One of Svitzer’s tugs, the 92-foot Svitzer Hermod, conducted a series of remotely controlled maneuvers in Denmark’s Copenhagen harbor, Rolls-Royce said.
Rolls-Royce and global towage operator Svitzer say they’ve successfully demonstrated the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel.
The companies revealed June 20 that earlier this year, one of Svitzer’s tugs, the 28-meter long (92-foot) Svitzer Hermod, conducted a series of remotely controlled maneuvers in Denmark’s Copenhagen harbor.
From the quay side in Copenhagen harbor, the vessel’s captain, who was stationed at the vessel’s remote base at Svitzer headquarters, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360 degrees, and then piloted the tug to Svitzer HQ before docking again, according to a Rolls-Royce account of the test.
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 said.
“It was an honor to be present at what I believe was a world first and a genuinely historic moment for the maritime industry,” Rolls-Royce President Mikael Makinen said of the demonstration. “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.”
Rolls-Royce and Svitzer have also signed an agreement to continue testing remote and autonomous operations for vessels, with primary systems involved being autonomous navigation, situational awareness, remote control center and communication, the companies said.
“Disruption through innovation is happening in almost every industry and sector and technology will also be transforming the maritime industry,” Svitzer Chief Technology Officer Kristian Brauner said in a statement. “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.”
The Svitzer Hermod was built in Turkey in 2016 and is equipped with a Rolls-Royce Dynamic Positioning System, which the company says is the key link to the remote-controlled network. The tug is also equipped with a pair of MTU 16V4000 M63 diesel engines from Rolls-Royce, each rated 2000 kW at 1800 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 from where the captain controls the vessel.
News of the test of the vessel comes as the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization has begun mapping out how existing international regulations should be applied to the rapidly emerging field of self-driving ships and autonomous maritime technologies.