NOVEMBER 28, 2018 — In a test involving the 85 m long Norwegian ferry Norled Wärtsilä has successfully completed what is believed to be the first ever fully automated dock-to-dock operation, in complete hands-off mode, of a vessel of its size.
In tests of Wärtsilä’s automated dock-to-dock solution carried out in the presence of the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), autonomous operation was utilized uninterrupted for the entire route, visiting all three ports serviced by the ship.
Once the operator selected the next destination berth, the operation was started by simply selecting “Sail,” which authorizes the autonomous controller 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.
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.
“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,” says Nils Haktor Bua, Project Manager at NMA. “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 m long Folgefonn is owned by Norwegian ferry operator Norled. It was also used also for the initial testing of the Wärtsilä autodocking solution, which took place in the early part of 2018.
The vessel is also equipped with hybrid propulsion with wireless shore connection capable of fully electric operation, and features numerous other Wärtsilä innovations, including its wireless inductive battery charging solution and energy storage systems.
“We are pleased to cooperate with Wärtsilä in this exciting project,” says Sigbjørn Myrvang, Technical Manager at Norled. “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,
“This represents a huge step forward in validating automated shipping solutions, and an important progression within our Smart Marine program. 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,” says Joonas Makkonen, Vice President, Voyage Solutions, Wärtsilä.
Innovation Norway, an investment fund, has provided grants to both Wärtsilä and Norled for the testing of the auto-docking technology.
The Folgefonn was operated autonomously for its entire route from dock-to-dock with the Wärtsilä automated dock-to-dock solution.