In a statement, ABB said the passenger ferry Suomenlinna II was remotely piloted, and claimed this proved that human oversight of marine vessels was possible from anywhere.
The ferry was retrofitted with ABB's new dynamic positioning system — ABB Ability Marine Pilot Control — and steered from a control centre in Helsinki.
The trial was carried out when the vessel was not in regular use, away from shore with no passengers aboard, in an area free of other vessels.
The ferry voyages from Helsinki to Suomenlinna fortress, the UNESCO World Heritage site on a nearby island.
For the remote piloting trial, the ferry left Helsinki’s market square, Kauppatori, and Captain Heinonen wirelessly operated it through a pre-selected area of Helsinki harbour.
After the trial, Captain Heinonen said: “The progress we have made with the remote trial has been remarkable. I believe we are on the right track to exploring further possibilities of this technology as we move forward.”
“We are excited about the potential impact of this test on the future of the maritime industry,” said Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s Industrial Automation division.
“Advanced automation solutions from ABB are making the previously impossible possible for a wide range of sectors, including shipping, which is actively searching for technologies that can rapidly deliver more efficiency and better safety.”
“Autonomous does not mean unmanned. As vessels become more electric, digital and connected than ever before, ABB is able to equip seafarers with existing solutions that augment their skillsets," said Juha Koskela, managing director at ABB’s Marine & Ports unit. "In this way, we are enhancing the overall safety of marine operations."