Wasaline chief executive Peter Ståhlberg highlights how the operator’s new ferry will be the most environmentally friendly passenger ferry in the world
Wasaline says its new ferry Aurora Botnia will be the most environmentally friendly passenger vessel operating on earth.
The unique ferry will run on a mix of LNG, batteries and liquefied biogas. Wasaline chief executive Peter Ståhlberg highlights both the benefits and the challenges of deploying biogas as a fuel. “Biogas is equal to almost zero emissions. But it is a challenge to obtain biogas as it must be liquefied and currently its production here [Finland] is not enough,” he tells Passenger Ship Technology. In the future, it will be a big player on the gas market and will be very important. But the price has to be compatible or supported by government.”
He says “from day one” the ferry will be able to use biogas, and Wasaline aims to mix biogas with LNG. Mr Stahlberg says the factory producing biogas is just 10 km away from the port. “Within 1-1.5 years it should produce enough so that we can start to use it. It is important for our brand to make the ferry as environmentally friendly as possible.”
Aurora Botnia will be approximately 150 m long and will have a gross tonnage of 24,600. It will accommodate 800 passengers and will have a freight capacity of 1,500 lane metres for cargo and cars. Classed as ice class 1ASuper, Aurora Botnia is being built by Rauma Marine Constructions (RMC) shipyard and will replace the existing Wasa Express when delivered in June 2021. It will sail between Vaasa in Finland and Umeå in Sweden on the world’s northernmost all-year passenger route.
LNG, biogas and batteries
Using the mix of batteries, LNG and biogas means the ferry is expected to save 50% of CO2 while fuel costs are expected to drop by an impressive 40%.
Speaking about the need to be as environmentally friendly as possible, Mr Ståhlberg says, “The younger generation want to know their travel footprint. We must do our part and show we are reducing our footprint as much as possible.”
A Wärtsilä hybrid propulsion solution incorporating four Wärtsilä 31DF dual-fuel engines capable of running on both LNG and biogas is being deployed. Wärtsilä is also supplying the LNG storage, supply and control systems as well as the thrusters, catalysators, controls, and the integrated electrical and automation systems. This includes an energy and power management system to optimise operation of the hybrid LNG/biogas power solution.
The ferry will be refuelled with LNG in Vaasa. Energy company Gasum has entered into an agreement with the City of Vaasa, Wasaline’s owner, NLC Ferry and Wärtsilä Finland to supply LNG to the ferry. Gasum is to build a local LNG customer terminal in Vaskiluoto, Vaasa.
Mr Ståhlberg expands, “The ferry will initially be refuelled in port by truck.” But looking to the future he says, “I hope the trucks will run on biogas in the future, and more trucks are being powered by LNG. It is very important to look at the whole supply chain.”
The 2.2-MWh batteries are being provided by Leclanché and will be used when the vessel is in port and for manoeuvring in port, as well as for hotel load and peak shaving. Mr Stahlberg comments that the “peak shaving is very important, as it allows a bit more power so the peak can be taken by the batteries. This means we do not have to use two or three generators.”
The Leclanché Marine Rack System being used is type-approved according to DNV and RINA standards.
The batteries will be charged via an automatic plug-in system. Mr Ståhlberg comments, “The ferry will plug in and start charging at the port as soon as it arrives. It is a very fast system.”
Highlighting the importance of considering the whole supply chain and not just the ferry when it comes to emissions, he singles out that the batteries will charge using local green electricity from turbines in the area.
The ferry will also feature electrical azimuthing propulsion from ABB. Mr Ståhlberg says the azipod solution will reduce fuel consumption by 3% compared with traditional propellers.
The new ferry will extract and utilise waste heat from high temperature and low temperature water as well as the exhaust gas.
Aurora Botnia will be equipped with WE Tech’s hybrid electric propulsion solution, including generators, propulsion drives, energy storage system, main propulsion switchboards, shore connection switchgears, energy management system and the propulsion control system. There will be a zero-emissions sailing mode that will ensure a smoother voyage as vibrations will be reduced, boosting passenger comfort. There will also be an interface with the vessel’s automation system.
The ferry will use Danfoss’ AC drive technology to control the propellers and the connection for the batteries to the propeller system via a DC-DC conversion.
An evolving ship
Mr Ståhlberg is keen to emphasise the ship will continue evolving to use the latest technologies to be as environmentally friendly as possible. “It will be a never-ending story of development, and we hope to use more batteries in future. Added to that, we have all these new fuels coming, so in the future we hope to find and use new technology,” he says.
An important part of the evolution of the ferry is that of the four main engines, one is owned by Wärtsilä as a test bed to validate the new technology and measure the performance and levels of pollution. It will also help with R&D. Mr Ståhlberg describes it as being like a “floating lab”.
This engine will be linked to Wärtsilä smart technology that will allow real-time monitoring and management of the vessel.
One of the most rewarding and challenging things about Aurora Botnia is that it is, as Mr Ståhlberg says “a showcase of new technology”. He explains, “It is of course challenging to get everyone to do the handshake as there are so many different manufacturers. The challenge was to get everyone to work together with so many technologies not tested. But as RMC used a new system, it had to prove the technology was working via computer software before it was installed on the vessel. The ferry looks really good, and we are very comfortable it will work as planned.”
A major benefit for the project is that Wasaline’s headquarters in Vaasa are part of an energy cluster of local companies, including Wärtsilä, Danfoss and ABB. All are in the harbour and span just a 10 km radius. “From day one, they have all been really involved in the journey to make the best solutions possible for energy management. It is not just a ferry but a story of how it came to be,” says Mr Ståhlberg.
Evac is supplying an integrated package of equipment. This includes the Evac OWMS food waste management system that enables waste to be ground by macerators and transported by vacuum to a food waste holding tank. An Evac Ecotrap grease separator is also being supplied. Also included are two UBP 80 high-capacity baling presses for cardboard which allow cardboard waste to be reduced by up to 80%.
Merima, a company providing turnkey solutions for shipbuilding, has been appointed to build the public areas and cabins, and large parts of the technical areas.
The interiors of the new ferry are being designed by Kudos Design. Using natural colours, the interiors will reflect the Botnian archipelago, the open fields of Ostrobothnia and the landscape of Västerbotten.
The interiors also reflect the environmentally friendly theme of the ferry, with carpets in the cabins made of reused fishnets. “We are tracking our material footprint,” says Mr Ståhlberg.
Marioff will deliver its Hi-Fog high-pressure water mist fire suppression system. Two pump units and more than 1,000 Hi-Fog sprinklers will protect the crew, passengers and property.
Aurora Botnia will deploy two evacuation systems. The systems are based on an evacuation chute and an automatically inflating liferaft and are provided by Viking Life-Saving Equipment.
Mr Stahlberg says, “A ship the size of Aurora Botnia would need six to eight traditional lifeboats. One lifeboat would accommodate a maximum of 150 passengers, its deployment would take about 10 minutes and require the assistance of four people. Only two evacuation systems are needed on board and it only takes about 90 seconds for one to two people to deploy a system. Auora Botnia is the first Finnish passenger ship to completely replace lifeboats with evacuation systems.”
AecorLink will be installed for high-speed internet access for passengers and crew.
Wasaline was the first to introduce a long-distance, shore-to-ship and satellite-free, high-speed internet connection on a ferry. It has been using AecorLink broadband service since 2017 on the ferry Wasa Express. AecorLink will provide an updated version of its shore-to-ship microwave system on Aurora Botnia.
Mr Ståhlberg sums up, “The journey has to go on after the delivery of the ferry. We have to keep getting better.”
Peter Ståhlberg (Wasaline)
Mr Ståhlberg is an experienced Captain who has sailed in challenging seas around Antartica, Alaska and the Arctic. With 23 years of experience as a captain on cruise ships, today he is the managing director for Wasaline and project director for the new passenger ferry Aurora Botnia.