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Wärtsilä successfully tests remote control ship operating capability, directs vessel from 8,000km

The technology group Wärtsilä has taken a further important step towards developing its Smart Marine capabilities by successfully testing the remote con...

James Henderson
|Sep 6|magazine7 min read

The technology group Wärtsilä has taken a further important step towards developing its Smart Marine capabilities by successfully testing the remote control of ship operations.

The testing, which involved driving the vessel through a sequence of manoeuvres using a combination of Dynamic Positioning (DP) and manual joystick control, was carried out on August 21 off the North Sea coast of Scotland in collaboration with Gulfmark Offshore, the U.S. based operator who provided the vessel for the project.

Although the test vessel was in the North Sea, the remote-control navigating was carried out from the Wärtsilä office located in San Diego, California, 8000km away.

Wärtsilä’s Dynamic Positioning unit developed remote control capabilities in the early part of 2016, but this was the first test carried out on an offshore vessel.

The vessel, the ‘Highland Chieftain’ is an 80m platform supply vessel already fitted with a Wärtsilä Nacos Platinum package for Navigation, Automation and Dynamic Positioning systems, as well as a Wärtsilä drives package.

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

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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 work station.

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

“Wärtsilä is committed to developing technologies that enable a Smart Marine future. In the age of digitalisation, the future Smart Marine ecosystem will involve connecting ‘smart’ vessels with ‘smart’ ports to enable an even more efficient use of resources. It will also reduce the impact on climate while enhancing safety,” said Roger Holm, President, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions.

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