Eidsvaag Pioner

Kongsberg completes one of its most complex autonomous journeys at sea

Norwegian tech provider Kongsberg Maritime has demonstrated a range of remote and autonomous technologies on a cargo vessel operating off the coast of Norway.

Eidsvaag Pioner; Image credit: Kongsberg

The demonstration project took place in the North Sea and it is a result of collaboration between Kongsberg and the shipowner Eidsvaag AS, with support from Norway’s research organisation, SINTEF, and the University of Strathclyde in the UK.

Kongsberg described the test cruise as ‘one of the most complex autonomous journeys at sea so far.’

The Eidsvaag Pioner is one of the two vessels that are equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport demonstrations for the AUTOSHIP project, which is part of Horizon 2020, an EU research programme.

AUTOSHIP is a four-year project that runs its demonstrations in important areas in Europe where the early use of remote control and autonomy is deemed necessary to accelerate the transition from road to greener and safer sea transport.

The aim of the project is to test and further develop key technology linked to fully autonomous navigation systems, intelligent machinery systems, self-diagnostics, prognostics and operation scheduling, as well as communication technology enabling a prominent level of cyber security and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure.

Owned by the Eidsvaag shipping company, the Eidsvaag Pioner operates along the Norwegian coast and in fjord areas where it carries fish feed to ocean fish-farms.

The demonstration was carried out over 13 hours and involved the vessel completing a voyage outside the coast of Kristiansund on the northwest coast of Norway. The ship undocked from the port of Averøy, sailed to the world’s first ocean fish-farm and back to port again, a journey of about 160 nautical miles in total.

 “This was an opportunity to show the world that remote and autonomous technologies can be successfully deployed on a general cargo vessel, carrying out a range of operational aspects of a typical voyage,” CEO of Kongsberg, Geir Håøy, said.

“There has been great collaboration between all partners in the AUTOSHIP project, and we have all been impressed with how the Eidsvaag Pioner performed under remote control and during autonomous sailing and docking.

“Today we have demonstrated a range of the key enabling technologies that will lead the way towards routine remote and autonomous operation in the years ahead.”

The demonstration

The demonstration was initiated, managed and monitored by the crew from the Kongsberg Remote Operating Centre (ROC) on land in Ålesund. It involved a mix of remote and autonomous operations during different stages of the voyage. For reasons of safety and current regulations, crew members have also been on board the ship during the test cruises.

The first part of the demonstration included automatic undocking from the quay at Averøy. The autonomous technology then took control to navigate and manoeuvre out of the harbour and further out to open sea. Here the ship navigated a route between several islands and avoided other sea traffic, before arriving at the offshore fish farm Ocean Farm 1, owned by Salmar.

Various manoeuvres were then carried out using the Dynamic Positioning (DP) system. The vessel next returned to port, again navigating open sea and congested seaways before it automatically docked again. The entire operation was monitored and occasionally controlled remotely by the shore-based captain and engineer.

The second AUTOSHIP demonstration is scheduled to take place on 1st June and involves a cargo barge navigating part of the inland waterway network in Wintam, Belgium.