Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Seagoing Tests See Commercial Ferry Travel from Port to Port Completely Autonomously  

A Maritime First for Finnish and Norwegian Groups

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Shipping News Feature FINLAND – NORWAY – Having successfully tested its automatic wireless induction charging system on the ferry MF Folgefonn in Norwegian waters in September, technology group Wärtsilä has now, in the presence of the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), completed testing full dock-to-dock capability, with the autonomous operation being utilised uninterrupted for the entire route, visiting all three ports serviced by the ship.

The success of these latest tests cannot be underestimated. Once the operator selected the next destination berth, the operation was started by simply selecting ‘Sail’, which authorises the autonomous controller to take control of the vessel. The ferry was able to leave the dock, manoeuvre out of the harbour, sail to the next port of call, manoeuvre through the harbour entrance, and dock alongside the terminal, all without human intervention.

It is believed to be the first ever attempt at fully automated dock-to-dock operation, in complete hands-off mode, for a vessel of this size. Joonas Makkonen, Vice President, Voyage Solutions, Wärtsilä, enthused:

“This represents a huge step forward in validating automated shipping solutions, and an important progression within our Smart Marine programme. This emphasises once again Wärtsilä’s recognised position as the global technology leader in marine innovations. We continue to lead the way in developing the ‘intelligent’ products and systems needed to move the marine industry towards a new era of super-high efficiency, safety, and environmental sustainability.”

Navigation of the vessel is controlled through the use of a series of tracks and waypoints, which guide the ship to the next destination. The autonomous controller, which is based on Wärtsilä’s existing Dynamic Positioning system, controls the vessel’s speed, position on the pre-defined track, and heading. GNSS is used as the primary sensor, while a Wärtsilä Guidance Marine CyScan AS is being tested as a secondary position sensor for the approach to the berth. Nils Haktor Bua, Project Manager at NMA, commented:

“We were on site for three days as witnesses to these tests; the first full scale demonstration towards an autonomous operation of a vessel that we have seen. It was, to say the least, very impressive. There is no doubt that such technology can eventually increase the safety and overall efficiency of the docking and undocking operations for ships. Of course, further development work is still ongoing, but I am impressed by how stable the system already is at this stage.”

The 85 metre long Folgefonn is owned by Norwegian ferry operator Norled. The vessel is also equipped with hybrid propulsion with wireless shore connection and capable of fully electric operation, and features numerous other Wärtsilä innovations, including its wireless inductive battery charging solution and energy storage systems. Sigbjørn Myrvang, Technical Manager at Norled, concluded:

“We are pleased to cooperate with Wärtsilä in this exciting project. A fully autonomous dock-to-dock solution will provide us with considerable value-adding benefits in terms of better efficiency, greater safety, lower fuel consumption and, therefore, reduced exhaust emissions. We see the Wärtsilä solution as being a key support to the crew, enabling them to operate the vessel as effectively as possible.”

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