Editorial – May

An ‘Oceanic Awakening’

Laura Quinton,
Senior Creative Copywriter, Wärtsilä

If you connect things, you create greater efficiency, understanding and value. That’s smart. Working in isolation is not.

It’s with this fundamental truth that Roger Holm, president of Wärtsilä’s Marine Business and one of the Lloyd’s List Top 10 Technology Leaders 2018, leads the Helsinki-headquartered smart technology group’s bold mission to create a fully integrated smart marine ecosystem.

The world’s in flux; only a dozen years remain for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5° C, and the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. The UN also estimates that 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. Meeting the needs of a proliferating world population means increased demands on natural resources, increased pressure on city infrastructure and increased activities in shipping. As Sir David Attenborough recently stated: “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” We need to do something about this.

Ships are currently responsible for 3 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. But given projected growth in world transportation needs, studies show that these emission levels are likely to increase significantly and could represent as much as 14 percent of the total global emissions by 2050. A significant dent in this grisly statistic can be made through minimizing ships’ fuel consumption and transitioning to cleaner operations. Transforming our industry can quite literally transform society and bequeath to our children a better future.

Digitalization, with its multifarious benefits, is what Wärtsilä is unwaveringly focused on. The corporation wishes to use connectivity and digitalization to lead the shipping industry’s transformation. Better port-to-port fuel efficiency, reduced congestion in ports and high-traffic areas, the introduction of real-time communication between stakeholders—these are the goals. But the feat requires collaboration across multiple segments and industry verticals and active involvement in leveraging emerging technologies to create new business opportunities to benefit all. The challenge truly lies in the fact that the marine industry is heavily regulated, extremely complex and fragmented, with many stakeholders pursuing different, sometimes diverging objectives.

In order to create a unified critical mass to instigate positive change, Wärtsilä launched “An Oceanic Awakening” in 2018—a global initiative focused on the radical transformation of the world’s marine industry into one supremely efficient, ecologically sound and digitally connected ecosystem. The rationale stems from a need to look more actively at the industry’s interaction with the surrounding environment and other stakeholders.

Subsequently, the SEA20 forum was inaugurated. Enabled by Wärtsilä, driven by think-tank Nordic West Office, this platform aims to bring 20 of the smartest and most ecologically ambitious marine cities by 2020 into a collective that will drive real societal change. Helsinki, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Trieste and Washington state are officially signed up, owing to their important roles in the marine ecosystem—either because of the volume of trade they handle, their history, or because of the investment they are making in innovative solutions to foster more sustainable shipping.

Under the auspices of SEA20, an assembly of key influencers from five marine cities have congregated to determine how these cities can best take advantage of a smart marine ecosystem. Through participatory design, the collective intelligence has produced a series of visions on how the cities of the future could better engage with the ocean. Visions spanning cutting-edge transport provision along urban coastlines, the introduction of marine-centric innovation hubs and the positioning of offshore smart ports will be used to inspire politicians and the global marine sector to address problems caused by rapid urban growth. Collaboration for change is the name of the game with “An Oceanic Awakening.”