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Norwegian Ship Completes 160-Mile Autonomous Navigation Demonstration

Eidsvaag Pioner completed an 160-mile demonstration voyage docking and undocking and sailing a Norwegian coastal route (Kongsberg)

Demonstration and testing of autonomous technologies for ships continues with Norway’s Kongsberg reporting it recently completed one of the most complex autonomous journeys at sea so far undertaken as the technology develops. The demonstration was carried out over 13 hours and involved a range of remote and autonomous technologies on a cargo vessel operating off the coast of Norway.

Norway is one of the countries leading in the development and testing of autonomous ship technologies along with Japan and South Korea which have also conducted independent tests. In addition to demonstrating the capabilities, the projects are working toward certification of the capabilities. For reasons of safety and current regulations, crewmembers have also to be aboard any of the ships during these test cruises.

“Today we have demonstrated a range of the key enabling technologies that will lead the way towards routine remote and autonomous operation in the years ahead,” said Geir Håøy, CEO of Kongsberg. The company has established a Remote Operation Center in Ålesund, Norway, which was responsible for initiating, managing, and monitoring the current test. The company is also working on a number of other projects including the Yara Birkeland, which was recognized as Norway’s first vessel designed for autonomous operations.

The current test was conducted with the Eidsvaag Pioner (1,467 dwt), a 245-foot vessel registered in Norway and operated by the Eidsvaag shipping company, sailing along the Norwegian coast and in fjord areas where it carries fish feed to ocean fish farms.

The demonstration trip covered approximately 160 nautical miles and included automatic undocking from the quay at Averøy. Using autonomous technology the vessel navigated and maneuvered out of the harbor and out to open sea. The vessel navigated a route between several islands while also avoiding other sea traffic, before arriving at an offshore fish farm. Various maneuvers were then carried out using the Dynamic Positioning system. The vessel returned to port, again navigating the open sea and congested seaways before it automatically docked. The entire operation was monitored and occasionally controlled remotely by the shore-based captain and engineer.

“This was an opportunity to show the world that remote and autonomous technologies can be successfully deployed on a general cargo vessel, carrying out a range of operational aspects of a typical voyage,” said Håøy.

The demonstration voyage was part of the AUTOSHIP project, which is sponsored by Horizon 2020, an EU research program. The four-year project involves Kongsberg and the shipowner Eidsvaag and expertise from Norway’s research organization, SINTEF, and the University of Strathclyde in the UK. AUTOSHIP seeks to test and further develop key technology linked to fully autonomous navigation systems, intelligent machinery systems, self-diagnostics, prognostics, and operation scheduling.

The Eidsvaag Pioner is one of the two vessels that are equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport demonstrations. The second AUTOSHIP demonstration will take place on June 1st and involve a cargo barge navigating part of the inland waterway network in Wintam, Belgium.

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