Finnish technology group Wärtsilä says it has successfully tested the fully autonomous operation of a ferry on a route in Norway in what is believed to be the first ever attempt at fully automated dock-to-dock operation for a vessel of this size.
The test of Wärtsilä’s autonomous shipping technology was conducted utilizing the 85-meter ferry Folgefonn and in the presence of the Norwegian Maritime Authority.
Wärtsilä says that during the test, the Folgefonn was under full autonomous operation, with no human intervention, as it visited three different ports.
Once the operator selected the next destination, the operator simply selected the “Sail” command, which authorized computers to take control of the vessel. The ferry was able to leave the dock, maneuver out of the harbor, sail to the next port of call, maneuver through the harbor entrance, and dock alongside the terminal – all without human intervention, Wärtsilä said.
“This represents a huge step forward in validating automated shipping solutions, and an important progression within our Smart Marine program,” said Joonas Makkonen, Vice President, Voyage Solutions, Wärtsilä. “This emphasizes once again Wärtsilä’s recognized 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 was 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.
“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,” says Nils Haktor Bua, Project Manager at NMA.
‘Folgefonn’ is owned by Norwegian ferry operator Norled. Earlier this year, it was also used for the initial testing of Wärtsilä’s auto-docking solution. The vessel is also equipped with hybrid propulsion with wireless shore connection capable of fully electric operation, as well as Wärtsilä’s wireless inductive battery charging solution and energy storage systems.