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Becoming a shaft line component provider for navies (sponsored)

3rd June 2021 - 14:00 GMT | by Industry Spotlight

In July 2020, Wärtsilä Marine streamlined its areas of expertise into three businesses focused on engine and fuel technology (Marine Power), software, navigation and simulation (Voyage), and end-to-end manufacturing businesses (Marine Systems). The business formerly known as Wärtsilä Seals & Bearings was brought under the new Marine Systems business line and renamed Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions.

This article is brought to you by Wärtsilä Marine.

The new name reflects the evolution of Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions’ business from an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), supplying first seals, then bearings and other shaft line components, to a company that is capable of providing a raft of shaft line components – coordinating third-party suppliers and overseeing project management to deliver, install, commission and maintain the shaft line components. Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions continues to advance the technologies that it manufactures and its range of services, including shaft realignment and repair.

Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited

Within Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions, two businesses are responsible for delivering this offer to the naval market. In the US, naval and other government customers work with Wärtsilä Defence Inc. The UK-based Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited serves customers around the rest of the world. The capabilities that drove the success of the business over the past nearly 50 years – product knowledge, broad shaft line expertise and rapid global service - remain crucial and have been supported and supplemented under the recent restructure. From its origins as Deep Sea Seals in the 1970s, Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited has remained at the forefront of seal technology by continuously adding new product expertise. Today as part of Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions, Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited continues to develop its naval products whilst offering total oversight for integrating shaft line components – from design through to installation and aftercare. Our customers operate the most relied-upon vessels in the world and depend upon our expertise, experience and global reach. More than just a new name, the restructured organisation and significant investments in people and systems consolidate Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited’s evolution from product manufacturer to complete shaft line system supplier – allowing it to meet current and future needs in this most demanding market. The recent restructure of Wärtsilä’s marine businesses reinforces the capabilities of Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited to provide end-to-end support anywhere. 

Closer to the customer

Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited is a separate entity within Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions. In a market where security and integrity are key, this separation has allowed the company to develop its ability to comply with the requirements of naval and governmental customers. Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited operates standalone IT systems – including security, enterprise resource management and product data management systems – and has its own dedicated facilities with building set-up, security and access designed to meet latest governmental and military standards. The new structure also means that Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited enjoys direct relationships with its customers rather than taking orders from Wärtsilä’s local business. As well as providing extra security by streamlining the number of people involved in any transaction chain, this means that the company can now work even more closely with its customers. This reorganisation has been accompanied by a significant investment in the sales team to allow Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited to build closer, stronger relationships with its customers. Alongside stronger relationships, enhanced integrator capabilities and continued product development are critical to serving naval customers better. The new organisation, backed by the global scale of the wider Wärtsilä group, bolsters Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited’s abilities in both areas.

Proud product heritage

Wärtsilä has built a formidable line-up of shaft line components since it bought the long-established Deep Sea Seals business in 2002. Significant acquisitions include Japan Marine Technologies in 2004, third party composite bearing technology in 2007 and Swedish company Cedervall in 2011. By combining these portfolios and continuing to develop new products, Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions has become the biggest and most trusted supplier in maritime seals and bearings. In the naval business, Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited and Wärtsilä Defence Inc supply shaft line components to the biggest NATO, Commonwealth and allied fleets, where the reliability, quietness and shock-survivability of equipment is critical not only to the mission but also for safeguarding the lives of those onboard. Continuous improvement in shaft line components is important in order to keep pace with the evolving demands of global navies. To accelerate this development, Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions is in the process of realigning product design and manufacture, separating the development and production of components for the naval and commercial markets. A key example of continued product development is the Wärtsilä Enviroguard M water-lubricated stern tube seal. Already the leading stern tube seal series for naval vessels, Wärtsilä has recently enhanced the product with several new features designed to further improve reliability, reduce maintenance burden and offer enhanced redundancy. To support naval customers in improving the availability and capability of their vessels, Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions is also developing a portfolio of digital solutions enabling navies to monitor and optimise the performance of their shaft line. The Wärtsilä Sea-Master series of digital solutions enables components to be monitored remotely and replaced or repaired only when required. Further developments in this area will enable customers to integrate comprehensive shaft line monitoring with state-of-the-art naval systems.

An integrated approach

With unrivalled experience of designing, manufacturing and servicing multiple shaft line components, the transition to become a complete solution provider was the natural next step. The solutions provider role combines Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions’ project management expertise, in-field experience and product engineering knowledge to take oversight of shaft line components for naval vessels. Shaft line integration for both surface vessels and submarines is set to become a significant part of Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited’s business following the award of some key naval contracts. Underpinned by these contracts, over the past two years Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions has strengthened its integration capabilities in several areas. Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited has reinforced its partnerships with several specialist shaft line component suppliers to ensure that it can deliver packages that meet the demanding specifications set by naval customers. This has also involved the company strengthening its strategic sourcing, supplier quality management and engineering functions. Integrators must work well with both the bigger prime contractors responsible for the building of the vessels, as well as in consortia with smaller naval component suppliers which provide the shaft line elements that Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions cannot manufacture in-house. For this role, Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited occupies a ‘just right’ position by virtue of its size: not so big as to compete with the shipbuilders responsible for contracting for the shaft line; large enough to carry the overheads associated with leading a consortium to deliver the shaft line; and small enough to still be a manufacturer of components in its own right, bringing that critical understanding to its selection of third-party components and overall system design. Meanwhile the scale of the wider Wärtsilä group also brings benefits. As local requirements become a more important focus for many projects, Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited can leverage the global network of Wärtsilä marine businesses to help source local suppliers and partners in any country, depending on the indigenisation requirements specified in the contract. A similar approach can be applied to requirements for in-country manufacture and training

A deeper connection

The new structure positions Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited to build on Wärtsilä’s long history of serving naval vessels. As the naval market evolves, Wärtsilä is closer than ever to the market, even more focused on developing products specifically for this sector and more capable of working with both prime contractors and specialist suppliers to provide integrated shaft line packages. On the surface, a name change can sometimes mean very little. But look a little deeper and the new name is underpinned by a significant restructure and investments to bolster Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited’s ability to serve the naval market. Whether navies are building surface vessels – or something that goes a little deeper – Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited is a leading provider of shaft line services and critical components.


Over the decades, Wärtsilä has built up market-leading expertise in shaft line services, from the production of seals and bearings through accurate alignment and measurement to technical surveys and in situ repairs. More recently, using experience gained from managing countless complex projects across the world, Wärtsilä has brought these elements together to offer a fully integrated service. Wärtsilä Shaft Line Repair Services offers rapid reaction service for naval vessels in need of urgent attention to get their shaft line up and running again – whether that involves in situ repairs or an assessment followed by realignment at dry dock. Wärtsilä Shaft Line Repair Services brings together project managers, alignment and measurement specialists and field service engineers to provide a fully integrated service for ship owners and operators. For naval customers, Wärtsilä Shaft Line Repair Services is an important service for assuring operational availability. A cross-disciplinary team of experts can tap into dedicated manufacturing facilities around the world as well as a wide inventory of OEM parts, making sourcing replacements much quicker and project management more streamlined. Resetting of naval vessels is another important service. When vessels have a significant change of mission profile – in some cases even before they have gone into operation, owing to long naval shipbuilding cycles - the original shaft line and alignment may not be optimal for the new missions. Wärtsilä’s deep experience as a manufacturer of multiple shaft line components means that it has the knowledge to retune the shaft line and ensure optimal performance. As part of the reorganisation, underwater repair specialist Trident Group became part of Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions, now called Wärtsilä Underwater Services, extending options for Wärtsilä customers when faced with critical vessel repairs on the water.

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