Finnish engineering company Wartsila has, through its Busser project, introduced the ‘Ultra Slow Steaming’ concept to go with the recently observed trends within the ocean shipping industry which point towards slower, larger and simpler operations.
Wartsila’s concept of ‘Ultra Slow Steaming’ relies on big vessels bringing economy of scale and tried-and-true route plans that may be long but steer clear of unexpected weather conditions.
According to Teus van Beek, General Manager for Wartsila’s Market Development & Innovation, Ultra Slow Steaming is a solid option when no cooling or other input is required to keep the cargo in good condition, and the cargo itself does not need much attention. Furthermore, the vessel in question is not required to be particularly hi-tech.
In slow steaming, you deliberately slow down the speed of a vessel in order to lower costs by reducing fuel consumption. Even in a weak freight market, this approach allows you to stay profitable, by absorbing excess tonnage and cutting down on fuel consumption and bunker bills as you slowly steam along, Wartsila says.
Wartsila’s Senior Development Manager Henning von Wedel explains that Wartsila is also looking into unmanned Ultra Slow Steaming, since cost reduction is exactly what the customers want. Nevertheless, there are many factors at play.
“One of the factors is the vessel’s operating cost, and another one is the crew cost. The slower you go, the lower the operational cost, and, opposed to that, the crew cost increases with lower speed,” von Wedel says, adding that there are also additional cost factors – such as the financial cost for the cargo and freight rates – that also rise as speed goes down.
Many people in the marine industry believe that autonomous shipping is the answer to the cost reduction scenarios of the future. Von Wedel observes that there is, however, a strong trend that counteracts the autonomous concept: the sheer size of the vessels is increasing.
“We see that not only in the containership market, but also for liquid and bulk cargo. Cruise ships are also getting bigger and bigger. The challenge is – beyond the economy of size – to convince our customers that the issue is more complex and requires looking at integrated concepts, which include shipbuilding and operation cost for the vessels, and taking only crew costs into consideration here would offer a very short-sighted perspective on the matter,” von Wedel says.