“We’ve translated our offshore DP expertise into a new and exciting potential market – ferries and maybe cruise ships. It fits very well into Wärtsilä’s overall ‘smart marine’ strategy,” says Thomas Pedersen, Managing Director of Wärtsilä DP. “The plan is to submit the auto-docking functionality for regulatory approval to make automated docking a vital part of new offerings for the ferry and other markets.”
Auto-docking simply means a ship is programmed with all the variables of its approach to a dock – wind speed, weight, pitch, roll, current, depth and so on – to perform the manoeuvre automatically in the most efficient and safest way possible, within oversight of a captain, of course, but steered principally by software. By making docking as efficient and sustainable as possible, fuel expenses are also minimised.
An innovative ship
The Folgefonn is a novel ship even without auto-docking. A double-ended, 85-metre-long, 1,182 tons, hybrid-powered passenger and car ferry servicing Jektevik-Hodnanes, Norway, the Folgefonn carries 76 cars and 300 passengers. It is owned by Norled, which operates 45 car ferries across Norway, and was built as a diesel powered ferry in 1998. It was retrofitted into a hybrid diesel/electric vessel in 2014 with the help of Wärtsilä’s wireless inductive charging technology, both on land and aboard, allowing it to charge its batteries without cumbersome cables. Folgefonn is also using vacuum docking technology (Cavotec) where suction keeps the ship at the dock eliminating ropes, or lines.
Part of the auto-docking research performed by Wärtsilä is also being funded by the Norwegian maritime authorities.
“Wärtsilä Norway and Norled have both received grants from Innovation Norway, an investment fund, to test auto-docking and integrate it with the existing hybrid energy system. For many years, the Power Conversion organisation in Stord, Norway has worked with the Folgefonn ferry on numerous innovations including electrical operation, land-based charging, data transfer and induction charging. With auto-docking the total docking and charging sequence will now be automated,” says Ingve Sørfonn, Senior Technical Officer E&A, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions.