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Wärtsilä autodocking system tested on 272-foot ferry


Global marine and energy technology group Wärtsilä has successfully tested what it calls “a world first” installation of autodocking technology on a ferry.

The tests were carried out on the Folgefonn, a 272-foot (83m) ferry owned by Norwegian operator Norled, according to a company news release. Testing began in January and was completed in April with harbor docking trials. Wärtsilä stated that at no time during the tests did the captain need to take manual control of the vessel.

According to the company, the system is activated about 2,000m from the berth and the vessel continues at normal transit speed. The system then gradually slows the speed and activates the line-up and docking maneuver automatically until the ship is secured at the berth. When the ship is ready to sail again, the system’s departure procedure operates in an identical but reverse manner.

Full maneuvering of the vessel, including the steering and propulsion, is automatically controlled by the software. However, manual intervention and control is possible at any time.

The autodocking tests were carried out on the Folgefonn, a 272-foot (83m) ferry owned by Norwegian operator Norled.

According to Wärtsilä, benefits include improved safety, since there is less likelihood of human error; less wear and tear, since the thrusters are efficiently used; and greater efficiency in docking, which allows more time at berth.

Norled has made the Folgefonn available to Wärtsilä for further development of a number of Wärtsilä Smart Marine products and systems. Among those already installed and tested on the vessel are an energy optimization system, a hybrid propulsion system, wireless inductive battery charging, and energy storage. The ferry can now be operated with automatic wireless charging, automatic vacuum mooring and automated docking.

“Technologies that improve safety, reduce operating costs, and lower the environmental impact can only be good for our industry,” stated Sigvald Breivik, Norled technical director.

Wärtsilä’s autodocking project is supported by the Norwegian state-owned Innovasjon Norge (Innovation Norway).

In 2017, the same Wärtsilä team successfully tested remote controlling of a ship sailing in the North Sea from its San Diego, California, location.

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