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Tuesday, December 4, 2018 

Ice-class passenger ferry 'Suomenlinna II' has been remotely piloted through a test area near Helsinki harbour, proving that human oversight of vessels from anywhere is achievable with today’s technologies.

ABB and Helsinki City Transport successfully tested the enhancement of ship operations with what ABB describes as technologies that are already available for nearly any kind of vessel. ABB further stated that this remote trial takes "the next step in autonomous shipping" and is "the world’s first for an existing passenger ferry,"

The trial took place during the vessel’s off hours, away from shore with no passengers aboard, in an area free of other vessels. While it is newly equipped with ABB's dynamic positioning system, the vessel will continue to operate via a set of conventional onboard controls, with the remote mode deployed during the trial only. Research and development will continue with the ferry and her crew.

“We are excited about the potential impact of this test on the future of the maritime industry,” said Peter Terwiesch, President of ABB’s Industrial Automation division. “Advanced automation solutions from ABB are making the previously impossible possible for a wide range of sectors, including shipping, which is actively searching for technologies that can rapidly deliver more efficiency and better safety.”

“Autonomous does not mean unmanned. As vessels become more electric, digital and connected than ever before, ABB is able to equip seafarers with existing solutions that augment their skillsets. In this way, we are enhancing the overall safety of marine operations,” said Juha Koskela, MD, ABB Marine & Ports.

Suomenlinna II was retrofitted with ABB’s dynamic positioning system, and steered from a control centre in Helsinki. Speaking after the voyage, Captain Lasse Heinonen said: “The progress we have made with the remote trial has been remarkable. I believe we are on the right track to exploring further possibilities of this technology as we move forward.”

ABB believes that autonomous solutions are expected to transform international shipping in the coming decades as the industry recovers from the downturn caused by the 2008 financial crisis. Global demand for maritime transport has grown by 30% over the past decade, according to the International Chamber of Shipping data, with more than 10 billion tons of cargo transported by sea every year.

Suomenlinna II, originally built in 2004, is fitted with icebreaking ABB Azipod electric propulsion, and was retrofitted with the ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision situational awareness system in 2017.

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