The ice-class passenger ferry Suomenlinna IIhas been successfully remotely piloted through a test area in Helsinki harbour.
The trial was a collaboration between ABB and Helsinki City Transport and is the first exercise of its kind to use an existing passenger ferry,
“We are excited about the potential impact of this test on the future of the maritime industry,” said Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s Industrial Automation division.
“Our advanced automation solutions are making the previously impossible possible for a wide range of sectors, including shipping, which is actively searching for technologies that can rapidly deliver more efficiency and better safety.
“Autonomous does not, of course, mean unmanned. As vessels become more electric, digital and connected than ever before, we will be able to equip seafarers with existing solutions that augment their skillsets.
“In this way, we are enhancing the overall safety of marine operations.”
Suomenlinna IIwas retrofitted with ABB’s new dynamic positioning system, ABB Ability Marine Pilot Control, and steered from a control centre in Helsinki.
Speaking after the voyage, the ferry’s captain, Lasse Heinonen said: “The progress we have made with the remote trial has been remarkable. I believe we are on the right track to exploring further possibilities of this technology as we move forward.”
Suomenlinna IInormally travels from Helsinki to the Suomenlinna fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site on a nearby island.
For the remote piloting trial, the ferry departed from Helsinki’s market square, Kauppatori, and Captain Heinonen wirelessly operated it with ABB’s Ability Marine Pilot Control through a pre-selected area of Helsinki harbour.
The trial took place during the vessel’s off hours, away from shore with no passengers aboard, in an area free of other vessels.
Although it is now equipped with the new dynamic positioning system, the vessel will continue to operate via a set of conventional onboard controls, with the remote mode deployed during the trial only.
Built in 2004, Suomenlinna IIis also now fitted with ABB’s icebreaking Azipod electric propulsion system and its Ability Marine Pilot Vision situational awareness solution.
Suomenlinna IIoperates year-round, undisturbed by the harsh winter conditions that affect all other modes of transport in the Helsinki region.