A Norwegian group has finished the first phase of a project to remotely operate maritime vessel machinery from a shore-based operation centre
Classification society DNV GL, which worked with automation systems vendor Høglund, ferry operator Fjord1 and the Norwegian Maritime Authority on the project, said its tests showed positive results.
According to DNV GL, the Remote Operation of Machinery and Automation Systems (ROMAS) project's key concept is to move the engine control room from the ship to a shore-based engine control centre, where chief engineers can remotely operate the propulsion and auxiliary machinery systems of a single ship, or a fleet of vessels.
"Overall, the concept is feasible assuming the right measures are put into place," DNV GL’s project manager Steinar Låg said.
Tests were completed during the first three months of 2019 and the test scope included normal operations, abnormal operational cases as well as failure scenarios and a battery of functional tests, according to Mr Låg.
With one day of testing in each phase, the group utilised Fjord 1's Fannefjord, taking the vessel on 35-minute sails to test the processes.
Fjord 1 project engineer Kim Gunnar Jensen was the employee at the shore-based engine control centre, operating as if he were onboard, and the vessel was equipped with an enhanced Integrated Automation System (IAS) from DNV GL.
Redundant ship-shore communications included 4G communications from two separate providers in addition to normal communication channels, according to Mr Låg , and backup crew onboard vessel for redundancy using backup equipment and monitors.
Those crew were "less-skilled" and any need for those redundancies "shouldn’t happen very often," Mr Låg said.
There were passengers onboard the vessel in two of the three trials, but on those trials another chief engineer was onboard to ensure safety and highly skilled operations.
Mr Låg said DNV GL "foresee looking into deep-sea pilot programmes similar to this one for other sectors" in future.
The ROMAS project will continue to the end of 2019, supported by funding from the Norwegian Research Council. The long-term plan is to use the experience from the project to guide future operations and develop new products and services, including a ’remote ready’ integrated automation system from Høglund, the applicable rules and approval in principle programmes from DNV GL, and regulations from the Norwegian Maritime Authority, to enable Fjord1 and other shipowners to consider commercial deployment for new generations of ships.