Ships are going increasingly digital and clean

Marine innovation has been driven by big corporations. Now, the sector is evolving and accepting open innovation ecosystem allowing experts of various disciplines to contribute to maritime development. Clean oceans have become a priority. Therefore substituting traditional fuel to biofuel comes in play and is essential. Currently, the European Parliament set a share of biofuel in traffic fuel usage to reach up to 10% by 2020. But in Finland the target is 20% of biofuel usage by 2020 and 40% by 2040. The industry, like the rest of sectors, follows the aim of being clean and zero-carbon. The aim is to find new and innovative ways to power the ship to make shipping and cruising environmentally-friendly.

There are initiatives worldwide to substitute the fuel in shipping. The industry is putting lots of research and development resources to find sustainable substitution to current fuels. Biodiesel is one of the options highly explored by Lloyds Register. Lloyd’s Register has launched a two-year program of testing biodiesel for shipping. Meanwhile, in Denmark, Steeper Energy, the Port of Frederikshavn and Aalborg University, are working towards producing up to 100,000 tons p.a. of drop-in marine biofuels using wood.

Changing the fuels in marine means replacing the whole system, including oil tanks, engines, pipes and so on. The price for new ship easily surpasses billions of dollars not taking in account the research and development costs. Finnish Vaasa-based WE Tech Solutions company has launched a wind turbine generator, which can be installed on modern ships.

“The shaft generator creates all the electricity needed on a ship through the use of the ship’s propeller shaft, which is powered by its main engine,” says CEO Mårten Storbacka.

A large cruise ferry operated by Stena Line between Gothenburg and Kiel, the Stena Germanica, has been adapted for new biofuel systems and engines. The ship has dual fuel technology. Methanol is used as the main fuel while Marine Gas Oil is reserved as a second option.

Building a new shipping future

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), a world leading cargo shipping company, has come up with the futuristic concept of the future cargo ship. NYK Super Eco Ship 2030 is a zero-carbon technologically advanced concept of the ship. And nowadays, there is nothing futuristic about their plan. These are plans that have an opportunity to become reality. Solar panels, wind turbines, seals, equipped with smart technologies to plan the route and speed according to weather conditions and other technological advances are all part of the plan and design.

Remote and autonomous shipping

Rolls-Royce Marine is one of the leaders in the field of developing autonomous shipping. Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President says: “Autonomous shipping is the future of the maritime industry. As disruptive as the smart phone, the smart ship will revolutionise the landscape of ship design and operations.”

The project creates an autonomous ship control, shore based system. Says Jonne Poikonen, Senior Research Fellow of Technology Research Centre at the University of Turku, “The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist – the sensor technology needed is sound and commercially available and the algorithms needed for robust decision support systems – the vessel’s ‘virtual captain’ – are not far away. The challenge is to find the optimum way to combine them cost effectively in a marine environment.”

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