Autonomous operation solutions are expected to transform international shipping in the coming decades as the industry recovers from the downturn caused by the 2008 financial crisis. Global demand for maritime transport has grown by 30% over the past decade.
In common with other industries shipping is actively searching for technologies that can rapidly deliver more efficiency and better safety. However, autonomous does not mean unmanned. As vessels become more connected, seafarers require solutions that augment their skillsets.
The players are ABB, a technology provider in industrial digitalisation, and Helsinki City Transport which operates the city’s bus, tram, metro, local railway and ferry services.
The passenger ferry Suomenlinna II, built in 2004, is fitted with ABB’s ice-breaking electric propulsion system. In 2017 the ferry was retrofitted with the company’s dynamic positioning system, which allows Suomenlinna II to be steered from a control centre in Helsinki.
In addition a situational awareness solution was deployed in order to enable year-round operation undisturbed by harsh winter conditions. For this trial, the world’s first for an existing passenger ferry, the Suomenlinna II was remotely piloted through a test area near Helsinki harbour, proving that human oversight of vessels from anywhere is achievable with today’s technologies.
- Enhanced efficiency and safety
- Year round operation with remote monitoring
- Situational awareness
The author is freelance technology writer, Bob Emmerson.