about weather changes and combine that smart information to optimize fuel use and emissions?

The more data you have, the more you can use it to, say, run a ship’s engine at peak efficiency, which is around 75% of rated power for most applications. And as we learn, such systems will become more autonomous.

NE e-mag: Wärtsilä has repositioned itself as “the smart technology group.” How does the development of intelligent vessels fit in?

Roger Holm: We continue to develop our portfolio. We’ve already successfully controlled a ship’s operations by satellite from 8000 km away. And we recently bought Guidance Marine, recognized as a technology leader for sensor solutions relating to vessel control systems, including remote control operations.

“We believe unmanned shipping is currently on a journey.”

We have a five-tier development program and are opening digital acceleration centers [DAC]. We have one in Helsinki, are about to open another in Singapore and two more during 2018 in central Europe and North America. The DAC concept is to look at what we have, put people together who have ideas and develop them in a totally different way, rather than by traditional thinking.

We know we’ll fail sometimes. But it’s better to fail fast and learn from it, as digital solutions will greatly improve efficiency, safety and profits for our customers. We and a customer are planning the use of artificial intelligence for autonomous operations, but I can’t say more than that.

We believe unmanned shipping is currently on a journey. You start by optimizing systems. My feeling is that most of our customers think the same. And I don’t see huge differences with our competitors. The main challenge is that rules and regulations are not keeping pace.

Smart Marine Ecosystem components (Courtesy of Wärtsilä)

NE e-mag: You’ve been talking to PSA about shared capacity. Who else are you talking to?

Roger Holm: We’ve had discussions with other port management companies, but I can’t mention them at present. As for competitors, we’ll have to work with them. But I think it will take years. It’s a step-by-step approach. It will start with areas where we don’t compete directly, and where we see value in cooperation. Are you big enough to optimize on your own? Today maybe, but in the future…?

NE e-mag: Wärtsilä is known for engines and shipboard systems. Are you moving into port operations?

Roger Holm: The move to smarter ports involves new technology. This has kicked off our ecosystem approach. We have a lot of good starting points. We know engines, we know condition monitoring. We work with ports—induction charging is an example.

We know the direction. I say to my people, Don’t think about where we will be in ten years. We’ll continue to develop the smart technologies, business models and competencies needed. This is not an all-or-nothing situation. As more and more ports join up, we’ll all see the benefits.