Westling lifts the lid on E-Flexers

2024-03-27T18:18:15+00:00 March 27th, 2024|Marketing|

Talking with class society DNV, Stena RoRo’s CEO, Per Westling gave an incite into the company’s ropax design.

Answering the question – following the recent order for the 13th E-Flexer ropax, will the programme be expanded and, if so, also adapted to respond to the latest regulatory decisions from the IMO and EU? – Westling (pictured) said that the company had already started on that journey by introducing multi-fuel engines.

The engines give the option of using normal diesel or biodiesel as well as other fuels like methanol or LNG.

Those are the few available alternatives today, but the engines will be able to accommodate any available fuels in the future, both gas and liquid.

In the programme, Stena RoRO has also introduced equipment that will make it possible to transfer electric power to the propeller shaft via a PTO/PTI system. This system will, when acting as a shaft generator, power the ships’ domestic systems.

In addition, it can also function as an electric motor, powered by an energy source, such as a battery, a fuel cell or, for that matter, an auxiliary engine.

“We foresee battery systems with higher capacities in the future and by combining those with a mechanical transmission (PTI), we’ve designed the most efficient battery operation for propulsion,” he said.

He further explained that these innovations were built into the last four vessels, enabling the company to gradually fulfil today’s regulations and also much stricter regulations in the future. It’s just a question of how much bio-methanol is added to the fuel mix or how many batteries are installed in order to operate on electric power for propulsion.

“So, this is what we mean by future-proofing the design,” he said.

The current operational lifetime for new ropaxes vessels will be around 40–50 years. DNV asked whether this was still realistic within the new regulatory environment and the development of a range of new and more efficient technologies.

Westling said that t here are some items on board a ship such as steel, paintwork, the workmanship in general, where the company doesn’t see see any issues with having a 50-year lifespan.

“However, it’s crucial to future-proof, especially when it comes to leveraging current technology to facilitate the use of green fuels. If we run our multi-fuel engines on electro fuels, like e-methanol or e-LNG, that would be a fossil-free operation and we could run that forever. So the answer is yes, we can still keep these ships going for 50 years, or maybe even longer,” he said.

Addressing Stena’s policy on future fuels with regard to more partnerships like the one with Proman, which secured the methanol supply, Westling said that collaboration is key.

“It’s not just about partnering with one supplier, but multiple ones. We need to create a market for these fuels. It’s vital for operators and suppliers to work together and that authorities and regulators support the development and implementation of e-fuels,” he said.

He stressed that suppliers need to ensure volumes at relevant prices and be encouraged to invest in new plants. As operators, Stena needs to ensure the necessary fuel is available to comply with regulations.

“We’re in a kind of chicken and egg situation. Certainly, the demand for methanol and LNG vessels is evident from the numerous orders we’re seeing. However, we’re currently facing a fuel supply shortfall.

“What’s needed now and in the near future, are companies that are prepared to invest. This will require a certain level of commitment and collaboration between the supplier and the offtaker,” he said.

DNV then asked- Given the increasing challenge to finding crew, is Stena RoRo expecting greater demand for autonomous functionality in the vessels over the coming years?

He replied that he doubted it, at least not to any large extent in the ferry business.

“I harbour doubts, given the sensitive nature of our operations, such as transporting thousands of people in archipelagos through high-traffic waters,” he explained.

He added that this might be a factor for other vessel types, like cargo ships on certain routes, as the technology exists.

However, for passenger shipping, it’s unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future. The risk of on board fires, accidents involving passengers or crew, and congestion in areas where the vessels sail with perhaps 2,000 people on board made Westling sceptical about this technology.

Has the upcoming IACS cyber security regulations, prioritised this risk and influenced the way Stena approaches system integration and vessel network design? DNV asked.

“We’re seeing a growing demand for this, especially in our newbuilding projects. For our latest newbuilding, which was delivered in February, we’re applying DNV’s highest level of cyber security class notation,” he said.

Currently, Stena sees the main hurdle on the supply side. Many suppliers aren’t used to these new requirements and lack equipment that’s fit for purpose on ships, he added.

For marine installations, equipment meeting the highest cyber security standards isn’t always approved by classification societies. This sometimes makes it challenging to get sufficient standard equipment. “However, I believe this is a transitional problem that will be resolved,” he advised.

The E-Flexer fleet development has involved a great deal of teamwork, both within Stena and between Stena RoRo and DNV. How did the project benefit from such strong collaboration?

“It has been of paramount importance, in fact. With so many ships being ordered and the same main partners involved from the start, things are progressing very quickly and smoothly,” he said.

He added that everyone knew their role and what standards to apply. He explained that this benefited Stena as quotes can readily created and tenders for the clients, offering the same standards and quality each time.

“We know that by utilizing the same designers, classification societies, shipyards and to a large extent also suppliers, we can consistently deliver high standards to our clients. This is extremely valuable,” Westling stressed.

Westling has been employed by Stena since 1985. In addition to a MSc degree in Naval Architecture from Gothenburg’s Chalmers Technical University, Sweden, he was trained as an Engineer in the Royal Swedish Navy.

Within the Stena group, he has been project manager for several newbuildings and major conversion projects but also served for five years within the Stena Line Shipmanagement division.

In 2001, Westling moved to Stena RoRo as Conversion Manager, took on the role of Deputy Managing Director in 2008 and subsequently Managing Director in 2011.

Since 2013, he has been a board member of Interferry.