Tuesday, June 20, 2017

First Autonomous Commercial Vessel Performs Well in Initial Tests

Copenhagen Harbour Sees Tug Successfully Manoeuvre and Dock Itself
Shipping News Feature
DENMARK – Rolls-Royce has been making some serious waves in the world of autonomous shipping having recently collaborated with global towage operator Svitzer, to successfully demonstrate the world's first remotely operated commercial vessel, in Copenhagen harbour, Denmark. Earlier this year, one of Svitzer's tugs, the 28 metre long Svitzer Hermod, safely conducted a number of remotely controlled manoeuvres. From the quay side in Copenhagen harbour the vessel's captain, stationed at the vessel's remote base at Svitzer headquarters, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360°, and piloted it to the Svitzer HQ, before docking again.

The companies have also signed an agreement to continue their cooperation in the testing of remote and autonomous operations for vessels. The primary systems involved will be autonomous navigation, situational awareness, the remote control centre and communication. Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Marine who witnessed the recent event said:

“It was an honour to be present at what I believe was a world first and a genuinely historic moment for the maritime industry. We’ve been saying for a couple of years that a remotely operated commercial vessel would be in operation by the end of the decade. Thanks to a unique combination of Svitzer’s operational knowledge and our technological expertise, we have made that vision a reality much sooner than we anticipated.”

The Svitzer Hermod, a Robert Allan ship design, was built in Turkey at the Sanmar yard in 2016. It is equipped with a Rolls-Royce Dynamic Positioning System, which is the key link to the remotely controlled system. The vessel is also equipped with a pair of MTU 16V4000 M63 diesel engines from Rolls-Royce, each rated 2000 kW at 1800 rpm.

The vessel also features a range of sensors which combine different data inputs using advanced software to give the captain an enhanced understanding of the vessel and its surroundings. The data is transmitted reliably and securely to a Remote Operating Centre (ROC) from where the Captain controls the vessel. Kristian Brauner, Chief Technology Officer, Svitzer, commented:

“Disruption through innovation is happening in almost every industry and sector and technology will also be transforming the maritime industry. As the largest global towage company, Svitzer is actively engaging in projects that allow us to explore innovative ways to improve the safety and efficiency of towage operations to benefit our customers and our crews. With its direct impact on our customer performance, operational cost and environmental footprint vessel efficiency remains a main driver now and going forward. We are proud to be partnering with Rolls-Royce in this high-level research and development of systems for remote operation.”

The Remote Operating Centre was designed to redefine the way in which vessels are controlled. Instead of copying existing wheelhouse design the ROC used input from experienced captains to place the different system components in the optimum place to give the master confidence and control. The aim is to create a future proof standard for the control of vessels remotely.

Throughout the demonstration the vessel had a fully qualified captain and crew on board to ensure safe operation in the event of a system failure.

Photo: Courtesy Piet Sinke www.maasmondmaritime.com