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Rolls-Royce demonstrates first remotely operated commercial vessel

Jun 20, 2017 11:57 AM

The 92-foot tug Svitzer Hermod is maneuvered to and from a dock in Copenhagen

Courtesy Rolls-Royce

The following is the text of a news release from Rolls-Royce:

(LONDON) — Rolls-Royce and global towage operator Svitzer have successfully demonstrated the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel in Copenhagen Harbor, Denmark.

Earlier this year, one of Svitzer's tugs, the 92-foot Svitzer Hermod, safely conducted a number of remotely controlled maneuvers. From the quay side in Copenhagen Harbor the vessel’s captain, stationed at the vessel’s remote base at Svitzer headquarters, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360 degrees, and piloted it to the Svitzer HQ before docking again.

The companies have also signed an agreement to continue their cooperation to test remote and autonomous operations for vessels. The primary systems involved will be autonomous navigation, situational awareness, remote control center and communication.

“It was an honor to be present at what I believe was a world first and a genuinely historic moment for the maritime industry," said Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce president-marine, who witnessed the event. "We’ve been saying for a couple of years that a remotely operated commercial vessel would be in operation by the end of the decade. Thanks to a unique combination of Svitzer’s operational knowledge and our technological expertise, we have made that vision a reality much sooner than we anticipated.”

“Disruption through innovation is happening in almost every industry and sector and technology will also be transforming the maritime industry," said Kristian Brauner, chief technology officer for Svitzer. "As the largest global towage company, Svitzer is actively engaging in projects that allow us to explore innovative ways to improve the safety and efficiency of towage operations to benefit our customers and our crews. With its direct impact on our customer performance, operational cost and environmental footprint vessel efficiency remains a main driver now and going forward. We are proud to be partnering with Rolls-Royce in this high-level research and development of systems for remote operation.”

Svitzer Hermod, a Robert Allan Ltd. ship design, was built in Turkey at the Sanmar yard in 2016. It is equipped with a Rolls-Royce dynamic positioning system, which is the key link to the remote-controlled system. The vessel is also equipped with a pair of MTU 16V4000 M63 diesel engines from Rolls-Royce, each rated 2,000 kW at 1,800 rpm.

The vessel also features a range of sensors which combine different data inputs using advanced software to give the captain an enhanced understanding of the vessel and its surroundings. The data is transmitted reliably and securely to a remote operating center (ROC) from where the captain controls the vessel.

The remote operating center was designed to redefine the way in which vessels are controlled. Instead of copying existing wheelhouse design, the ROC used input from experienced captains to place the different system components in the optimum place to give the master confidence and control. The aim is to create a future proof standard for the control of vessels remotely.

“Working on this project with Rolls-Royce and Svitzer and supporting them on the safe demonstration of the Svitzer Hermod is truly a landmark moment for LR and the industry," said Nick Brown, Lloyd’s Register’s marine and offshore director. "With autonomous ships likely to enter service soon, we have already set out the ‘how’ of marine autonomous operations in our ShipRight procedure guidance, as it is vital these technologies are implemented in a safe way and there is a route for compliance. Lack of prescriptive rules was no barrier for 'de-risking' the project and we provided assurance against LR’s Cyber-Enabled Ships ShipRight Procedure, while considering the safety implications associated with the first closed demonstration. We are honored to be working as partners on this ground-breaking project in the industry’s journey to autonomous vessels.”

Throughout the demonstration the vessel had a fully qualified captain and crew on board to ensure safe operation in the event of a system failure.

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