Wartsila tests remote control vessel from 8,000 km away

Finland’s Wärtsilä has successfully tested the remote control of ship operations using a combination of dynamic positioning (DP) and manual joystick control.

Wartsila, in collaboration with vessel provider for the project Gulfmark Offshore, carried out the test on August 21 off the North Sea coast of Scotland.

Even though the test vessel was in the North Sea, the remote control navigating was carried out from the Wärtsilä office located in San Diego, California, 8,000 kilometers away.

Wärtsilä’s DP unit developed remote control capabilities in early 2016, but this was the first test carried out on an offshore vessel. The vessel, the Highland Chieftain, is an 80-meter platform supply vessel already fitted with a Wärtsilä package for navigation, automation, and dynamic positioning systems.

For the test, additional software was temporarily added to the DP system to route data over the vessel’s satellite link to the onshore workstation in California.

The testing was carried out using standard bandwidth onboard satellite communication. No land-based technology was used for the communications between the vessel and the remote operator workstation.

The test was conducted over a four-hour period during which time the vessel was driven through a series of maneuvers at both high and low speeds. All the test procedures went as planned.

Roger Holm, president of Wärtsilä Marine Solutions, said: “Wärtsilä is committed to developing technologies that enable a smart marine future. In the age of digitalization, the future smart marine ecosystem will involve connecting ‘smart’ vessels with ‘smart’ ports to enable an even more efficient use of resources.”

Andrea Morgante, head of digital at Wärtsilä Marine Solutions, added: “The fact that the ship was enabled for remote operation in only a few hours is a strong endorsement of Wärtsilä’s position at the forefront of marine technology development.”

The development of successful remote access to ships might also enable virtual service solutions to customers needing tuning or testing of their DP systems. Furthermore, Wärtsilä’s solution will be used for other pilot projects, such as automated docking procedures.

Ashley Robinson, SVP of operations at Gulfmark, said: “At Gulfmark Offshore, we believe that it is important to embrace new technologies since they represent the future of our industry. For this reason, we are most happy to cooperate with Wärtsilä in this exciting project.”

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