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Faster pace of maritime digitalisation needed to meet decarbonisation challenge

Photo: Marcus Hand rogerholm-wartsila-smw.jpg
The shipping industry needs to speed up its digital transformation to meet the challenge of decarbonisation, according to Roger Holm President, Wärtsilä Marine Power.

In a keynote address to the Marinetech Conference in Singapore Maritime Week, Holm, who is also an Executive Vice President of Wärtsilä said the key was to combine the decarbonisation journey with financial viablility.

“More, or less, this will happen in one vessel lifetime, and this is something that will bring a speed of change we have never seen in the maritime sector before,” he said.

“We know regulations will challenge many ships to stay compliant and here digital tools will support us.”

Green fuels form a crucial part of the transformation and Holm noted green methanol was already available in small way and that ammonia was also very close and would work for as a fuel. Even as these fuels availability improves they will be much more expensive than the fuels used today. “The future fuels will be three to five times more expensive than what we see today,” he said.

While measures such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will bring future and current fuel prices closer together they will not completely bridge the gap.

As a result, Holm said, “The pay back for digital solutions will be much faster than before.” Digital solutions would also offer the quickest way to optimise processes.

However, digitalisation in maritime has not progressed at the speed that might have been hoped, and companies are missing out a lot of opportunities for improved performance, efficiency, and optimisation as much of the data never leaves the ship. The industry needs many more cyber secure platforms to exchange data, improved connectivity, and impactful applications to close the gap between ship and shore, and other stakeholders.

“A lot is happening today, but we are still at the very beginning of the eco-system of optimisation.”

Holm said that if he looked back five years and where he had expected shipping to be on its digital journey today, he would have expected it to be much further along than it is.

The issue was not the technology itself but the lack of collaboration in the industry. “The key to implement it [technology] in the maritime eco-system is how we collaborate.”

Holm said that the industry needs to speed up the digital transformation in the same way the fuel transformation also needs to happen more quickly.