You are here

On the front line of the R&D revolution

The Grimaldi Group is riding a wave of rapid technological change powered by research and development. Automisation, digitalisation and the development of emission-reduction technology will help push our industry towards a low-carbon future.

Finnlines, with its advantageous position at the heart of the Scandinavian high-tech cluster, is both contributing to and benefiting from this revolution. 
For a case in point, take the three ice-class newbuildings earmarked for Finnlines from the Group-wide orderbook. Not only will they be among the largest ro-ros in the North Sea and Baltic, they will also benefit from battery technology currently being installed on two Group cruise-ferries in the Mediterranean: vessels that will boast zero emissions in port because they rely entirely on batteries recharged while underway. 

This is just one of the projects that will contribute to the fight against climate change by reducing consumption and thereby keeping bunker costs under control. To mention another case, Finnlines is today about to order a ro-pax series which will set a new standard in their sector for reducing C02 emission per tonne/kilometre. In order to reach this target we are looking into hybrid solutions, batteries, LNG as fuel, as well as the increased use of shoreside electricity, sometimes known as ‘cold ironing’. 

On R&D side, meanwhile, we are supporting several European Union projects such as “H2ports” for hydrogen fuel cell technology application to port operations and “Leanships” on energy saving development through propeller pitch optimisation. By sharing knowledge across Europe, we can learn from best practice and accelerate the pace of change. The Grimaldi Group is one of only five ship-owners participating in the European Sustainable Shipping Forum, an EU platform for elaborating environmental solutions for our industry. We are also one of the 4 shipowners which founded the Global Industry Alliance (GIA), a new public-private partnership initiative of the world-level IMO organisation that aims to bring together maritime industry leaders to support an energy efficient and low carbon maritime transport system.

In Valencia, tugboats powered by hydrogen fuel cells are already interacting with our traffic. If this technology can be scaled up, hydrogen-based fuel could trigger a total redesign in engines, bringing online the first carbon-neutral ships.

Technology is of course not a standalone solution. Fuel savings are also the result of better management. That’s why we apply environmental ship index calculations to measure our green footprint, using key performance indicators related to hydrodynamics, punctuality, speed and trim, among other criteria. Without such measurements, there is no way of knowing if we are making progress. 

We try to ensure this energy-saving mentality permeates throughout the company. At internal meetings, routes, rotations and timetables are often re-examined to see if there is a more efficient option. We instruct masters on the best trim settings for certain manoeuvres. As for data, we are trying to increase its relevance by moving towards real-time monitoring: of gang performance, for example, ship speed profile, fuel consumption, propulsion power and other general parameters related to energy consumption.

Innovative solutions developed by Finnlines often become examples for the rest of our Group. Finnlines has a patent for a unique set of cargo equipment that allows faster loading and unloading, thereby reducing time in port, and pollution. In Helsinki, electricity now powers straddle carriers; this technology is ready to be rolled out to other ports. 
Finnlines can also take advantage of Group economies of scale to optimise itineraries and consumption, while maintaining cargo flexibility and passenger comfort. 

Our newbuilds – part of a EUR 600 million investment programme that includes vessel lengthening and retrofits – are set to rejuvenate the fleet further: younger ships bring higher environmental standards. 
The lengthened units will reduce CO2 emissions on a tonne/kilometre basis. The vessel re-blading programme, which helps ensure we do not consume more fuel than we should, has already had a similar, positive effect.

Happy reading!

Finnlines News 1/2019