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85m ferry navigates 3-port route on its own

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Helsinki-based Wärtsilä recently tested its automated dock-to-dock system on the 85m ferry Folgefonn, owned by Norwegian ferry operator Norled.

The system successfully operated the ferry on its entire route as it visited three ports in Norway.

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, according to Wärtsilä.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority was on site to witness the tests for three days.

“It was, to say the least, very impressive,” stated Nils Haktor Bua, NMA project manager. He  said it was the first full-scale demonstration of the autonomous operation of a vessel that they have seen. “Of course, further development work is still ongoing, but I am impressed by how stable the system already is at this stage.”

According to Wärtsilä, 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 (Global Navigation Satellite System) 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.

Folgefonn was also used for initial testing of Wärtsilä’s autodocking system earlier this year. The ferry 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.

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