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Intelligent ships will drive more intelligent acquisitions

Wed 11 Oct 2017 by David Foxwell

Intelligent ships will drive more intelligent acquisitions

News that Wärtsilä has acquired Guidance Marine, the specialist supplier of position measurement systems for dynamic positioning, came as a surprise, but is not that surprising, and is unlikely to be the last such acquisition by the company.

Long-known as an enginebuilder, thruster manufacturer, designer and provider of related services and products, Wärtsilä has for some time referred to itself as a ‘technology company.’ It was interesting that in a statement issued about the deal, Wärtsilä said it is “deeply committed to providing technologies needed to enhance intelligent shipping, whereby digital solutions will greatly improve the efficiency, safety and profit-earning capabilities of its maritime customers.”

The company said the acquisition of Guidance Marine will enhance its capabilities in the area of situational awareness and near-field measurement, both essential for more intelligent vessel navigation.

“Guidance Marine's core competences are wideranging and include the development of sophisticated positional measurement sensors and systems for high accuracy control applications,” said Wärtsilä Marine Solutions director, automation, navigation and communication, Maik Stoevhase. “These competences complement our own activities in the fields of radar technology, navigation and dynamic positioning. By joining forces we can certainly further accelerate the introduction of solutions that will take shipping into a new era of efficiency.”

For his part, Guidance Marine’s chief executive, Jan Grothusen, said the deal would provide a “step change” in developing the future of maritime positioning and navigation where the integration of multi-modal sensor technologies is a key factor in the delivery of intelligent vessels.

Providing solutions of this type requires a skillset well beyond those usually associated with building combustion engines, which is what Wärtsilä had been in the business of doing for decades. Engines will remain a big part of what it does, but there is a far bigger prize to be won. 

If you haven’t already read it, take a look at this story about a project that Wärtsilä recently completed with offshore vessel owner GulfMark that successfully demonstrated remote controlled operation of a platform supply vessel in the North Sea using a satellite link from California.

The tests, which involved driving the vessel through a sequence of manoeuvres using a combination of dynamic positioning (DP) and manual joystick control, were carried out on 21 August in the North Sea in collaboration with GulfMark Offshore, the US-based operator who provided the vessel for the project. Although the test vessel was in the North Sea, it was navigated remotely, from a Wärtsilä office in San Diego, California, which was 8,000 km away from the ship.

As Wärtsilä Marine Solutions’ president Roger Holm said at the time, reiterating what Mr Stoevhase said, “Wärtsilä is committed to developing technology that enables a smart marine future. In the age of digitalisation, the future smart marine ecosystem will involve connecting smart vessels with smart ports to enable an even more efficient use of resources. It will also reduce the impact on the climate while enhancing safety.”

With the offshore vessel and other segments of the shipping and offshore industries emerging from recession there is going to be more consolidation ahead, not just because recession reshapes industries, but because clever companies are positioning themselves to respond to what the market will want once it’s out of recession.

Intelligent ships and intelligent shipping need intelligent companies, and intelligent companies need intelligent acquisitions. Wärtsilä is an intelligent company.

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