Rethinking Shipbuilding: Green Wave Rising

article picture: Rethinking Shipbuilding: Green Wave Rising

Creation of more sustainable shipbuilding concepts is very much a concern for the key industry players. With carbon-conscious millennials filling more and more of the cruise ships during the 2020’s, the shipyards and cruise lines are looking at all their processes with a critical eye: what can we do to make this greener?

As bringing down the carbon emissions of the ships has also societal reach, universities and research institutions are eager to lend a helping hand to the marine industry – and new programs and projects emerge to explore various facets of sustainability.

One recent example from Finland is a new project, Sustainable Shipbuilding Concepts (SusCon), which focuses on sustainability-based value-creation in the cruise ship industry. Coordinated by University of Turku, this is a joint effort by VTT, Royal Caribbean Group, Meyer Turku and the Finnish marine cluster.

The SusCon project wants to find new solutions and methods to boost sustainability already in the early building phases of the ship. In addition to launching greener ships upon the seas, SusCon aims to highlight the social responsibility issues of the marine clusters.



Head of the project, researcher Teijo Lehtonen from the University of Turku says that the common goal of the SusCon partners is to develop and test new kinds of working methods and routines – and to analyze the results from the viewpoint of sustainability as well as other relevant metrics.

“A simple example of this is the drop in traveling volumes which results from streamlining planning processes. This decrease, in turn, yields a positive climate impact,” Lehtonen says.

Sustainability is nothing new in any industry – and Finnish marine cluster has stellar references from the field, ranging from eco-efficient hull design to building LNG-powered cruise ships. A key part in the making of these success stories is transparency and certain kind of openness; for instance, best practices are able to spread across the supplier network better than in most countries.


Project Manager, researcher Kaapo M. Seppälä from the University of Turku points out that in addition to boosting opera- “Sustainability is nothing new in any industry. tive processes and work methods there is also the commercial angle: both cruise lines and cruise goers respond to green sales pitches if they assess them to be genuine.

”SusCon defines the playing field with regards to timing issues: what is the best phase in the project to engage in a commercial conversation? In a ship project, the details of construction are decided pretty early on, so it may be difficult to implement changes when you’re already in the building phase,” Seppälä says.

Funded by national business booster Business Finland, SusCon is part of Business Finland’s Sustainable Manufacturing Finland program.



Sustainable maritime is in the minds of the EU, too, as evidenced by European Commission’s Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy. Published in December 2020, the strategy covers all modes of transport, including waterborne transport. What’s new, however, is that for the first time, the strategy covers relevant points from the perspective of Europe’s shipyards and maritime equipment industry.

mobility strategy focuses on policies to make waterborne transport a sustainable and smart mode of transport. These policies are in line with the ambitions from the European Green Deal and take into account the opportunities offered by digitalization, automation and autonomy in shipping, inland navigation, ports and the logistics chain.

The new mobility strategy also has proposals aiming at making waterborne transport more resilient in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis and pays attention to the challenges of the waterborne transport sector, including maritime technology, in terms of sectoral skills and competitiveness.


From the perspective of Europe’s maritime technology sector, the new strategy contains a number of helpful proposals, such as contribution from the ‘Zero-Emission Waterborne Transport’ Partnership, adopted under Horizon Europe, in terms of acceleration of research and innovation in green technologies and sustainable fuels.

The strategy also includes a proposal to finance the modernization of fleets, involving also retrofitting and fleet renewal schemes. The Commission recognizes that such support “will help to preserve a thriving manufacturing ecosystem in areas where Europe has a strategic technological advantage such as the vessel manufacturing industries”.

In addition, waterborne transport equipment and solutions are acknowledged as the engine of European exports and that a sustainable and smart transformation of the sector is an opportunity for Europe’s manufacturing industry to lead globally.



Unsurprisingly, the strategy paper has the backing of the European maritime industry; for instance, the industry association SEA Europe – representing close to 100% of the European shipbuilding industry in 16 nations – has applauded the new strategy.

Christophe Tytgat, SEA Europe’s Secretary General, noted that Europe’s shipyards and maritime equipment manufacturers are very much needed in the frontlines for Europe to realize numerous sustainable EU policies, including the European Green Deal and Digitalization Agenda. According to Tytgat, the Commission’s acknowledgement that finance can be used to modernize fleets, inter alia through a fleet renewal scheme, is very much welcomed.

Furthermore, there is already an alliance – comprising key players within the European waterborne transport sector – proposing a new Research and Innovation Partnership over a period of seven years.

Strongly aligned with the EU’s Green Deal, this Partnership’s central objective is to provide and demonstrate zero-emission solutions for all main ship types and services before 2030, enabling zero-emission waterborne transport before 2050.

Text by Sami J. Anteroinen
Photos: Pixabay

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