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Transforming the maritime market

Wärtsilä’s new Acceleration Centre in Singapore is utilising one of the world’s busiest harbour areas to develop autonomous navigation technologies. Bringing various industry operators and partners together, the innovation hub helps make Wärtsilä’s Smart Marine Ecosystem vision a reality.

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The Singapore Acceleration Centre was launched in October 2018. It promotes innovation and collaboration with industry, academia and local partners, with the goal of developing the local maritime ecosystem into a global hub.

In April 2018, Wärtsilä signed an agreement with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to collaborate in the areas of intelligent vessels, connected smart port operations, cyber-physical security, and digital acceleration with start-ups. In conjunction with the launch of the Acceleration Centre, Wärtsilä opened the world’s first International Maritime Cyber Centre of Excellence (IMCCE), with the aim of driving the cyber awareness of an industry that is becoming increasingly connected.

Chris Chung, Director of Digital Innovation & Strategic Projects at Wärtsilä, says the location provides a suitable hotspot for taking the first steps in industry transformation. The IntelliTug project to develop a harbour tug with autonomous navigation, will lead the way for further co-creation with partners. The aim is to improve tug safety and efficiencies, while reducing operator workload and pressures.

“Singapore is one of the world’s most demanding harbour environments. The sea area is limited and highly utilised and there is, therefore, a strong focus on continuously improving navigational safety. By using smart technologies, we can enhance safety and productivity, and develop future-ready skills and jobs in the region,” Chung explains.

Enhancing situational awareness

Developed in collaboration with MPA and PSA Marine, a leading marine services provider, the IntelliTug concept is being tested on an existing tugboat in Singapore’s actual operational port. The companies have gathered a considerable amount of data on the movement of vessels in the real environment for developing, for example, collision avoidance systems.

“Our focus is on using technology to make things simpler. As the working conditions on vessels are getting more complex with increasing traffic, the last thing the crew needs is more gadgets and buttons. Before we can even consider fully autonomous vessels, we need to solve these issues first,” says Jan Grothusen, Director for Agile Business Development in Wärtsilä’s Voyage Solutions business line.

The IntelliTug solution allows the crew to focus on critical operations, offering additional decision-making support and the ability to work with colleagues ashore via a real-time data connection. The project involves a combination of technologies, innovations and capabilities within Wärtsilä’s portfolio. These include a new-to-market near-field wideband radar and real-time video analytics, integrated with a lightweight human-centric mission control system. This will enable supervision of the close quarters and will alert users on collision avoidance using adaptive, dynamic route planning capabilities.

“Our aim is to offer an integrated and unified approach, breaking free from our current model of concentrating on innovation within our business and product lines,” Grothusen adds.

Building new connections

Chung emphasises that the IntelliTug project represents the start of an exciting journey, not only with regard to technological development, but also to new ways of working, both internally and externally. By meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders, the Acceleration Centre embodies Wärtsilä’s Smart Marine Ecosystem vision.

“This is truly a One Wärtsilä project and a great showcase of how our entire business is coming together to solve real customer challenges. It’s very much about considering different business models and the way we collaborate with strategic partners to unlock economic value, for example through advanced sensing, big data and analytics,” Chung says.

Grothusen adds that the discussions around some of the new technologies involved in the IntelliTug project have already raised interest also with companies that wouldn’t necessarily think of Wärtsilä as their principal partner.

“There may well be opportunities, for example, in applying the technology to risk management, offering automated risk level assessment. This fits well with our strategy of digital transformation and is a good example of incubating something completely new in the space provided by the Acceleration Centre.”

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"Our focus is on using technology to make things simpler."

Jan Grothusen, Director for Agile Business Development in Wärtsilä’s Voyage Solutions

"This is a great showcase of coming together to solve real customer challenges."

Chris Chung, Director of Digital Innovation & Strategic Projects at Wärtsilä

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