Technology group Wärtsilä has successfully completed an automated dock-to-dock journey using an 85m ferry.
Monitored by the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), the system was tested on Folgefonn to assess the company’s latest dock-to-dock capability – with the autonomous operation utilised uninterrupted for the entire route, visiting three ports.
“This represents a huge step forward in validating automated shipping solutions – and is an important progression within our Smart Marine programme,” says Joonas Makkonen, Wärtsilä’s vice president, Voyage Solutions.
Once the operator selected the next destination berth, the operation was started by simply selecting ‘Sail’, which authorised the autonomous controller to take control of the vessel.
The ferry was then able to leave the dock, manoeuvre out of the harbour, sail to the next port of call, manoeuvre through the harbour entrance, and dock alongside the terminal – all without human intervention.
It is the first ever attempt at fully automated dock-to-dock operation, in a complete hands-off mode, for a vessel of this size.
Navigation of the vessel was controlled through the use of a series of tracks and waypoints, which guide the ship to the next destination.
The autonomous controller – based on Wärtsilä’s existing Dynamic Positioning system –controlled the vessel’s speed, position on the pre-defined track, and heading.
GNSS was used as the primary sensor, with Wärtsilä’s Guidance Marine CyScan AS used as a secondary position sensor for the approach to the berth.
“We were on site for three days as witnesses to these tests – and it was very impressive,” says Nils Haktor Bua, project manager at NMA.
“There is no doubt that this 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 we are very impressed by how stable the system already is at this stage.”
Folgefonn is also equipped with hybrid propulsion and a wireless inductive battery charging solution.