MOL is working with Rolls-Royce’s marine division to test intelligence awareness on passenger ferry Sunflower to help it overcome the challenges of the route
Rolls-Royce has introduced a situational awareness and intelligence system to reduce the risk of ship collisions and groundings at night – and one of its first adoptions will be on an MOL passenger ferry.
Its intelligent awareness (IA) system combines multiple sensors with intelligent software to mitigate against the safety risks navigators face when operating vessels in adverse weather conditions, in darkness or in congested waterways.
IA uses data collection and information display to enhance navigational safety and operational efficiency. It “provides bridge personnel with a much greater understanding of the ship’s surroundings”, said Rolls-Royce general manager for remote and autonomous operations Iiro Lindborg.
“IA forms part of our ongoing development of the autonomous ship, but we decided to make the technology available today as it offers real benefits to the existing shipping environment.”
Rolls-Royce has developed technology that creates a 3D map of a vessel based on light detection and ranging (Lidar). This provides an overview of the vessel’s external situation in what Mr Lindborg said, “creates an accurate bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area”.
Lidar is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser beam to measure distances. It can be linked to GPS data to create 3D environments that allow crews to visualise what the human eye cannot.
IA also uses technology from 2D and 3D virtual reality, augmented reality and precision mode interfacing. “We can use the IA system in any ship where there is a need for better situational awareness, particularly during night sailings or in adverse weather conditions,” said Mr Lindborg. It is intended to supplement navigational information already available from ECDIS and radar, not replace it.
This technology comes from Rolls-Royce’s participation in the AAWA (Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications) project and its collaboration programmes with Stena Line and Mitsui OSK Lines.
IA to help night ferry
One of the first adoptions of IA will be on board 165 m passenger ferry Sunflower, which Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) operates between Kobe and Oita, Japan.
Explaining the decision to install IA, MOL director Kenta Arai said “Sunflower operates in some of the most congested waters in the world and will provide an opportunity to test rigorously Rolls-Royce’s intelligent awareness system.”
Test trials took place in April.
Sunflower operates a passenger service over a 220 nautical mile route between Kobe and Oita in Japan only at night. This takes it through the Akashi Kaikyo, Bisan Seto and Kurushima Straits, which Mr Lindborg said were some of the most congested waters in the world.
Intelligent awareness will provide information to crew to enhance their understanding of the ship’s surroundings. It combines data from a network of onboard sensors with information from bridge equipment such as ECDIS, automatic identification system, radar and environmental data.
Rolls-Royce’s intelligent awareness system on Sunflower includes a tripod of sensors incorporating a camera unit, radar, inertial navigation system and AIS equipment.
“We are collaborating with MOL to get feedback from owners,” said Mr Lindborg. “Sunflower has a challenging route at night with an oil terminal in the way and fishing vessels and nets during a 12-hour voyage.”
Rolls-Royce has also carried out trials of intelligent awareness with Stena Line in 2017. “We used a tripod plug-and-play unit on ferry Stena Atlantica that operates between Frederikshavn, Germany and Gothenburg, Sweden,” he explained. “We are having discussions about a fixed installation.”
He expects IA will be rolled out to other ships to offer crews “an enhanced decision support tool, increasing their safety and that of our vessels”.