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Finland taking maritime technology to uncharted waters

Some of the world’s largest cruise ships have been built in Turku.

Meyer Turku

A newly established research platform, numerous shipyards and technology suppliers are on course to a greener future in maritime.

The Fraunhofer Centre for Maritime Logistics and Services (Fraunhofer CML) has established a research and product development platform on Aboa Mare, the maritime industry campus of Novia University of Applied Sciences in Turku.

The platform brings together the knowhow and experience of Fraunhofer CML and Novia, creating a research organisation that is all but unrivalled in terms of its ability to take into account both the technology and its users, viewed Mirva Salokorpi of Novia, one of the two directors of Fraunhofer Innovation Platform for Smart Shipping.

It focuses mainly on the applied research, product development and testing of intelligent maritime solutions, maritime simulations, and digital twins – that is, virtual copies of ships, ship parts or ports used to analyse aspects such as operation and energy consumption.

Hans-Christoph Burmeister of Fraunhofer CML in June said the German maritime solutions pioneer has been impressed with the strong, innovative and research and development-oriented maritime cluster in Finland.

“The Finnish Government and authorities have a positive attitude towards the development of autonomous shipping, for example, which makes the country interesting to us,” he added.

The platform co-operates also with members of Finnish Maritime Cluster, including Meyer Turku, and the University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University and Turku University of Applied Sciences.

Aboa Mare is Novia UAS’s Maritime Academy and Training Center that specialises in educating professionals in the nautical sector. Image: Jani Vuorio / Aboa Mare

Mika Heiskanen, head of production at Meyer Turku, said the shipyard recognises that open co-operation is critical for ensuring it and its partners remain at the forefront of technological advancement and able to satisfy the needs of cruise operators.

“The only way to ensure that we are at the forefront of technology expertise is to promote our industry by networking openly,” he viewed.

The platform began operation under a five-year agreement, pursuing objectives such as building an extensive project portfolio, engaging in active co-operation with businesses and gaining visibility in Europe, according to Salokorpi. She is hopeful that the platform will find a longer-term home in Turku.

“There is a clear need for this,” she stated. “There is no reason to believe that enthusiasm for technological development in the maritime industry will subside.”

Range of expertise

Meyer Turku is but one company with all hands on deck with maritime innovation in Finland. The Finnish maritime industry, anchored in 10 shipyards, has one of the largest subcontractor networks in the world, comprising over 1 000 suppliers that boast expertise ranging from icebreakers and cruise ships to port and other off-shore solutions, and smart shipping, autonomous shipping and other digital solutions.

The industry employs roughly 30 000 people and generates nine billion euros in annual revenue, 90 per cent of which is derived from overseas, according to Finnish Marine Industries.

Wärtsilä in September reported that Alphenaar, the first vessel equipped with its swappable mobile battery containers, began operations for Zero Emission Services (ZES) in the Netherlands on 6 September. With an energy capacity equivalent roughly to 36 passenger cars, the containers enable the 104-twenty foot-equivalent vessel to operate exclusively on electricity, potentially eliminating carbon emissions entirely.

Wärtsilä’s mobile battery container solution will enable inland waterway vessels to operate with zero emissions. Image: Wärtsilä

What makes the solution unique is that, unlike traditional battery installations, the containers can be exchanged and re-charged onshore once discharged.

Torsten Büssow, head of electrical and power management systems at Wärtsilä Marine Power, told that the initiative is an example of how the company is committed to supporting all efforts to decarbonise shipping.

“We have leveraged our in-house knowhow in maritime battery and hybrid systems, our shore power and remote connection capabilities, as well as our extensive experience in serving inland waterway applications for the development of this product,” he recounted.

With inland navigation accounting for five per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in the Dutch transport sector, switching from diesel to electric propulsion is a major step toward the goals laid down in the Paris Agreement, highlighted Willem Dedden, CEO of ZES. The vessels making the switch, he told, will register a decrease of roughly 1 000 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions and seven tonnes in nitrogen oxide emissions.

Wärtsilä supplied a total of five engines, along with gas, propeller and automation solutions, for Tallink’s Megastar. Image: Helfoto

Orders received and fulfilled

Wärtsilä has recently also received orders for propulsion and fuel-supply equipment.

The engineering company reported late last month that it will deliver main propulsion equipment for two fishing ferries under construction at Karstensens Shipyard in Denmark. Both of the orders include not only the engine, but also auxiliary equipment, such as a remote control system, reduction gear, emissions reduction system and controllable pitch propeller.

One of the vessels is being built for Sweden’s Gifico and the other for Scotland’s Christina S. Fishing Company.

Wärtsilä announced a fortnight earlier it has been selected to supply engines and gas-and-fuel supply systems for roll-on, roll-off passenger ferries being built by Rauma Marine Constructions in Rauma, Finland, for Australia’s TT-Line Company. Each of the two vessels will feature four dual-fuel main engines, three dual-fuel auxiliary engines, and storage, supply and control systems for liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“The LNG-powered engines play an important part in building two new eco-efficient and future-proof vessels for TT-Line,” commentedJyrki Heinimaa, chief executive of Rauma Marine Constructions.

Keel-laying of Tallink’s MyStar, a shuttle ferry running on liquefied natural gas, at the shipyard of Rauma Marine Constructions in Rauma, Southwest Finland. Image: Rauma Marine Constructions

The first vessel is scheduled for delivery by the end of 2023 and the second by the end of 2024.

Rauma Marine Constructions in August reported that it has delivered a new car and passenger ferry, Aurora Botnia, to Wasaline, a Finnish cruise operator on the route between Vaasa, Finland, and Umeå, Sweden.

The 150-metre ferry is capable of running on both biogas and liquefied natural gas, a capability that not only reduces emissions but also ensures it stands the test of time given the status of biogas as one of the most realistic near-future fuel alternatives in shipping. It also features a wealth of other environmental technology, making it the world’s first car and passenger ferry to earn the clean-design class notation.

“It is of paramount importance for both the customer and the environment to build ships that stand the test of time,” remarked Heinimaa.

Wasaline’s Aurora Botnia is the world’s first car and passenger ferry to earn the class nomination of Clean Design. Image: Wasaline

“The ships we build today must also be able to operate in decades’ time without massive modifications or, at worst, scrapping. Aurora Botnia’s ability to utilise biogas is one way to meet this challenge.”

The two-year shipbuilding project cost about 120 million euros and had an employment impact of 800 person-years.

Also other local shipbuilders and shipping companies have reported news of late.

Turku-based Deltamarin in August revealed it will design three roll-on, roll-off passenger ferries to be built by China Merchants in Weihai, China. One of the vessels will have a capacity of 1 100 persons and be equipped with dual-fuel engines and a battery solution to minimise emissions. The other two will have a capacity of 1 400 persons and be capable of running on liquefied natural gas, biogas or other new fuels such as ammonia.

Helsinki-based Finnlines said it has hit two major construction milestones with the three roll-on, roll-off vessels being built for it in Nanjing, China. A launching ceremony was held for the second vessel in the series, Finneco II, on 30 August and a keel-laying ceremony for the third, Finneco III, on 31 August. Finneco I, in turn, was said to set sail for sea trials in September.

By: Aleksi Teivainen