Finnish Marine Industry Invests in Ship Energy Systems Modernization

Finnish marine industry INTENS
(Photo Credit: Luca Mauri, Flickr Creative Commons)

More than a dozen Finnish marine companies along with several research institutions have launched a new project this month to improve energy efficiency and lower emissions from ship energy systems.

Called Integrated Energy Solutions to Smart and Green Shipping (INTENS), the consortium is supported by a three-year $15.5-million investment from the participants as well as $6.7 million from Business Finland, the country’s public funding agency. INTENS will be coordinated by the research and technology organization VTT Technical Research Center of Finland.

The Finnish marine companies in the consortium are Wärtsilä, NAPA, Meyer Turku, Dinex Ecocat, Deltamarin, Vahterus, Protacon Technologies, Parker Hannifin, JTK Power, 3D Studio Blomberg, Jeppo Biogas, Visorc, Tallink Silja, and NLC Ferry. The five research organizations consist of Aalto University, Lappeenranta University of Technology, University of Vaasa, Åbo Akademi University, and VTT.

This collaborative effort comes on the heels of the International Maritime Organization’s historic deal last month to reduce total annual global shipping industry greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Recently we caught up with Zou Guangrong, a senior scientist at VTT and the INTENS project coordinator, to find out more.

What is your focus at VTT?

I’ve been responsible for ship energy efficiency research at VTT for the last five years with a special focus on simulation- and data-driven design and operation optimization of ship/fleet energy systems.

How big is the Finnish marine industry?

In 2016 figures, the whole Finnish marine cluster employs about 49,000 people in over 1,700 enterprises, with a total turnover of more than €13 billion. The Finnish marine cluster has been actively collaborating with global partners. About 90% of Finnish marine products, solutions, and services are exported.

Despite its modest market size, the Finnish marine cluster is very competitive in the highly value-added segments on the global market. It possesses special practical and scientific expertise in passenger ships, Arctic vessels, and novel technologies.

Around 15% of luxury cruise ships and 60% of icebreakers are built in Finland. Many Finnish companies are the global leaders of their own sectors such as Wärtsilä, ABB Marine, Meyer Turku, Aker Arctic, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard, and Cargotec.

What are the biggest challenges currently facing the industry in terms of energy efficiency and ship energy system emissions?

Emissions reductions, specifically how we can meet the short- and long-term targets in GHG emissions reduction while keeping the industry running in a healthy and sustainable way.

Workforce — the industry suffers from lack of proper experts. Those with combined ICT and domain expertise are and will continue to be highly in-demand. The marine industry will be radically different in 2050. How can we prepare the next generation for the industry’s digital transformation?

Information, both data and knowledge, sharing is another. The marine industry has a collaborative nature. How to collaborate and share the information is becoming more critical as the industry continues to grow and modern ships are getting larger, more complex, and with more sophisticated technologies.

How is INTENS working to overcome these challenges?

Industry-wide collaboration is essential to properly addressing those challenges. INTENS consists of five research institutions and 14 companies covering the whole value chain of the marine cluster. One public research project and nine company R&D projects are running in parallel in INTENS to address the challenges I mentioned.

The INTENS consortium works on six selected topics to improve ship energy efficiency and reduce emissions, namely emission-specific solutions and innovations, data-driven solutions and innovations, waste heat recovery (WHR), ship/fleet operation optimization, hybridization and electrification, and Arctic-specific solutions and innovations.

INTENS also acts as a research-industry collaborative platform to educate students from the university partners and to train the experts from the industrial partners, which enables more efficient technology development and transfer during the collaborative process.

The research-industry structure gives INTENS a unique opportunity to explore novel approaches to enabling and encouraging collaboration and information sharing within the consortium — and with the global marine industry later on.

What does the digitization and automation of Finnish marine industries entail, and what difference could that make for energy consumption?

Digitalization and automation have been transforming the marine industry. Given the profound ICT expertise and deep marine know-how, Finland has been one of the leading countries in the digitalization and automation of the marine industry.

During the last few years, digitalization and automation have been introduced into every part of the Finnish marine industry from R&D to innovation, design, manufacturing, and operations. Novel research methods and tools have been utilized widely, targeting not only digitalized and automated products, but also the processes.

With the help of digitalization and automation, ships and fleets are designed and operated in a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly manner. Proper implementation and integration of different novel and green technologies results in better designed and dimensioned ships. Cloud-based collaborative voyage optimization can potentially reduce the energy consumption in global shipping by 30% in the short term.

Do you think the global shipping industry will be able to reach the IMO’s 2050 goal?

Due to the projected economic growth and increase in global shipping, this will be very challenging. Novel solutions and disruptive innovations are needed to explore and maximize the potential of the global marine cluster. INTENS is proud to be part of the efforts.

On the other hand, to halve GHG emissions by 2050 is not only a goal but also a promise the marine cluster delivered to society. Given the continuous technology advancement and strong commitment of the whole industry to this action, I believe we can achieve the target — and possibly even more. But the marine cluster cannot do this alone. Mutual collaborations with other industries and society as a whole are essential.

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