Ships docking by themselves is now a reality with Finnish technology firm Wärtsilä securing its first order for SmartDock, a revolutionary auto-docking system. While initially aimed at the ferry market, the new system has ramifications for merchant shipping’s path towards autonomous ships.
A ship’s master can select the destination and with a simple click of the ‘sail’ button, the SmartDock system takes over. The ship then leaves the dock, manoeuvres out of the harbour, sails to the next port of call, manoeuvres into the harbour and docks alongside the quay, all without human intervention.
“The SmartDock solution is the culmination of decades of extensive research and testing by Wärtsilä in automation technology. Our system draws on similar automation and positioning technology used by oil rig support vessels to maintain proximity to the rig in the toughest sea environments. This gives us absolute confidence in SmartDock’s ability to meet the urgent commercial need to provide the safest possible docking for commuter ferries,” said Joonas Makkonen, vice president at Wärtsilä.
Sea trials were recently carried out onboard the Folgefonn, an 85 m long ferry owned by Norwegian operator Norled. The testing also included operating the automatic 180-degree rotational turn of the vessel, as well as Wärtsilä Guidance Marine’s CyScan with GeoLock technology, a cyber-security enhancing secondary position sensor, which enables the approach to the berth to continue even if the GPS signal is lost.
The revolutionary technology will be on show at the Nor-Shipping exhibition this week in Norway.