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WÄRTSILÄ AND ASC UNITE IN AUTONOMOUS SHIP CONTROL PROJECT

WÄRTSILÄ AND ASC UNITE IN AUTONOMOUS SHIP CONTROL PROJECT

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 

Wärtsilä Voyage has introduced a new semi-autonomous ship control technology, Wärtsilä SmartMove Suite, and at the same time has announced the first order, from American Steamship Company (ASC).

The new suite features advanced sensors and high-accuracy ship control systems, effectively taking the concept of automated dock-to-dock operations to the next level. Fully retrofittable, the SmartMove Suite can give existing vessels next-generation capabilities to improve safety, efficiency and productivity on the water. The technology is said to enable navigation officers to perform at a higher level.

ASC has installed the first system on the American Courage, a 194m Great Lakes self-unloading bulk freighter of 24,300gt. This is believed to be the largest ship ever capable of performing automated docking and dock-to-dock sailing operations. The winding, often narrowing Cuyahoga River in Ohio, US, can be heavily congested, making it by far the most challenging of shipping routes for any vessel using automated sailing and docking technology. The Wärtsilä solution has been successfully tested on the American Courage since March 2020.

Pierre Pelletreau, VP of Engineering, of ASC parent Rand-ASC Holdings, said: “American Steamship Company chose to partner with Wärtsilä Voyage based on their ability to bring to bear their diverse subject matter experts into a cohesive team to deliver comprehensive solutions to complex challenges. The complete Voyage Smart technology package addresses the American Courage’s restricted water manoeuvring profile requirements including a position margin of less than 2m and transit under bridges. Wärtsilä adeptly familiarised themselves with our business sensitivities to drive adjustments throughout the project to benefit ASC. One example of this is the versioning of the technology that utilises the surrounding environment for vessel positioning making it ship-based rather than on shore. The resulting impact was a further reduction of the American Courage’s operating costs.”

John J Marshall, Senior Business Development Manager, Automation & DP Americas, Wärtsilä Voyage, said: “Advanced decision support systems, such as Wärtsilä SmartMove, bring value because they can automate the repetitive tasks, such as docking on repeated itineraries, allowing the navigation officers to focus their bandwidth on the parts of the operation. This is not about going captain-free, rather, enhancing the capabilities of onboard crew as they traverse shuttle routes, congested or restricted areas. When vessels must operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we are pleased to offer an automated dock-to-dock transit solution that ensures every trip is conducted safely."

Wärtsilä Voyage provides a standard hardware setup with redundant controllers and displays, along with a sensor suite (comprising gyro, MRU, wind, and GNSS sensors). This is connected to a single digital platform through which five software products are available: SmartDock, SmartTransit, SmartEntry, SmartPredict, and SmartDrive. The core blocks of software (including controllers, sensor processing, Thruster Allocation Logic and track follow) are sourced from Wärtsilä Voyage’s Dynamic Positioning portfolio, which has been in use over many years in some of the world’s harshest environments.

“To understand the challenges and true innovations of these technologies, you have to grasp the complexities of modern vessels with all of the components conducting specific functions independently. We are effectively making each component 'smart' so that the ship itself becomes the sum of the parts and is capable of working as efficiently and smartly as possible. Decades of research and maritime data, multiple unrivalled technologies, real-world testing, engineering, and data have gone into this solution, and we’re pleased to be celebrating a new era of smart navigation together with American Steamship Company,” said Thomas Pedersen, Director, Automation & Dynamic Positioning, Wärtsilä Voyage.

Rand-ASC Holdings and its subsidiaries operate a fleet of three conventional bulk carriers and eleven self-unloading bulk carriers including three tug/barge units, offering domestic port to port services in the Great Lakes of Canada and the US.

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