Rolls-Royce Showcases World’s 1st Remotely Operated Commercial Ship

Engineering company Rolls-Royce and towage operator Svitzer have demonstrated the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel in Copenhagen harbor, Denmark.

“It was an honour to be present at what I believe was a world first and a genuinely historic moment for the maritime industry. 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,” Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Marine, said.

Earlier this year, one of Svitzer’s tugs, the 28-meter-long 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°, 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. As informed, the primary systems involved will be autonomous navigation, situational awareness, remote control center and communication.

“Disruption through innovation is happening in almost every industry and sector and technology will also be transforming the maritime industry…Svitzer is actively engaging in projects that allow us to explore innovative ways to improve the safety and efficiency of towage operations…We are proud to be partnering with Rolls-Royce in this high-level research and development of systems for remote operation,” Kristian Brauner, Chief Technology Officer, Svitzer, said.

Svitzer Hermod was built at the Sanmar yard in Turkey in 2016. It is equipped with a Rolls-Royce Dynamic Positioning System, which is the key link to the remote controlled system.

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 to a remote operating centre (ROC) from where the captain controls the vessel.

The ROC 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, according to Rolls-Royce.

“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. 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,” Nick Brown, Lloyd’s Register’s Marine & Offshore Director, pointed out.

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, Rolls-Royce explained.

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