Kongsberg Maritime, Torghatten team up on self-driving ferry service

Norwegian ferry operator Torghatten and compatriot technology company Kongsberg Maritime have entered into a contract to develop a system for self-driving ferries on the Flakk-Rørvik route.

Courtesy of Kongsberg Maritime

The car ferry service operation is part of the Norwegian highway network – County Road 715 – and connects the city of Trondheim with communities on the Fosen peninsula.

The strategic collaboration between the two companies will see Kongsberg Maritime’s technologies, including its auto docking, auto crossing, collision avoidance and situational awareness capabilities, installed on the ferries.

The new systems are expected to reduce fuel consumption, improve safety and punctuality, and optimize the staffing on ferries, following maritime regulations.

“The ferry industry has several challenges where autonomous processes can be part of the solution. Self-driving ferries can help increase safety and punctuality, reduce energy consumption, and take over routine tasks from the crew, who can then spend their attention on the sea instead of on the dashboard and navigation controls, Jan-Egil Wagnild, Technology Director at Torghatten, commented.

“We have several industrial environments in Norway that are at the forefront internationally in the field of maritime autonomy. Now there’s another platform where the key players can test new technologies in operational conditions and commercialise these solutions.”

“At the same time, recruitment in our industry is generally far too weak, and we all struggle to get hold of enough people,” he added.

“Autonomous solutions can help increase safety and operational efficiency. In addition, autonomy can be a natural step forward to give the crew additional support systems to improve their everyday working life,” Mariann Grønseth, Managing Director of Torghatten, said.

Through successful demonstrations of its remote and autonomous technologies on several pilot projects, Kongsberg Maritime has proved that remote and autonomous technologies are applicable to coastal or inland waterway vessel types.

“The basic technology is already in place with us, but for it to be optimised and further developed, we are dependent on rolling it out on commercial vessels and building an industry around what can be commercialised for a global market,” Pål André Eriksen, Kongsberg Maritime, Senior Vice President, Remote & Autonomous Solutions, explained.

“We are very optimistic about this project and look forward to it giving a positive boost to the maritime authorities’ work to adapt the regulations. This will facilitate a smoother development of the autonomy industry in Norway and create new opportunities for growth and innovation also beyond Norway’s borders.”

Earlier this week, Norway signed an agreement with the UK, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands to facilitate better cooperation on the international operation of autonomous vessels.

The agreement aims to simplify the operation of autonomous ships in the North Sea and ensure that they can operate safely within the individual countries’ national requirements and frameworks.

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