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Wartsila: “Our New Generation Engines Will be Futureproof, Regardless of Which Propulsion Technology Will Prevail”

With a number of technologies currently under development, with regards to shipping’s decarbonization efforts, Wartsila has devised a strategy of being able to cater to every future demand that will arise in the market. Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide spoke with Mr. Yiannis Christopoulos, Managing Director of Wartsila Greece and a member of the company for 28 years. Mr. Christopoulos has a background of mechanical engineering, having served in various positions within Wartsila, from field service to travelling around the world and commissioning Wartsila installations, before moving to managerial positions.

Wartsila is rapidly evolving into a maritime technology firm, as opposed to a ship engine specialist. Can you elaborate on the steps taken towards this transition and where this process now stands?

Of course, engines is the core product of Wartsila, but around them, the company has now built a lot of different products and solutions, which at the end will provide a holistic platform to owners and markets, in order to tackle the decarbonization era. The company offers a variety of solutions, like the hydrodynamic energy efficiency devices, the electrification of both vessels and ports and, as you mentioned, the new generation of high efficiency engines. As a result, it is really supporting owners to get the best combination of products and services, especially as we approach the CII (Carbon Intensity Indicator) entry into force, starting from next year.

With decarbonization on everyone’s lips over the past few years, which is the company’s strategy moving forward and how can it help owners, especially in terms of alleviating their doubts and reluctance to adopt unproven and unknown technologies?

Wartsila’s strategy is to introduce products which are compatible with all types of future fuels and propulsion technologies, depending on each owner’s decision. In view of this, we recently inaugurated our Smart Technology Hub, which incorporates under one roof, the R&D, the Testing and Production of the new generation of engines. This way, we believe that we’ll be able to increase the speed and efficiency of our company, in order to provide the best possible option to the owners. So, we designed and built our products in order to be flexible and be able to cater to every future fuel choices that the owners will make, in the lowest possible time frame and cost. It’s a future-proof solution. In fact, we are already testing alternative fuels, like methanol for example and we expect that by 2025, we’ll have used all of the new fuels in our engines, to ensure compatibility.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

Where do you see the future of fuels and engines? Which technologies does Wartsila hold the most promising future?

The internal combustion engines (ICE) and especially Wartsila engines won’t be a show-stopper to any future fuels. So, our engines won’t be the determining factor behind any new fuel technology prevailing over the other, or limiting one over the other. We’ve already started testing and developing products for any type of promising new propulsion technology.

With Greece a leading maritime nation, do you thing that Greek maritime companies will lead the adoption of new technologies, or will the majority adopt a wait-and-see stance, until more data is gathered?

I see a great awareness among Greek owners around decarbonization. In all of the discussions we’ve held with them, they start with this subject, they’re well educated around the technologies coming to the market, they’re well briefed on the upcoming regulations and they’ve already commissioned studies, regarding potential holistic approaches to decarbonizing their fleet of vessels. So, I believe they’re well prepared. They haven’t yet reached any definitive decisions, but especially in their newbuildings, they’re looking to have the maximum flexibility possible.

Do you thing that the industry will be able to meet the requirements set by the IMO and other authorities?

Yes, I believe so. The industry is all working together towards this direction, which is vital in order to achieve the targets set. What is also important to mention is that over the last decade, the vessels’ speeds were reduced and that in it self, is a very important factor, which should be considered into new technologies and concepts. That’s why we need to provide flexible solutions, able to satisfy the needs of both the future ships, but also existing operating conditions of the fleet. If we reduce the speed, then we see that hybrid systems are more flexible and can always maintain high efficiency.

Talking about whether vessels will be ready, there are already a couple of examples in the merchant fleet, with Furetank one of them, who are actually fit and ready for 2050 now. They’re using our duel-fuel engines and the energy-saving technologies as well. As for the infrastructure and fuel availability, a strong collaboration with governments, associations, owners, financiers, will be needed to get it in place. Also, electric and hybrid solutions, will be in pretty much every vessel, so there will be a mixture of hybrid solutions.

In terms of new engines, how efficient are they in real world conditions?

Well, our latest engines can reach an efficiency of up to 52%. The W31 model is actually in the Guinness Book of Records as the most efficient four-stroke engine. With regards to emissions, when we talk about dual-fuel engines, the less fuel you consume, the less emissions you emit. With regards to methanol slip, in 1993 the methane slip was 16 grams/Kwh but, by optimising engines and leakages, we have been able to take that slip down from 16 to between two and three grams. With our next combustion concepts, we are confident that this can be reduced by 50% to roughly 1 gram/Kwh.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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