Wärtsilä Initiative Touted as ‘Wake-Up Call’ for Ocean’s Role in Era of Global Change

wartsila oceanic awakening initiative
Image credit: Wärtsilä

Finnish technology group Wärtsilä has launched a new initiative that aims to convince some of the world’s most influential port cities to adopt a completely digitized marine ecosystem by 2020.

The not-for-profit initiative, called Oceanic Awakening, was introduced during this year’s SMM trade fair in Hamburg, Germany.

If successful, the initiative could create a massive change for the shipping and energy industries in the form of lower overall costs and less environmentally-hazardous waste. It would also mean redesigning the ports of major cities, making these shipping areas into public spaces or even residential.

Since the recent launch, Helsinki, Rotterdam, and Hamburg have signed-on to officially supporting the initiative.

To meet its goals, Wärtsilä has formed the SEA20, which calls on the world’s most strategically important marine cities, including New York, Singapore, Hamburg, Helsinki, and Rotterdam, to develop a digitalized marine ecosystem – or Smart Marine – by 2020. This encompasses connectivity, data-sharing, intelligent automation and intelligent, carbon-free vessels, which feature efficient designs, hybrid propulsion technologies and cleaner fuels for eco-friendly shipping.

As part of that initiative, Wärtsilä also asked major design and architecture heavyweights from around the world to come up with future-facing renderings for these sustainable, digitized ports.

“Shipping is by far the most cost-effective way to move goods and people around the world. As consumer demand increases, maritime businesses are faced with major opportunities to improve operational inefficiencies that impose a significant negative impact on profitability and sustainability. Better port-to-port fuel efficiency, reduced congestion in ports and high traffic areas, the introduction of real-time communication between stakeholders – these issues have become critical to transforming maritime trading today,” Wärtsilä explains in press release.

Under the auspices of SEA20, an assembly of key global influencers from each major marine city have already been brought together to participate in the SEA20 forum; where cross-border dialogue and co-creation are fostered through an ongoing series of events and workshops. They have also collaborated to determine how major port cities can best take advantage of a Smart Ecosystem and all its cascading benefits to society at large.

“We simply cannot afford to wait for the marine and energy industries to evolve at their own pace,” said Wärtsilä’s President & CEO Jaakko Eskola. “The calls for greater efficiency, sustainability, and connectivity are simply too strong to be ignored. Rapid acceleration to benefit the entire sector, as well as society at large, is urgently required, and ‘An Oceanic Awakening’ is our wake-up call to everyone, heralding the beginning of our journey to making the future of shipping and energy a reality.” 

City visions in brief

The Ecotone is a term for the meeting of two natural ecosystems creating a third one. This vision suggests that the SEA20 cities port areas begin housing innovation hubs. These would be dedicated to the piloting of developments that may potentially be realized more fully in the same port or elsewhere following a small-scale test phase. The innovations sketched here range from logistical development to tourism and beyond.

The Mangrove is a new landmark providing a new way to look at the coastline, both literally and metaphorically, and is both self-sufficient and fully powered by renewable energy. The top of the Mangrove also provides a new green space for the city’s visitors and inhabitants. Small vessels and underground tunnels connect the Mangrove to the mainland.

The Blue Belt situates the new “smart port” at a remove from the shore, while the city coastline is given a radical clean-up, ensuring swimmable waters and a new setting for residential and commercial development at the core of the urban environment. As the ports move away from the shore, the coastline can be used for entirely new purposes, bringing an innovative dimension to city life.