Thursday, September 8, 2016

Marine Technology Group Reviews Potential Developments in Ocean Freight Shipping

Climate Change May Mean Major Changes in Logistics and Supply Chain Operations
Shipping News Feature
FINLAND – WORLDWIDE – Helsinki headquartered marine and energy technology solutions group Wärtsilä, has set out its visions for the future of the shipping industry, presenting different scenarios that could shape the way that shipping companies might operate in the future. This predictive work has been prompted by the inevitable effect that growing global energy demand and increasingly stringent environmental legislation to combat climate change is both having, and will have, on the logistics sector, particularly the ocean freight carriers.

Wärtsilä assessed various emerging trends, such as sharing economies, new business models enabled by the new digital universe, the huge growth in energy storage capacity, and new affordable ‘green’ energy sources, since they represent both challenges and opportunities for the future of shipping. Roger Holm, President, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions, said:

“We accept the challenges created by the developments currently taking place. Wärtsilä is increasing its speed of re-invention; not just internally but in cooperation with our customers and partners, so that the industry can be assured of having the technologies ready and available to meet the new requirements.”

In its ‘Visions of Future Shipping’ paper, Wärtsilä identified several scenarios, as follows:

CONVOY: By taking advantage of advanced controls and communication between autonomous components, systems, and vessels, shipping fleets could be operated in convoys. The fuel savings created by vessels closely following each other results from the lower entrance speed of water ahead of the aft vessel. By optimising the operations significant fuel reductions could be achieved. This mirrors the recent experimentation and advances in the road haulage sector using ‘Platooning’ and indeed in some ways might prove an even more practical proposition when applied to merchant vessels.

Furthermore, through the use of system autonomy, artificial intelligence, and advanced connectivity, it is envisioned that the trailing ships could be operated with fewer crew members. Advanced communication technologies will also rapidly increase the sharing of information, which will save time and optimise the allocation of cargo to vessels.

ZERO – Floating Distribution Hubs: Another scenario could be to have artificial islands along the main shipping routes producing emissions free fuels from solar, tide or wind for powering green energy sources. Clean energy production is becoming a global priority, and its influence on the shipping industry is expected to be felt more and more within the near future.

Exergo – Unlimited Energy Storage: Large investments will drive energy storage using battery technology. Wärtsilä believes that battery energy density will increase substantially during the coming years. This will allow ships to operate in sensitive areas virtually silently and with no exhaust emissions.

Z3 – Green Energy: To provide reliable, emission free, power without upfront investment, highly reliable energy sources and monitoring from the shore through advanced connectivity will be required. This concept envisions the supply of energy for propulsion on an ‘as you go’ basis.

LIITOS - Working together: For efficient cargo sharing, access to the same information by all global operators would ensure, for example, that no container ship sails cargo free. This sharing of assets could be achieved by use of a digital tool. This effect is in some ways already evident in the burgeoning ‘Vessel Sharing Alliances’ whose practicality regarding energy economy is tending to outweigh the natural tendency of global regulators whose default position is to seek more intense competition between carriers.

BEAN to CUP - Manufacturing en route: A truly innovative concept might mean factory ships one day manufacturing while transporting materials from one market to another. Apart from saving valuable time, this concept could have substantial economic benefits. For example, coffee beans being transported to Europe and Asia from South America could be processed during the voyage so that the ready product is available immediately upon the ship’s arrival in port. Similarly, the quality of seasonal crops could be enhanced by having the ship begin processing soon after harvesting.

Photo: Maritime convoys are of course hardly a new idea but the thought of linking vessels by anything more than a tow line certainly is.