Wärtsilä Pioneers Autodocking Technology on a Ferry

Finnish technology group Wärtsilä has tested its autodocking technology with the Folgefonn, a ferry owned by Norwegian operator Norled.

The 83 meters-long vessel has hybrid propulsion and is fitted with a Wärtsilä wireless charging system. The installation of autodocking on a ferry is a world first, according to the technology firm.

The autodocking tests started in January of this year and were completed in April with actual harbour docking trials.

“At no time during the tests did the captain need to take manual control,” the company said.

In an explanation of the very process, the Finish tech group said the system is activated some 2,000 metres from the berth and the vessel continues at normal transit speed. The system then gradually slows down the vessel and activates the line-up and docking maneuver fully automatically until the ship is secured at the berth. When the ship is ready to sail again, the system may be used for the departure procedure in an identical but reverse manner.

Full maneuvering of the vessel, including the steering and propulsion, is automatically controlled by the software. However, manual intervention and control are possible at any time.

“The automatic function allows the ship’s officers to focus on situational awareness outside the wheelhouse, thereby improving the safety and reliability of the operations,” Wärtsilä said, adding the system reduces the risk of human error, boosts efficiency and reduces operating costs.

Norled has made the Folgefonn available to Wärtsilä for further development of a number of Wärtsilä Smart Marine products and systems, including energy optimisation system, the hybrid propulsion system, wireless inductive battery charging, and energy storage. The ferry can now be operated with automatic wireless charging, automatic vacuum mooring and automated docking, the company noted.

“ These tests represent an important element within Wärtsilä’s overall smart marine vision. Autodocking can become a vital part of our offering to the ferry and other shipping markets, and will further promote our activities in leading the transformation into a new era of high efficiency and profitability for our customers,” says Roger Holm, President, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions.

In 2017, the same Wärtsilä team conducted remote controlling of a ship sailing in the North Sea from its San Diego, California location.