Wärtsilä wins first order for auto-docking system

Written by Nick Blenkey
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SmartDock was demonstrated aboard Norled ferry Folgefonn

Wärtsilä says it has taken a major step towards realizing the full commercial potential of autonomous vessels. It has booked the first order for its SmartDock auto-docking system.

The order follows an extensive demonstration of the system last November (see earlier story) that included giving industry representatives and customers first-hand experience as passengers onboard the test vessel..

By automating docking procedures, says Wärtsilä , the SmartDock system mitigates potential human errors resulting from ship officers having to perform these technical maneuvers many times a day. This is especially important on, for example, larger ferries that must enter and leave tight docking spaces, where significant damage can be caused by forceful collisions with the dock walls.

The Captain can select the destination and with a click of the “sail’ button,” the SmartDock system takes over. The ship then leaves the dock, maneuvers out of the harbor, sails to the next port of call, maneuvers into the harbor and docks alongside the quay, all without human intervention.

“Our system draws on similar automation and positioning technology used by oil rig support vessels to maintain proximity to the rig in the toughest sea environments,” says Joonas Makkonen, Vice President, Voyage Solutions, Wärtsilä. “This gives us absolute confidence in SmartDock’s ability to meet the urgent commercial need to provide the safest possible docking for commuter ferries.”

The successful sea trials were carried out onboard the Folgefonn, an 85 meter long ferry owned by Norwegian operator Norled. The testing also included operating the automatic 180-degree rotational turn of the vessel, as well as Wärtsilä Guidance Marine’s CyScan AS with GeoLock technology, a crucial cyber-security enhancing secondary position sensor, which enables the approach to the berth to continue even if the GPS signal is lost.

“We continue to be impressed with the Wärtsilä SmartDock system, which is unique in that it works hand-in-hand with the Captain to ensure the best performance on every docking, every day. It’s the perfect collaboration between an experienced crew and technology,” says Inge Andre Utåker, Regional director, Norled.

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