To mitigate the risk of delays posed by aging equipment, leading global shipping operator Maersk engaged Wärtsilä to undertake an extensive retrofit of the control systems onboard it’s Gunvor Maersk container vessel. The upgrade allowed the vessel to benefit from the latest advances in Wärtsilä’s engine control system technologies, providing increased reliability along with problem-free performance and improved operational efficiency.
While maintenance is still available for vessels operating with Wärtsilä’s older WECS-9500 engine control system, replacement components are becoming harder to obtain; this problem of obsolescence was a significant driver behind part of Maersk’s motivation for requesting the upgrade.
As Danilo Hanke, Area Sales General Manager, Europe and Africa, explains, aging parts can also lead to other issues: “An older engine control system can have issues with old electric modules failing frequently. This slows down vessel operations, leading to an increased risk of excessive fuel consumption and leaving end customers dissatisfied when their cargo doesn’t arrive on schedule.”
Cutting costs and emissions
With the ongoing global pandemic making it difficult to respond to maintenance issues in a timely manner, engine reliability has become more important than ever. For the Gunvor Maersk, however, the updated WECS-9520 control system has helped with far more than just reliability – it has also had a positive impact on the vessel’s environmental footprint in the form of reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, the new system is more time and cost efficient than its older counterpart. “We want to give our customers solutions that improve the overall running of their vessels,” says Hanke. “The Gunvor Maersk’s upgraded control system is state of the art, with several new features to make maintenance and updates easier, including interchangeable electronics and decentralised logic functions. It also included intelligent combustion control, which generates further fuel savings.”
Insights through adversity
The control system upgrade was completed in a dry dock at the COSCO ZhouShan Shipyard in China during December 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Upgrades to two other vessels, the Grete Maersk and the Gudrun Maersk, were unfortunately postponed due to the pandemic. Despite these challenges, the project has provided valuable insights that have helped Wärtsilä further improve its ability to support customers during this unprecedented situation. For example, there is now an even greater emphasis on product reliability, with the availability of maintenance around the globe becoming more critical than ever. “We have realised that the local presence of field service engineers is of utmost importance,” says Hanke. “Despite the limitations on travel caused by COVID-19 we’ve been able to use the competences available within our worldwide service network to continue to serve our customers.”
Gunvor Maersk returned to service at the end of 2019 and has now been running without issues for over a year. With 22 vessels still operating with the older WECS-9500 control system, Wärtsilä has an opportunity to further assist Maersk and other customers in reaching their environmental goals and achieving the best possible levels of operational reliability. Hanke believes that the Gunvor Maersk retrofit is a great example of Wärtsilä’s capability to provide customer-focussed solutions that help operators reach their individual business targets. “We put our customers in focus, aligning our way of working with theirs,” he stresses, adding: “Our expertise in engine operation and maintenance means that they can concentrate on their core business.”
A shared focus on innovation
The working relationship between Wärtsilä and Maersk, which owns over 650 vessels, goes back several decades, making the Finnish manufacturer a trusted partner for vessel upgrades of this type. “We have the competences and necessary insights into both the old system and the upgraded system,” explains Hanke. “This made us the best match when it came to completing the installation in the fastest possible time.”
Over the years, the two companies have created a collaborative relationship built not only on trust, which allows for a continual exchange of information that benefits both parties, but also a mutual desire to innovate. “We develop solutions jointly – it’s a partnership. Maersk is at the forefront of technology in the industry, and we want to provide them with technological solutions that allow them to remain there,” says Hanke.
Source: Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide