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Rolls-Royce: First unmanned ferry could be tested in five years

Sep 15, 2015 10:31 AM

An upcoming Interferry forum will explore 'game-changing' maritime solutions

The following is the text of a news release from Interferry:

(VICTORIA, British Columbia) — At next month’s 40th annual Interferry Conference in Copenhagen, technical innovations will be a central theme of the agenda.

Oskar Levander of Rolls-Royce Marine predicts the first remote-controlled ferry demonstrator could hit the water within four to five years thanks to a new wave of research into operational efficiency based on ship intelligence solutions. He suggests that the maritime industry is at the dawn of an era in which ship intelligence is one of the main technology trends — driving advances such as increased automation, smart controls, robotics, optimization/decision support tools, equipment/system health management and predictive maintenance schemes. 

He believes that ship intelligence will also drive the development of remote control and autonomous solutions, stressing: “Today there is a lot of R&D focus on unmanned airplanes and driverless land-based vehicles and society is becoming more prepared to accept these game-changing solutions. It is only a question of time as to when shipping will follow the same path.”

Case studies of two fuel-saving solutions will also feature in the conference’s innovation sessions. Tuomas Riski, CEO of Finland’s Norsepower, will report on sea trials of the company’s Rotor Sail auxiliary wind propulsion system, which has been tested on Bore Line’s ro-ro vessel Estraden since last year with "very promising" results.

In addition, an underwater hydrofoil-type wing fixed to the stern of a ship will be described by Bruno Bouckaert, commercial director of Netherlands-based Hull Vane. The device saves fuel by generating beneficial lift force to reduce wavemaking, pitching, rolling and yawing. Ferries are said to be very suitable ship types due to their high sailing speed and limited scope for slow steaming, with savings in propulsion power predicted in the range of 4 to 20 percent depending on speed.

Further cost and environmental benefits will be highlighted in a session dedicated to electric ferries. Speakers include Eliza Gagatsi from the Hellenic Institute of Transport, who is impact manager for the fully electrified E-ferry, a new project supported by the European H2020 "green" ferry initiative. The ferry is set to be powered by the largest battery pack ever installed in a vessel and is designed to combine energy efficiency and zero GHG emissions with competitive speed, capacity and reliability.

Another zero-emissions initiative, the European Commission-backed BB Green innovation project, will be described by project coordinator Ulf Tudem from Norway’s Effect Ships International. The company has developed the concept for a 30-knot electric commuter ferry of vacuum-infused carbon sandwich construction in which an air-supported monohull offers a 40 percent reduction in water resistance.

The design philosophy for a new hybrid ferry ordered for the Netherlands — "cost savings while greening the operation" — will be explained by Cees de Waal, managing director of TESO, the service operator between Den Helder and the island of Texel. The sustainable ferry Texelstroom is currently under construction and due on stream next year.

3-D printing will also come under the innovations spotlight, with Anders Orgard Hansen of Denmark’s OSK-ShipTech illustrating how the facility for reduced production costs, faster production time, increased accuracy and significant weight reductions will change the way ships are designed, produced and operated.

Other conference sessions include firefighting and evacuation issues, border controls in response to migrant and security concerns, the impact of global economic trends, BIMCO’s first-ever standard time charter party for the ro-pax sector and two panel discussions focusing on environmental regulations and the future of fast ferries.

The Interferry event takes place from Oct. 3-7 and concludes with a cruise and technical tour onboard host company Danske Faerger’s Leonora Christina, one of the world’s largest fast ferries.

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