Wärtsilä Conducts Autonomous Ferry Voyage and Docking

The Folgefonn was operated autonomously for its entire route from dock-to-dock with the Wärtsilä automated dock-to-dock solution.
The Folgefonn was operated autonomously for its entire route from dock-to-dock with the Wärtsilä automated dock-to-dock solution.

Published Nov 28, 2018 7:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

Wärtsilä has successfully completed a test procedures of its autonomous shipping system. In the presence of the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), the system was tested on the ferry Folgefonn with full dock-to-dock autonomous operation for the entire route, visiting all three ports serviced by the ship.

Once the operator selected the next destination berth, the operation was started by simply selecting “Sail” which authorizes the autonomous controller to take control of the vessel. The ferry was able to leave the dock, maneuver out of the harbor, sail to the next port of call, maneuver through the harbor entrance, and dock alongside the terminal – all without human intervention. 

It is believed to be the first ever attempt at fully automated dock-to-dock operation, in complete hands-off mode, for a vessel of this size.

Navigation of the vessel is controlled through the use of a series of tracks and waypoints, which guide the ship to the next destination. The autonomous controller, which is based on Wärtsilä’s existing Dynamic Positioning system, controls the vessel’s speed, position on the pre-defined track and heading. GNSS is used as the primary sensor, while a Wärtsilä Guidance Marine CyScan AS is being tested as a secondary position sensor for the approach to the berth.

“We were on site for three days as witnesses to these tests; the first full scale demonstration towards an autonomous operation of a vessel that we have seen. It was, to say the least, very impressive. There is no doubt that such technology can eventually increase the safety and overall efficiency of the docking and undocking operations for ships. Of course, further development work is still ongoing, but I am impressed by how stable the system already is at this stage,” says Nils Haktor Bua, Project Manager at NMA.

The 85-meter Folgefonn is owned by Norwegian ferry operator Norled. She was used also for the initial testing of the Wärtsilä autodocking solution, which took place in the early part of 2018. The vessel is also equipped with hybrid propulsion with wireless shore connection capable of fully electric operation and features numerous other Wärtsilä innovations, including its wireless inductive battery charging solution and energy storage systems.

Innovation Norway, an investment fund, has provided grants to both Wärtsilä and Norled for the testing of the auto-docking technology.