Era of ‘smart shipping’ moves step closer after successful North Sea trial

smart shipping remotely controlled ship‘Smart shipping’ has moved a step closer after a North Sea platform supply vessel was put through a series of maneuvers while being controlled remotely from 5,000 miles away in San Diego, California.

Finnish firm Wärtsilä used its ‘smart marine’ technology to pilot the 80-metre Highland Chieftain, owned by Gulfmark Offshore, using a combination of dynamic positioning and manual joystick control.

Wärtsilä developed the remote control capabilities in the early part of last year, but this was the first test carried out on an offshore vessel.

Control from the company’s San Diego office was carried out using standard bandwidth onboard satellite communication; no land-based technology was used between the vessel and the remote operator work station.

The successful test was conducted in the North Sea over an almost four hour period on 21 August during which the vessel was driven through a series of manoeuvres at high and low speeds.

Andrea Morgante, head of digital at Wärtsilä Marine Solutions, said: “One of the first and most critical hurdles to overcome along the path to the enablement of intelligent shipping is to develop efficient and reliable remote control and monitoring capabilities, taking factors such as bandwidth limitations and cyber security into consideration. This test provides a clear indication that we are well on the way to achieving this.”

Smart shipping’s future

“Wärtsilä is committed to developing technologies that enable a ‘smart marine’ future,” said Roger Holm, president of Wärtsilä Marine Solutions.

“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.”

Wärtsilä has already supplied three of Gulfmark Offshore’s ‘Highland series’ vessels.

“At Gulfmark Offshore, we believe that it is important to embrace new technologies since they represent the future of our industry,” said Ashley Robinson, senior vice-president of operations.

“If companies are to remain competitive they must look ahead and take advantage of the tremendous development work being done by companies such as Wärtsilä.”