Wärtsilä tests remote control ship operation

01 Sep 2017
Gulfmark Offshore PSV 'Highland Chieftain' was taken through four hours of manoeuvers from a control centre 5,000 miles away

Gulfmark Offshore PSV 'Highland Chieftain' was taken through four hours of manoeuvers from a control centre 5,000 miles away

Wärtsilä has tested remote control of ship operations for the first time on Gulfmark Offshore platform supply vessel ‘Highland Chieftain’.

The 80m vessel was taken through a series of manoeuvres (at high and low speeds) using a combination of dynamic positioning and manual joystick control, over a four-hour period on 21 August. The vessel was located in the North Sea and controlled from Wärtsilä’s San Diego office, 5,000 miles away.

Andrea Morgante, head of digital, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions, said: "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. This test provides a clear indication that we are well on the way to achieving this.”

Wärtsilä's developed remote control capabilities for its DP systems in early 2016, but this was the first test on an offshore vessel. The Highland Chieftain had previously been fitted with a Wärtsilä Nacos Platinum package for navigation, automation and DP systems, as well as a drives package.

Additional software was temporarily added to the DP system to route data over the vessel's satellite link to the onshore work station in California. Crucially, the test was carried out using standard bandwidth onboard satellite communication - no land-based technology was used for the communications between the vessel and the remote operator work station.

Wärtsilä expects that the development of remote access will enable virtual service solutions for DP customers. The solution will be used for other pilot projects including automated docking procedures.