Wartsila conducts autonomous ferry voyage, docking


The following is text of a news release from Wartsila:

(HELSINKI) — The technology group Wartsila has successfully completed a further round of test procedures of its automated dock-to-dock solution. In the presence of the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), the system was further tested on the ferry Folgefonn, this time for full dock-to-dock capability, with the autonomous operation being 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. It is believed to be the first attempt at fully automated dock-to-dock operation, in complete hands-off mode, for a vessel of this size.

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 Wartsila’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 Wartsila 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 toward 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,” said Nils Haktor Bua, project manager at NMA.

The 279-foot Folgefonn is owned by Norwegian ferry operator Norled. It was used also for the initial testing of the Wartsila 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 Wartsila innovations, including its wireless inductive battery charging solution and energy storage systems.

Innovation Norway, an investment fund, has provided grants to both Wärtsilä and Norled for the testing of the auto-docking technology.

By Professional Mariner Staff