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Wärtsilä tests remote vessel control from 8,000km

Gulfmark Offshore’s vessel used in the test, the Highland Chieftain Gulfmark Offshore’s vessel used in the test, the Highland Chieftain

Wärtsilä reports that it has completed a successful test of a remotely controlled ship, operating the vessel from shore while on a different continent through a sequence of manoeuvres using a combination of Dynamic Positioning (DP) and manual joystick control.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}The test was carried out off the North Sea coast of Scotland in collaboration with Gulfmark Offshore, with the US-based operator providing the vessel for the project, an 80 metre platform supply vessel named Highland Chieftain. Although the test vessel was in the North Sea, navigation was remotely controlled from Wärtsilä’s office in San Diego, California, some 8,000 km away.

Wärtsilä’s Dynamic Positioning unit has had remote control capabilities built-in since 2016, but this was the first test carried out on an offshore vessel. The vessel is already also fitted with a Wärtsilä Nacos Platinum package for Navigation, Automation and Dynamic Positioning systems, as well as a Wärtsilä drives package.

For the test, additional software was temporarily added to the DP system in order to route data over the vessel’s satellite link to the onshore work station in California.

During the 4-hour test the vessel was taken through a series of manoeuvres at both high and low speeds, controlled using the standard onboard satellite communication bandwidth available, with no other land-based technology used for communication between the vessel and the remote operator work station.

“One of the first and most critical hurdles to overcome along the path to the enablement of intelligent shipping is to develop efficient and reliable remote control and monitoring capabilities, taking factors such as bandwidth limitations and cyber security into consideration,” said Andrea Morgante, head of digital, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions.

“This test provides a clear indication that we are well on the way to achieving this. The fact that the ship was enabled for remote operation in only a few hours is a strong endorsement of Wärtsilä’s position at the forefront of marine technology development.”

“At Wärtsilä, we are fully engaged in developing ‘intelligent’ vessels since we consider such technologies to be vital to maintaining a profitable future for our customers.”{/mprestriction}

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