Why two trials represent a breakthrough for autonomous shipping in the ferry sector
Autonomous shipping has made large strides in the ferry sector within the last two weeks as not one, but two trials on two separate ferries have been successfully completed.
These are significant as they represent the first fully autonomous trials for ferries – meaning that the industry has moved from a concept to reality when it comes to remote shipping.
Finferries’ car ferry Falco used Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies to be operated entirely under remote control by a captain in an office building in the centre of Turku on its return leg of the Parainen-Nauvo route in Finland.
And just a week earlier, ice-class passenger ferry Suomenlinna II was remotely piloted through a test area near Helsinki harbour. Suomenlinna II was retrofitted with ABB’s new dynamic positioning system, ABB Ability Marine Pilot Control, and steered from a control centre in Helsinki.
This trial is significant because it is not using new technology – rather ABB used technologies that it said are already available for nearly any type of vessel. The fact that they are already available will ease the transition to remote shipping.
Finferries is developing autonomous shipping technologies produced by Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence along with its other partners Svitzer, Intel, ESA, Inmarsat, AXA, Google and Bosch. These technologies have come together in a range of sensors attached to Falco, which give the vessel a 3D picture of its surroundings. I believe it is important that Finferries is so closely involved, as it means the technology will be shaped to suit the ferry sector.
The benefits autonomous shipping brings in terms of environmental efficiency and safety coupled with these milestone trials shows that autonomous shipping is coming to the passenger ship sector, sooner rather than later.