Cargo vessel completes landmark autonomous voyageWritten by Nick Blenkey
Kongsberg Maritime has successfully demonstrated a range of remote and autonomous technologies on a cargo vessel operating off the coast of Norway. The test trip is seen as one of the most complex autonomous voyages at sea so far.
The Eidsvaag Pioner is one the two vessels that are equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport demonstrations for the AUTOSHIP project, which is part of the Horizon 2020 EU research programme.
Owned by Eidsvaag AS, the Eidsvaag Pioner operates along the Norwegian coast and in fjord areas where it carries fish feed to ocean fish-farms.
The demonstration was carried out over 13 hours and involved the vessel completing a voyage outside the coast of Kristiansund on the northwest coast of Norway. The ship undocked from the port of Averøy, sailed to an ocean fish-farm and back to port again, a journey of about 160 nautical miles in total.
“This was an opportunity to show the world that remote and autonomous technologies can be successfully deployed on a general cargo vessel, carrying out a range of the operational aspects of a typical voyage,” said Kongsberg CEO Geir Håøy. “There has been great collaboration between all partners in the AUTOSHIP project, and we have all been impressed with how the Eidsvaag Pioner performed under remote control and during autonomous sailing and docking. Today we have demonstrated a range of the key enabling technologies that will lead the way towards routine remote and autonomous operation in the years ahead.”
The autonomous voyage was initiated, managed and monitored from the shoreside Kongsberg Remote Operating Center (ROC) in Ålesund and involved a mix of remote and autonomous operations during different stages of the voyage. For safety and regulatory reasons, crew members were on board the ship.
The first part of the demonstration included automatic undocking from the quay at Averøy. The autonomous technology then took control to navigate and maneuver out of the harbor and further out to open sea where the ship navigated a route between several islands and avoided other sea traffic, before arriving at the offshore fish farm Ocean Farm 1, owned by Salmar.
Various maneuvers were then carried out using the vessel dynamic positioning (DP) system. The vessel next returned to port, again navigating open sea and congested seaways before it automatically docked again.
The entire operation was monitored, and occasionally controlled remotely, by the shore-based captain and engineer.
During the demonstration, a number of established and new Kongsberg technologies were deployed, and included auto-undocking and autodocking, situational awareness system, autonomous navigation system, intelligent machinery system, connectivity & cyber security system, remote operations center and dynamic positioning. Cloud-based communication systems and advanced simulations have also been involved to test and ensure that the vessel operated safely and optimally.
AUTOSHIP is a four-year project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.
The demonstration in the North Sea was a collaboration between a large team of people from Kongsberg and the shipowner Eidsvaag AS, including also expertise from Norway’s leading research organization, SINTEF and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.
The aim of the AUTOSHIP project is to test and develop key technology linked to fully autonomous navigation systems, intelligent machinery systems, self-diagnostics, prognostics and operation scheduling, as well as communication technology enabling a prominent level of cyber security and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure.
The second AUTOSHIP demonstration will take place on June 1 and will involve a cargo barge navigating part of the inland waterway network in Wintam, Belgium.