Wärtsilä has taken a step further towards developing its Smart Marine capabilities by successfully testing remotely controlled ship operations.
The test – which involved driving a vessel through a sequence of manoeuvres using a combination of dynamic positioning (DP) and manual joystick control – was carried out in August off the North Sea coast of Scotland in collaboration with Gulfmark Offshore, the U.S. based operator which provided the vessel for the project.
Although the test vessel was in the North Sea, the remote-control navigating was carried out from Wärtsilä’s San Diego, California, office, 8,000 km (5,000 miles) away.
Wärtsilä's DP unit developed remote control capabilities in 2016, but this was the first test carried out on an offshore vessel. The vessel – Highland Chieftain – was an 80m platform supply vessel which had already been fitted with a Wärtsilä Nacos Platinum package for navigation, automation and dynamic positioning, as well as a Wärtsilä drives package.
Additional software was temporarily added to the DP system to route data over the vessel's satellite link to the onshore station in California.
The test was carried out using standard bandwidth onboard satellite communication.
No land-based technology was used for communication between the vessel and remote operator work station.
The test was conducted over four hours, during which time the vessel was driven through a series of manoeuvres at both high and low speeds. Wärtsilä reports that all of the test procedures carried out went as planned.
"We are committed to developing technologies that enable a Smart Marine future,” said Roger Holm, president, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions after the test. “In the age of digitalisation, the future Smart Marine ecosystem will involve connecting 'smart' vessels with 'smart' ports to enable more efficient use of resources. It will also reduce the impact on climate while enhancing safety."