Wärtsilä has carried out tests of its autodocking technology using the Folgefonn, an 83-metre long ferry owned by Norwegian operator Norled. Trials commenced in January of this year and concluded successfully in April, with their completion marking the first-ever installation of automatic docking technology on a ferry.
Wärtsilä’s software solution is activated some 2,000 metres from a dock, where a vessel utilizing it can continue at a normal transit speed. The technology then initiates a gradual slowdown and activates the line-up and docking manoeuvre automatically until the ship is secured at the berth.
The system may also be used in an identical but reverse mode when the vessel is ready to sail again.
Full control of the vessel’s movements — including steering and propulsion — is handled autonomously by the software. However, it is possible for a human operator to take over and assume control at any time.
The autonomous docking solution is designed to free a vessel’s officers from tasks inside the wheelhouse, and allow them to focus their attentions on situations outside of the ship.
Meanwhile, the chances of human error in docking operations are reduced, as is wear and tear on the thrusters, which the technology can utilize optimally. Greater efficiency in docking will also allow for greater time at berth.
At no time during the trials did the Folgefonn’s captain need to assume manual control.