Norway has become a world leader in marine digitalisation, electronics, communications and electronic charts
Norwegian maritime technology has contributed a wealth of innovation and improved navigational safety, and with the availability of high-throughput satellites, advances in remote control and semi-autonomous navigation, this technology is heading to a new level.
It all started with the world’s first commercial sonar and autopilots and then moved through ship-to-shore communications, engine automation, dynamic positioning, radar, ECDIS, integrated bridge systems, VSAT and advanced voyage planning. Now, Norway is a leader in developing maritime digitalisation, vessel remote control, simulation training, autonomous ship operations and artificial intelligence.
Kongsberg group of companies is at the pinnacle of this technology drive as it provides the technical requirements for operating the world’s first autonomous ship, providing the latest training simulators, delivering a maritime digitalisation platform and driving e-navigation.
Over the last two years, the group split into Kongsberg Digital and Kongsberg Maritime. This led to the launch of a new digital platform, Kognifai, in 2017. There are still close bonds between the two companies as Kongsberg Digital vice president and commercial manager Vigleik Takle explained to Norwegian Solutions. “Through complete integration we can bring operational technology to the digital level, while introducing a new cloud-based approach.”
Kognifai is a cloud-based platform for services and applications that support maritime and offshore operations. Mr Takle said these applications provide value and data analytics to Kognifai users.
“It enables secure, open access, sharing and analysis of any data from any source,” he said. “It is far from a cloud data store though, as we have developed it to be a powerful tool for development and collaboration.”
Key developments on Kognifai in 2018 include simulation-as-a-service, which has the potential to “transform the maritime training sector”, and a new digital twin solution that also leverages the company’s maritime simulator technology,” Mr Takle explained.
“We are integrating 3D models with our cutting-edge simulation, AI and machine learning technology and technical models,” he said, adding this has applications in offshore for simulating subsea and platform operations over “entire fields including support-vessel fleets”.
“Taking in sensor, automated, manual and predicted data to the twin on Kognifai only makes the twin stronger, while the holistic, flexible nature of the system can tear down silos between different disciplines and deliver information to a higher level for more insightful decision making.”
Digital twins on Kognifai are helping to shape the future of autonomous maritime operations. Machine-learning algorithms are trained by the simulation model to learn how to react to unexpected situations.
A live digital twin of a maritime autonomous surface ship and other marine assets will augment safety as well as operational and logistical efficiency, said Mr Takle. Kognifai can deliver control of every single facet of an autonomous ship or fleet on a single platform.
This can include power management, route planning and electronic chart updating, onshore control rooms and interoperability with national vessel traffic centres. Data can be used to optimise vessel operations and enable the safe management of entire autonomous fleets.
Kongsberg group has used this technology for the world’s first all-electric, emissions-free, autonomous container vessel, Yara Birkeland, scheduled to enter service next year to transport fertilizer products to two Norwegian ports, Brevik and Larvik, which is likely to be operated unmanned in 2020.
For autonomous shipping and other digitalisation technologies to be realised, satellite communications need to be effective, said Marlink president of maritime Tore Morten Olsen.
He explained that this network has grown to include 59 satellite beams on C- and Ku-band frequencies integrated with Ka-band service Fleet Xpress on Thor 7, with L-band mobile satellite services from Iridium and Inmarsat and global mobile phone networks.
This integrated communications technology enables onboard and online monitoring of vessel performance and fleet operations. “As demand for the bandwidth that fuels digitalisation grows, we continue to expand our network,” Mr Olsen told Norwegian Solutions. “Our strategy is to apply new beams and deliver more bandwidth for maritime regions and users that need it.”
In June, Marlink boosted its satellite capacity in the Indian Ocean region and around the Falkland Islands with specific focus on delivering reliable, high bandwidth VSAT services to merchant ships and commercial fishing vessels.
Marlink has also partnered with other Norwegian digitalisation service providers, such as maritime training provider Seagull. Together they are creating an online environment for distributing and updating e-learning material using Marlink’s network. Mr Olsen said the ultimate aim is to use Marlink’s XChange centralised IT and communications management platform to provide full onboard hosting and monitoring of Seagull’s e-learning software and courses.
Norway is at the heart of e-navigation and voyage routeing technology with many specialist suppliers located in the nation. Of these, Navtor has gone the furthest in stretching these technologies up to new levels.
Navtor has already used its NavStation voyage planning software and workstation for testing remote control of vessels and is working with a Japanese company to develop an artificial intelligence routeing service. Navtor successfully demonstrated its remote control technology in a German port in November 2017 as part of a pan-European project.
One of its teams controlled a pilot vessel from a shore-based bridge to test route planning, voyage monitoring and transferring safety-critical navigation functions from the vessel to shore. The information between the vessel and the shore was communicated through mobile phone 3G or 4G networks and displayed on the onshore bridge.
Once in open water, the master handed control to the shore-based bridge, where its voyage was monitored using a camera feed and the vessel was controlled using the NavStation. During the test, the vessel was heading towards a collision with a buoy. The shore-based operator controlled the vessel around the hazard using a touchscreen workstation.
Integration of operational technology has travelled to the boardroom in Norway. In July, Navico, which has a portfolio of marine electronics brands, acquired C-Map and its ENC distribution services. C-Map will become another brand within the Navico group, alongside Lowrance, Simrad and B&G, generating a powerhouse in marine electronics.
Navico’s Simrad produces a range of autopilots, radar and ECDIS technology. C-Map distributes ENCs using flatfee, leasing and pay-as-you-sail agreements. These technologies could be combined in a larger provider of bridge systems and services technology.
During Q1 2018 Simrad introduced bridge products for workboats, fishing vessels and yachts. It unveiled the NSO evo3 navigation system with integrated high-definition displays. These connect to GPS, autopilot, Simrad radar and echosounders. NSO evo3 are touchscreen displays with split-screen functions and iMX6 quad-core processors for rapid chart updates.
NSO evo3 can be connected to Simrad Halo radar and S5100 sounder modules for forward-looking and 3D sonar imaging and used for route planning and execution, collision avoidance and vessel system control.
Navico also introduced an IMO type-approved S3009 echosounder for commercial vessels and workboats, based on the non IMO-approved S2009 sounder used on leisure and fishing vessels. It comes with transducer options for both shallow and deep waters and, like its forebear, is said to be easy to install.
In May, C-Map introduced an updated version of its FleetManager program. This web-based product collates information about ship performance and route optimisation in real-time. C-Map also added an integrated maritime suite of services.
This combines route optimisation with weather, navigational charts and digital publications and can be integrated with C-Map’s shoreside fleet management tools. It relates to voyage planning and nautical information management, while helping owners lower fuel consumption and operational costs.