Wärtsilä Voyage, part of Finnish technology company Wärtsilä, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the China Classification Society (CCS) and Tianjin Port to advance China’s intelligent vessel technology and deploy next-generation tugboat technology at one of the busiest ports in the world.

As informed, the project’s scope includes delivering advanced situational awareness technology, and providing highly advanced digital simulators, which will significantly enhance and expedite vessel concept testing, including intelligent and autonomous algorithm testing, training, and safety.

The next-generation intelligent tugboat is expected to begin operation in the fourth quarter of 2023.

The larger aim of the partnership is to enhance safety, productivity, and efficiency in China’s busy ports with intelligent vessels and smart sensor technology. Wärtsilä Voyage will, thus, also contribute to and support CCS in developing the first-of-its-kind intelligent vessels standards and guidelines for domestic vessels.

Developing these intelligent ship standards will also involve establishing international collaboration and knowledge exchange on safety standards and best practices of such smart vessels.

“The signing of this MoU is incredibly significant as it elevates our relationship with CCS and Tianjin Port Group from a traditional supplier-customer relationship and towards a deeper and long-term strategic partnership,” Sean Fernback, President, Wärtsilä Voyage and Executive Vice President, Wärtsilä, commented.

“Considering the Port of Tianjin is one of the top ten busiest ports in the world, as well as its strategic importance in China’s shipping scape, this is an excellent pilot case which opens many other opportunities for collaborations in the region.”

China and Finland jointly endorse the project under the China-Finland Science and Technology Innovation Cooperation MoU, and the China-Finland Flagship Project on Science and Technology Innovation Cooperation Strategy, 2019-2023.

The bigger Asia Pacific picture

Asia has nine out of ten busiest ports in the world, and seven of those are in China. The Tianjin Port as a success case will thus offer an enormous opportunity to engage all other maritime ecosystem leaders, according to the parties.

Increasing traffic, congestion, the unpredictability of weather conditions and emissions have become major challenges for ports worldwide. During the pandemic, vessels in Asia had a waiting time of 5 to 7 days. All this has acted as catalysts for ports to adopt innovative technologies that help mitigate delays and disruptions.

The Tianjin Port has become the world’s first port to get approval for an autonomous driving demonstration zone with 25 unmanned electric trucks. Moreover, it recently unveiled the smart zero-carbon terminal that shows the port’s commitment towards preserving the planet.

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“This project complements our larger vision of safer and more sustainable port operations, as well as gives us the opportunity to explore further collaborations to enhance our smart port services in the future,” Yang Jiemin, Vice President, Tianjin Port Group, explained.

Having worked with leading ports on just-in-time (JIT) solutions, and with a massive installation base of connected vessels, Wärtsilä Voyage can offer end-to-end smart port technology that goes beyond ship-to-shore connectivity to include the entire logistic chain and voyage optimisation ecosystem via secure, cloud-based integrated solutions.

Aid China’s intelligent shipping strategy

The newbuilt vessel will be equipped with an advanced situational awareness system to detect small objects in low visibility conditions and provide decision-making support to the crew.

However, the technology will not be limited to port operations alone. It can be applied and extended to domestic vessels in the future. That, combined with new safety and quality standards, will drive the adoption and scale-up deployment of smart technology in the non-seagoing segment as well — a key factor to enhance China’s shipping competitiveness.

“CCS has already published the Intelligent Ship Rules and Guidelines to drive smart technology adoption in the ocean-going vessels. But with more than 120,000 domestic vessels in service in China, there is a need for creating similar technological set-ups and standards for the inland segment as well,” Sun Feng, Vice President, CCS, said.

“We are very excited to work with Tianjin Port Group and CCS in an ecosystem partnership to develop and deploy technology and innovation according to CCS intelligent ship standards that are adapted for domestic vessels,” Chris Chung, Director of Digital Innovation and Strategic Projects at Wärtsilä Voyage, added.

“The human centric approach to technology adoption, quality assurance and type approval by CCS will demonstrate tangible value and ready for scaled adoption.”

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