Wednesday, 05 December 2018 09:47

Ice-class ferry does autonomous run in Helsinki

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The ice-class passenger ferry Suomenlinna II being remotely piloted through a test area near Helsinki harbour. The ice-class passenger ferry Suomenlinna II being remotely piloted through a test area near Helsinki harbour. Supplied

Automation technology vendor ABB and Helsinki City Transport have successfully carried out a trial guiding an ice-class ferry through a test area near Helsinki harbour.

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.

Even though it now has the new dynamic positioning system, Suomenlinna II will continue to be run using conventional onboard controls. Research and development will continue with the ferry and her crew.

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."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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