The car ferry Falco, used a combination of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies to successfully navigate autonomously during its voyage between Parainen and Nauvo. The return journey was conducted under remote control.
During the demonstration, the Falco, with 80 invited VIP guests aboard, conducted the voyage under fully autonomous control. The vessel detected objects utilising sensor fusion and artificial intelligence and conducted collision avoidance. It also demonstrated automatic berthing with a recently developed autonomous navigation system. All this was achieved without any human intervention from the crew.
The Falco is equipped with a range of advanced sensors which allows it to build a detailed picture of its surroundings, in real time and with a level of accuracy beyond that of the human eye. The situational awareness picture is created by fusing sensor data and it is relayed to Finferries’ remote operating centre on land, some 50 kilometres away in Turku city centre. Here, a captain monitors the autonomous operations, and can take control of the vessel if necessary.
During the autonomous operation tests in Turku archipelago, Rolls-Royce has so far clocked close to 400 hours of sea trials. The Rolls-Royce Autodocking system is among the technologies that has been successfully tested. This feature enables the vessel to automatically alter course and speed when approaching the quay and carry out automatic docking without human intervention. During the sea trials, the collision avoidance solution has also been tested in various conditions for several hours of operation.
Earlier this year Rolls-Royce and Finferries began collaborating on a new research project called SVAN (Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation), to continue implementing the findings from the earlier Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) research project, funded by Business Finland.
Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Commercial Marine, said: “Today marks a huge step forward in the journey towards autonomous shipping and reaffirms exactly what we have been saying for several years, that autonomous shipping will happen. The SVAN project has been a successful collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Finferries and an ideal opportunity to showcase to the world how Ship Intelligence technology can bring great benefits in the safe and efficient operation of ships.
“This is a very proud moment for all of us and marks our most significant milestone so far. Today’s demonstration proves that the autonomous ship is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it.”
Mats Rosin, Finferries’ CEO, added: “We are very proud that maritime history has been made on the Parainen-Nauvo-route once again. First with our world-renowned hybrid vessel Elektra and now Falco as the world’s first autonomous ferry. As a modern ship-owner our main goal in this cooperation has been on increasing safety in marine traffic as this is beneficial for both the environment and our passengers. But we are also equally excited about how this demonstration opens the door to the new possibilities of autonomous shipping and safety.”
The Falco is a 53.8 metre double-ended car ferry, which entered service with Finferries in 1993. It is equipped with twin azimuth thrusters from Rolls-Royce.
Ferry traffic has a long tradition in this land of thousands of lakes and islands. Finferries currently operates more than 30 cable ferry routes in some of the most beautiful Finnish landscapes. As environmental considerations become more and more important and as the technology develops, Finferries has decided to initiate a project to electrify a cable ferry. The development work resulted in Finland’s first cable ferry powered by shore-side electricity. The ferry commenced traffic on the Högsar route in Nagu on Thursday, 20 September 2018.
The new technology will serve to reduce CO2 emissions considerably. The electric cable ferry receives its energy via a cable directly from the national grid. The electric cable is rolled up automatically on a reel aboard the ferry as the ferry travels. The electric cable ferry has a traditional diesel generator on board to provide reserve power in the event of an electrical outage.
“One of Finferries’ environmental aims is to minimise emissions with the help of technical solutions. It has been very satisfying to be able to develop an environmentally friendly electric cable ferry together with Laivasähkötyö. Still, it is too early to say what the electric cable ferry’s exact CO2 emissions will be compared with a traditional cable ferry, or for what kinds of ferry routes it will be suitable. That assessment will be made once the ferry has been in operation for a year. However, we expect a considerably smaller carbon footprint,” says Finferries’ CEO, Mats Rosin.
“For us, the project has presented a considerable opportunity to make use of the skills found among many of our group companies, in spite of Laivasähkötyö Oy having been responsible for the implementation itself. Our planning bureau, LST Engineering, provided the planning work, and our production company, LST Production, looked after the manufacturing of the electrical switchboard. The cooperation with Finferries has worked out tremendously well, and we are proud to be able to give them our support in a project of this kind requiring new solutions,” says Laivasähkötyö Oy’s managing director, Juha Hietarinta.
Finferries’ hybrid ferry Elektra has won a second international award this year. The Electric & Hybrid Marine World Expo 2018, the world’s largest three-day event showcasing marine propulsion, was held in Amsterdam from 27 to 29 June and culminated in the traditional award ceremony. Finferries was presented with the event’s main award, “Electric & Hybrid Propulsion System of the Year”.
The award is a respected honourable mention given each year by an international panel of experts who judge the utilisation of innovative solutions in a system and the system’s operational reliability.
“For a shipping company of Finferries’ size, it’s unbelievable to receive this much international acclaim for the Elektra hybrid ferry,” says Mats Rosin, CEO of Finferries, of the award.
In spring, the Elektra hybrid ferry was also named ship of the year at another international exhibition in Amsterdam.
“This is yet more proof that our courage to invest in new, environmentally friendly technology was the right decision. Many parties were involved in the design of Elektra’s innovative power system.[K1] Special thanks go to Siemens, Rolls-Royce and the CRIST S.A. shipyard, and to the Finferries project group who worked with Elektra,” says Technical Director Mikko Jukakoski, who received the award on Finferries’ behalf in Amsterdam.
The Elektra hybrid ferry has operated along the route between Parainen and Nauvo since last June. Elektra’s transport capacity is 40% larger than that of the older vessel which operates along the route, but Elektra generates 60% fewer emissions. Elektra’s energy is primarily sourced from battery packs which are charged at each side of the crossing using a shore-based connection to the local grid. Diesel electricity is used alongside the battery packs as a back-up, which can be used in very icy conditions or in the event of a power outage, for example.