Finland's role in Arctic marine technology

An Expert's View about Environmental Technologies in Finland

Posted on: 29 Oct 2013

With long traditions and world-class know-how on ice conditions and icebreaking technologies, Finland plays a key role in the development of artic marine technology.

23 October 2013 Aurora Borealis - a new European research icebreaker - is on the drawing boards of Aker Arctic, a global leader in design and ice model testing. Photo: EU Finland plays a key role in developing Arctic marine technology by Yrjö Myllylä, Jon McEwan, Jari Kaivo-oja The demand for arctic natural resources and human activity is increasing for many reasons. Increasing prices of raw materials, Russia’s geopolitical focus shifting to North after collapse of the former Soviet Union and the development of new cost-effective and eco-friendly technologies in addition to climate change are the main reasons for increased demand. In utilization of Arctic natural resources and new international trade routes marine technology is of importance and its demand is forecasted to rapidly grow. With long traditions and world- class know-how on ice conditions and icebreaking technologies, Finland is playing a key role in the development of Arctic maritime transport. According the new Arctic maritime technology foresight project in Finland, globally, the most important countries in the Arctic region are the five Arctic Ocean coastal states; the United States, Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Norway, and Russia. Of these countries, particularly important from the Finnish marine industry point of view are the world’s largest country - Russia - as well as Norway and Canada. They are new arctic giants of the world economy. In addition, Denmark, the United States and Asian countries: China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Indonesia are seen as fairly important partners of Finnish stakeholders networking with globalized trade networks. The challenge for globalization is recognizing strategic players and the small, medium enterprises´ (SMEs’) limited resources for global networking. However, Internet and e-trade are enabling business activities also for SMEs. Arctic e-trade is forecasted to increase in the future. Figure 1. Prospective areas for hard minerals, oil and gas and other activities in Arctic. The Arctic marine technology is first and foremost a question of utilization of natural resources: gas and oil, minerals and timber. It is also necessary for food consumption and arctic tourism. Source: Nordregio Arctic marine technology is driven by resource extraction The Arctic marine technology takes into account the characteristics of the Arctic environment: cold, snow, ice, temperature changes, rapidly changing weather conditions, darkness, light, long distances, sensitive ecosystems, threatened species, and climate change with extreme weather conditions. The Arctic marine technology is first and foremost a question of utilization of natural resources: gas and oil, minerals and timber. It is also necessary for food consumption – Arctic fishing stocks for harvesting and new international trade routes: the Northeast Passage which is also known as the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passages to world markets. Natural resources belong to the core interests of industrialized nations growing demand for basic commodities e.g. lead, zinc, copper, iron, nickel, palladium, and platinum to name a few in addition to energy resources. Finnish offering The strongest marine mini-clusters and products in highest demand of Finnish Arctic marine technology are: * the environmental protection technology; * meteorology and weather forecasting, including essential, and; * controls and monitoring systems for ships including ice going vessels. There is strong demand of these high-tech products and services and as measured by employment and profit. Rapid growth is forecasted in the markets of Arctic marine technology products in the coming decades with climate change opening up the Arctic Region to broader human and cultural interaction. The fastest areas of potential growth, as compared to the previous levels of business in terms of employment and profit, is in: * the research and drilling operations (Fig 4-6); * offshore construction (Fig 2), and; * safety and rescue operations (Fig 3). Forerunner in seagoing vessels In Finland, ship building has been traditionally the strongest sector providing short-term and vital cash flow in the maritime cluster. The construction of innovative ice going vessels is supported by the transport and logistics systems with Finnish know-how and over fifty years of ice data. Icebreakers developed over the last hundred years out of necessity to ship over ice packed waters in the Baltic Sea. Figure 2. Tecnip Company produces oilplatforms in City of Pori in Finland. In future there will need more and more offshore-technology in Arctic. Near Pori is located Rauma yard, which has built many offshore vessels and arctic research vessels for example in year 2012 “S.A. Agulhas II” Antarctic’s research vessel to South-Africa. Next arctic maritime city from Rauma to up Finnish coast is Vaasa, where is located Wärtsilä. Photo: Tecnip Wärtsilä is the world's leading producer of gas power plants, and especially of marine engines for ships. For example, Wärtsilä to produces LNG, or diesel fuel ship engines. These marine engines can be power plants, which generate electricity. Electricity is used for effective marine propellers of electric motors (rudder-propeller) to run for example in demanding icy conditions. The most famous rudder propeller brand name is ABB's Azipod. According to ABB: “Azipod® is a podded electric propulsion unit where the variable speed electric motor driving the fixed pitch propeller is in a submerged pod outside the ship hull, and the pod can be rotated around its vertical axis to give the propulsion thrust freely to any direction. Thus the ship does not need rudders, stern transversal thrusters or long shaft lines inside the ship hull.” Wärtsilä's engine and ABB's Azipod azimuth propeller form together the transmission system, which has produced a powerful new DAS-ship concept. The same ships can operate both as freight and icebreaking ships. They pass by the worst icebergs by reversing. One good example of this concept is the year-round transport ship of the ore concentrates from Dudinka to Murmansk by Norilsk Nickel – Helsinki ship. The power plant engine and rotating electric motor driven propellers have also proved to be useful in the large cruise ships that require a lot of electricity. In addition, for example the 360-degree rotating-propeller facilitates navigation of large ships in ports. Because arctic and other yards and ABB’s Azipod, there is today in Finland increasing propeller cluster including for example Rolls Royce and Steerprop companies manufacturing propellers. or in the propeller business. Ensuring future competitiveness Presently is the time to invest in the evolving Arctic marine technology (AMT) to ensure dynamic future growth prospects. These investments are needed in long-term research and development programs supporting the AMT cluster. Finland may need a new research laboratory, for example, to test and study oil spills in icy conditions simulating Baltic or Arctic waters. Currently, the leading industrial companies rent lab time on a fully booked New Jersey lab in the United States. Additionally, other laboratories are needed for Arctic cold temperatures testing of materials to advance this competitive edge. Figure 3. Icebreaking rescue vessel NB 508. The hull assembly of an icebreaking multipurpose emergency and rescue vessel for Russian Ministry of Transport started 28 June 2013 at Arctech Helsinki Shipyard. The vessel will be used in icebreaking, rescue and oil combatting operations in the Gulf of Finland. There is in Finland also Mobimar, Lamor and Marine Alutech companies, which produce oil spill response technology and work boats to arctic conditions. Source: Arctech Helsinki Shipyard. In Finland, the main focus should primarily be within the Helsinki metropolitan area. In particular, the emphasis is on the job creation and retention of specialized skill sets for building Arctic research vessels, icebreakers, supply vessels, ice management vessels, oil recovery vessels, search and rescue vessels, as well as hybrid and multi-purpose vessels. The most important products and services are bringing the much anticipated innovations in environmental technology for oil spill recovery. This is followed by weather forecasting, meteorology, controls and monitoring systems and related services that are needed with expected increases in Arctic economic activities with the warming trend of climate change and ice retreat opening up expansion of shipping lanes in the North. Despite the critical need for these products and services is the realization of each in terms of practical and thriving business ideas is difficult for the AMT cluster’s SMEs to manage and gauge demand. Russian interests move to the North promoting Northeast Passage Strong prospective trends may increase the demand for Arctic marine technology. By interviewing panels of marine cluster experts, the main external trends affecting Finland’s arctic marine technology development are the expansion of economic possibilities of Russia’s new role in the North. No doubt, Russia is going to be the driver in the Arctic economy networks and business activities. It clearly reveals the technological progress required for not only navigation in difficult ice conditions with harsh weather even with ice retreat, but the transport and logistics of bringing the North’s vast resources to world markets. Arctic development in Russia’s North is in the media forefront, due to growing demand for northern natural resources, an insatiable demand for arctic minerals and oil and gas exploration, as well as in an increase in the political will for the promotion and benefit of the Northeast Passage. A key element of the North’s demand growth is also Russia’s economic interests shifted to a Northern strategy, as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The technological development, in turn, involves, for instance, the cost and nature-friendly transport, energy and environmental technology and information technology development for ship controls and navigation aided by satellites and the need for real-time monitors. Figure 4. Arctic offshore vessel NB-506 Vitus Bering was delivered at Arctech Helsinki Shipyard on 21.12.2012 to the client Sovcomflot, the largest shipping corporation in Russia. The vessel will supply the Arkutun-Dagi oil and gas field in Sakhalin area, in Far East Russia. Vitus Bering is the first vessel of the series, the sister vessel NB-507 will be delivered in April 2013. Photo: Yrjö Myllylä, August 2012. Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region is import The strengthening of cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region is also an important trend worthy of mention. In the very latest conference of Baltic Sea Parliament in August 2013 many important co- operation programs were reported and new ones planned. There is very strong political will to make Baltic Sea Region be one of the leading global hot spot regions of sustainable innovation and green growth. To benefit from the opportunities in the Arctic, Finnish technology industries must develop closer cooperation and ties with Russia. Yamal and Stokman gas fields need liquefaction facilities, mobile sea stations, storage and transportation vessels, service vessels and Arctic nuclear powered icebreakers. Finnish know-how is best demonstrated by innovative oil spill clean-up products that have the potential to cluster with other actors in the Baltic Sea region. In addition, modernization of the Russian Navy, a fleet of roughly 2000 ships, will create new opportunities. On the other hand, if Finland wants to benefit from the opportunities in the Arctic, the Finnish technology industry has to have closer cooperation with Germany, a leader in many areas of technology and innovation. Understanding weak signals in time will bring a competitive advantage. The challenge in Finnish ports is that the service can be transferred to go through Norway and Russia. A political reordering is in progress in the Arctic region and major oil companies are interested in new and different solutions in the Arctic environment. Ice management is also important, for example in Sakhalin and in Greenland supply vessels to prevent large icebergs and ice floes from drifting against the oil platforms and causing damage, along with oil spill response prevention is aimed for Arctic areas. Ships engines are being required to be fueled by gas instead of heavy fuel reducing Arctic emissions. Russia’s recent WTO membership and the release of service sector will open the Arctic to competition. Figure 5. High level testing environment is important part of Finnish Arctic maritime cluster’s R&D environment. In the picture is testing Aurora Borealis research vessel. In Finland also developed facilities to test oil spill responce technology. Photo: Aker Arctic Wild cards are unlikely to occur, but affect to a more significant extent should they materialize. It is possible that China’s economic growth may stagnate or a significant oil spill or other disaster occurs in the Arctic region. Both would stop and “freeze” the northern projects for a long time. Positive wild cards may be the alliances of Finnish companies with large international players, as well as creating special economic zones in Kirkkenes in Norway and Murmansk, Vyborg or St. Petersburg in Russia. In the best case scenario option, the region could develop new technology centers that are developing the essential technologies for harsh Arctic environments. In addition to Marine technology centers, strong potential fields are energy and mining sectors. The SMARCTIC project studies these available new possibilities. Photo: Arctia Shipping Finnish ice-breaking know-how powers ahead The demand of Arctic and ice-breaking know-how is increasing. Knowledge is critical to the Arctic super powers and they are willing to cooperate with the Finns. One of the latest examples includes ice breaker design projects by Aker Arctic for China and Canada. After all, Finland has manufactured 60 percent of the world’s icebreakers. Willingness of this co-operation is manifested in a new Arctech, the Helsinki Shipyards in 2010, where already the third ice-breaking vessel is being manufactured, and the fourth order to come from the Russian Ministry of Transport just before Christmas 2012. Now is the time to market and showcase the strong Finnish icebreaking expertise in international media venues, international conferences and trade shows in the same way as the cruise ship know-how was introduced in the early 1990s. Also, offshore production platforms and other related facilities construction represent a significant opportunity for Finnish project expertise in oil and gas production, the focus is increasingly shifting to colder areas around the Arctic rim nations. With oil and gas production projects, the most important are the quality and schedules. Price competition is incidental to the construction of capital intensive offshore projects costing billion dollars for production facilities, for example oil and gas offshore platforms and accessory subsea under the water pipelines and other technology. In addition, the offshore training and the strengthening of project knowledge must be pursued funded at appropriate levels to further university research at research and development centers for engineering advancements in ice technology and Arctic maritime technology. Cruise ship skills can also look through “Arctic spectacles” Figure 6. M/S Viking Grace was delivered from STX Finland Turku shipyard on January 2013. It will operate between Finland and Sweden. The new cruise ferry will be the world's most environmentally friendly big passenger ship. The vessel uses LNG as fuel and she generates no marine emissions. Her emissions to the air are extremely minimal low. Photo: Viking Grace Cruise ship and ferry expertise is rooted in one feature of the Arctic environment, in other words in long distances and especially in Finland, for example Silja Line’s and Bore’s orders for cruise ships built in Finnish shipyards. In particular, the ship traffic between Finland and Sweden has created the need for this particular type of know-how from the 1960s. In recent decades, shipbuilding know-how was promoted heavily, enhancing Finland’s role as an expert in the construction of cruise ships. Know-how has been scaled, so that Finland manages 20 percent of the cruise ship market, and has manufactured the world’s largest cruise ships. In the ferry markets, Finland dominates the field with 40 percent market share. In Finland STX Turku yard has built 80 percent of world’s biggest cruise ships percent. This field and its requisite manufacturing are competitive by themselves essentially supported by domestic supply networks located nearby. In addition, competitiveness is supported by the Finnish strong project management know- how, whereby the work is done that is the projects are executed in a reliable and timely manner. Finland experienced a decline in cruise orders after the global financial crisis. The major role of state aid and selected line of action by state authorities have eroded the Finnish position especially in the cruise ship markets. Cruise ship skills can also look through “Arctic spectacles” and can also meet the demand for Arctic tourism in Polar class vessels including the design of research vessels like the Aurora Borealis that may accommodate 120 people, with half being researchers and others. About writers: The author is a Senior Research Scientist, Ph.D., Yrjö Myllylä, from RD Aluekehitys Oy, (Regional Development Ltd). This article is based mainly on a joint project of maritime industry with Uusimaa ELY center of, which is forecasting the Arctic marine technology opportunities for Uusimaa SMEs by 2030. For more information, visit the project Jon McEwan, co-author and an independent researcher, collaborated with Yrjö Myllylä with Regional Development Ltd (RD Aluekehitys Oy) and he is Master’s student in the International Program of Human Geography at the Department of Geographical and Historical Studies at the University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu. Adjunct professor, Jari Kaivo-oja, co-author and research director of the Finland Futures Research Centre of Turku School of Economics, has worked with Dr Yrjö Myllylä in the SMARCTIC project making long-run foresight analyses of the Arctic business potential.
Posted: 29 October 2013

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