Wilhelmsen Ship Management demonstrated artificial intelligence for autonomous shipping and addressed the ongoing investigation into Viking Sky’s engine failure
At its headquarters on the outskirts of Oslo’s city centre, Wilhelmsen demonstrated a training programme on monitors set up in the configuration that will be used when fully autonomous ship operations are being monitored by shore-based humans working in a virtual command centre.
Launched in April of last year (2018), Massterly is Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen’s joint effort to develop the autonomous maritime market. And the vessel they intend to use for their project is the product of a separate project involving Kongsberg. The fully-electric and autonomous container ship Yara Birkeland is under construction for owner Yara International using Kongsberg’s integrated sensors, communications and electrical systems.
Asked if hacking was a threat, the company’s representatives said that cyber security concerns would be addressed as part of the testing the ship’s artificial intelligence (AI) will go through to ensure it can be safely operated.
Wilhelmsen expects that Yara Birkeland will be operational by 2020, with fully autonomous operations getting underway in 2022 for the vessel, as planned.
“We are a strong believer that it will be Yara Birkeland that will be the first customer of Massterly,” said Wilhelmsen Vice President Håkon Lenz.
Wilhelmsen said they expected autonomous docking operations in some ports, noting the AI awareness offered small object avoidance even down to the size of a seagull. They explained that, while recognition was well advanced, behavioural analysis and decision-making following recognition of an obstacle by the AI that will be piloting the vessel were highly complex operations. As a safety measure, the ship’s voyages are expected to be tied to fixed time slots reserved for autonomous operations as well as weather dependent in some fjords, they said.
Weather played a part in the high-profile engine failure of Viking Cruises ship Viking Sky in March of this year. Wilhelmsen addressed the ongoing investigation into the incident directly, from the standpoint of the vessel’s shipmanagement company.
“Unfortunately, I am not able to share any learning points because the accident is still under investigation with the AINB,” Mr Lenz said. “What I can say is that Wilhelmsen and Viking have both received positive feedback from the Norwegian Accident Investigations Board.”
If the Norwegian Maritime Authority’s initial conclusion is correct, independent lube oil pumps failed on four engines because the system was subjected to a set of conditions (heavy weather and relatively low lube oil) in which it failed, leaving the cruise ship stricken, 100 m from grounding, off the coast of Norway.
Before the crew managed to restart the engines, some 500 passengers were evacuated during a 19-hour rescue effort involving five helicopters.
Wilhelmsen chief executive Carl Schou ended the day’s demonstrations on a light-hearted note. “Even for fully autonomous vessels, there will always be two individuals on the ship," he said, "the captain and his dog. The dog is there to prevent the captain from touching anything. The captain is there to feed the dog.”