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Rarely was the first call of a ship so symbolic as on 13th of January 2021. For the first time, the roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ship Fionia Sea moored at the PSA Terminal in Zeebrugge. This call means that the port will be getting not only a new customer but also a connection to a new region in Sweden and, above all, this can be considered the prelude to an environmentally friendly logistics set-up with four new hybrid ships. This project strengthens the position of Zeebrugge as a logistic hub for paper products.

New connection to the port of Husum

“The Fionia Sea and her sister ship Jutlandia Sea, operated by the shipping company Wallenius-SOL, have been calling at Zeebrugge on alternate Wednesdays ever since 13 January 2021. The ships come from the Gulf of Bothnia, and their core business comprises cassettes with paper from our new customer Metsä Board in Husum, Sweden,” explains Theo Milliau, Head of Terminal Operations at PSA. “Return cargo is also loaded here in Belgium.” Later this year, the ships on this service will be replaced by brand-new megahybrid ro-ro ships.
"The High North is just as far away from Zeebrugge as Canada." Ragnar Johansson
Zeebrugge owes the additional service to its excellent geographical location and the many connection possibilities for the transshipment of paper products, both to the hinterland and overseas. The extra traffic is also good news for employment in Zeebrugge, considering that thirty port workers are needed to handle these cargoes.
Fiona Sea and her sister ship Jutlandia Sea call at Zeebrugge on alternate to deliver cassettes with paper from Sweden. Later this year, the ships on this service will be replaced by brand-new megahybrid ro-ro ships.

Who is Wallenius-SOL?

Wallenius-SOL is a Swedish shipping company with almost two centuries of experience. The alliance between Wallenius Lines and Svenska Orient Linien (SOL) was initiated in 2019. The ro-ro vessels arrive from Sweden and Finland with paper products on cassettes, SECUs and containers, and return northwards with other cargo.

Ragnar Johansson, CEO of Wallenius-SOL, talks about the changes he has seen with regard to the shipping of paper products. A decade ago, each paper mill chartered its own – usually small – ships to convey its products to the same regions. He also noted that no new ships had been built for this type of traffic for 15 years.

Meanwhile, resulting from the emergence of the internet, paper mills have been seeing the demand for particularly newsprint paper dwindling, year after year. Their focus has shifted to such products as consumer packaging board, which is still a strongly growing business. Furthermore, wood fibres are recyclable and the industry is anticipating on the infinite possibilities provided by this raw, natural raw material.

Ragnar Johansson, CEO of Wallenius-SOL has experienced the transition in the transport of paper products. The sector was in need of efficient and innovative transport solutions.
Paper mills have therefore decided to invest significantly in modern plants closer to the source of this raw material: the Scandinavian forests of the far north. Metsä Spring and Valmet, for example, have joined forces in launching a pilot project for 3D packaging material. Examples of this material include food packaging in which wood fibre is used instead of plastic.

Stora Enso is also convinced that fossil raw materials can be completely replaced by the products that are sourced from forests. Wood fibre is the future! The paper producing sector has since developed into a visionary, state-of-the-art industry, where ecology and sustainability are key to a long-term vision.

“Forestry companies must be able to rely on efficient maritime logistics. It is a long way from the Gulf of Bothnia to Western Europe. To give you an idea: the High North is just as far away from Zeebrugge as Canada,” Johansson explains. “Moreover, this part of the Baltic Sea is often completely frozen, sometimes for up to four months.”

Extensive experience

SOL decided to present a ground-breaking logistics solution together with Wallenius. “Our partnership with Wallenius allowed us to gain the experience we needed to realise this project,” says Ragnar Johansson. As Wallenius-SOL, they approached the Danish naval architecture firm Knud E. Hansen, a company with more than 80 years of experience in designing ingenious vessels such as ferries, cruise ships and ice-class vessels.

“Wallenius-SOL’s new vessels are the first ro-ro vessels that they to not only have the highest ice class rating but are also powered by liquefied natural gas.”
Ragnar Johansson

The criteria were everything but trivial. The ships had to have a large capacity, as well as a low cost per unit of cargo. Furthermore, they had to meet the highest ice class rating, run on the most environmentally friendly fuel and be able to connect to shore power. Because the ships sail a route that calls at nine ports, optimal flexibility in loading and unloading was also an essential criterion. The type of goods being shipped also poses an additional hydrodynamic challenge. Coming from the North, the ships will have up to 2.5 metres more draught than on the return trip.

Finn Wollesen, Managing Director of Knud E. Hansen, explains how his designers, together with the design department of Wallenius Marine, eventually arrived at the design for four identical vessels that are currently being built in China (Yantai CIMC Raffles Offshore Ltd.).

The new ships of Wallenius-SOL will have the highest ice class rating, and they will be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas). Due to the high freight capacity of the vessel, the fuel consumption per freight unit will be reduced by 57%.
“Wallenius-SOL’s new vessels are the first ro-ro vessels that not only have the highest ice class rating but are also powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas). This is necessary to withstand the weather conditions in the Gulf of Bothnia, which can be extreme in winter. The vessels will be 242 metres long, with a capacity of 5,800 lane-metres.” He proudly adds that these vessels will be the largest in their class, with the lowest possible emissions as well as carbon footprint. He quotes a study by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute: “Fuel consumption per freight unit will be 57% lower. Greenhouse gases will be reduced by 63%, and sulphur and particulate emissions will be almost negligible. Nitrogen oxides will be reduced by 85%. The ships will also be battery-ready. Not to sail electrically, but to use batteries to smooth out peak loads, which results in lower fuel consumption. The only thing that needs to be added are the battery packs.

The first of Wallenius-SOL’s four green, hybrid megaships will be taken into service by next autumn. In the meantime, PSA has also provided a new pontoon that is capable of accommodating the world’s largest roll-on roll-off vessels, and Wallenius-SOL’s extra-large vessels in particular.

Three competitors, one shipping company

PSA Zeebrugge has gained a new customer in Metsä Board. The fact that Metsä Board has chosen to join forces with competitors Stora Enso and BillerudKorsnäs is unusual. “In the past, mills handled their maritime transport independently. Our vision is to create an infrastructure for the industry in which all customers can benefit from frequency, a lower risk and lower costs,” explains Ragnar Johansson. “In addition, they do not need to put any ships on their balance sheet. It certainly looks as if our vision will be considered quite attractive by many an industrial customer.”

“Our vision is to create an infrastructure for the industry.” Ragnar Johansson

According to Johansson, it is likely that the new LNG ships will be bunkering their LNG in Zeebrugge. “Zeebrugge has the gas and the infrastructure. Our ships only need to be supplied with LNG every fortnight, which coincides with their call at Zeebrugge.” As for cold ironing, we aim to connect the ships to the grid in every port in the long term, with a view to eliminating the emission of CO2 in the ports at which the ships call.

“PSA is a top-class handler of forestry products, with many years of experience. Both Wallenius-SOL and our customers have tremendous confidence in PSA. Metsä Board’s decision to ship large volumes to the Wielingen dock this year is certainly proof of this. “My thanks to Theo Milliau and his team for their excellent work!” concludes Ragnar Johansson.

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