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ABB carries out trial of remotely operated ferry

ABB has completed a trial of a remotely operated passenger ferry near Finland’s Helsinki harbour, paving the way for autonomous shipping.

The ice-class passenger ferry Suomenlinna II was remotely piloted through test area near Helsinki harbour. The ferry was retrofitted with ABB’s new dynamic positioning system ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Control, and steered from a control center in Helsinki.

“We are excited about the potential impact of this test on the future of the maritime industry,” said Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s industrial automation division. “Advanced automation solutions from ABB are making the previously impossible possible for a wide range of sectors, including shipping, which is actively searching for technologies that can rapidly deliver more efficiency and better safety.”

ABB said it tested the enhancement of ship operations with technologies that are already available for nearly any kind of vessel.

Read more: Ferry completes first 'ground breaking' autonomous passage in Finland

The 2004-built Suomenlinna II, which operates year-round, is fitted with ABB’s icebreaking Azipod® electric propulsion system. Additionally, the ferry was retrofitted with ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Vision situational awareness solution in 2017.

For the remote piloting trial, the ferry departed from Helsinki’s market square, Kauppatori, and it was wirelessly operated with ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Control through a pre-selected area of Helsinki harbor.

The trial took place during the vessel’s off hours, away from shore with no passengers aboard, in an area free of other vessels. While it is now equipped with the new dynamic positioning system, the vessel will continue to operate via a set of conventional onboard controls, with the remote mode deployed during the trial only. Research and development will continue with the ferry and her crew.

Read more: Ship autonomy sails forward in northern Europe

“Autonomous does not mean unmanned. As vessels become more electric, digital and connected than ever before, ABB is able to equip seafarers with existing solutions that augment their skillsets. In this way, we are enhancing the overall safety of marine operations,” said Juha Koskela, managing director at ABB’s marine & ports unit.

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