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Tuesday, February 2, 2021 

It has become customary for Wärtsilä to present its vision for the future of the industry at the biennial SMM trade show, but with SMM 2020 cancelled, and the event moved to a digital platform, the company - through its Wärtsilä Voyage division, chose the SMM Digital conference and exhibition to explain its Smart Marine Ecosystem.

Pierre Guillemin (pictured), VP Technology, Wärtsilä Voyage, delivered the business’ standpoint on the impact of Artificial Intelligence on shipping. He spoke of a maritime future powered by data and an industry primed to reap the benefits of systems thinking and interoperable networking.

He said: “It’s time to focus on what AI can deliver today, and the power it can enfold by bringing together a currently fragmented maritime ecosystem. This transformation will be driven by solid value propositions for our customers — such as decarbonisation, safety and operational efficiency.  This offering will ultimately usher the era of a truly open and interconnected shipping ecosystem.”

So far, the maritime industry has had a sluggish and fragmented approach to digitalisation. But 2020 made it evident that shipping needs to pick up its pace towards smarter operations.

“Looking at the upsides — safety, cost-effectiveness, operational and fuel efficiency — the case for maritime digitalisation is not just strong, it is inevitable,” said Guillemin. “Now, it’s only a matter of implementation, and we have a roadmap drawn for it.”

His view is that the company has practical solutions that can create immediate and quantifiable economic value for customers, such as:

  • Optimised route planning
  • Real-time vessel tracking
  • Vessel performance systems to manage speed, propulsion and trim optimisation
  • Improved ship-to-shore connectivity
  • Predicting and saving fuel consumption
  • Eliminating human error to enhance safety
  • Reducing emissions for better environmental compliance

“To support the marine industry in meeting its decarbonisation targets, Wärtsilä Voyage is constantly researching, developing and investing in a wide range of products and solutions that enable a variety of vessel classes to substantially reduce their emissions,” said Guillemin.

Digitalisation is happening but the applications have mostly remained in silos, underutilised. Or completely unexplored due to a hesitation in committing to futuristic tech that may not be compatible with other operations. However, said Guillemin, customers can start climbing the AI ladder with retrofitted solutions and slowly move towards digital-native new builds.

“We are not just talking about automating a vessel, a port, or one particular function,” said Guillemin. “We’re talking about building a single interconnected, intelligent marine platform for all stakeholders involved in moving a vessel from point A to point B.”

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