KONGSBERG Maritime has received an approval in principle from the class society DNV to transfer the role of chief engineer from ship to shore.

The move would see the chief engineer carry out necessary vessel duties from a desk-based, onshore workstation, in a significant step towards remote operations.

From this workstation the engineer will be able to monitor and control systems including the power management system, ballast water system and deck machinery.

There are three vessels are prepared for this remote setup, namely the world’s first fully electric container vessel Yara Birkeland, as well as two electric barges operated by Norwegian company ASKO, Marit and Therese.

Senior vice president for Kongsberg Pål André Eriksen said, “The role of chief engineer is one which already involves a lot of monitoring of automation and control systems on board.

“For this trial, moving this functionality to the shore-based ROC [remote operations centre] will see one person now managing a range of systems across three vessels, rather than one.”

A testing period will take place this year, overseen by DNV and the Norwegian Maritime Authority, after which Kongsberg hopes full approval for the chief to shore functionality will be granted.

DNV head of section Jarle Coll Blomhoff spoke on the relation between automation and safety.

“We believe this is a key step for Kongsberg Maritime’s pathway to fully autonomous vessels, but also a technology that could contribute to a safer and more efficient world fleet by providing remote support for maintenance, troubleshooting as well as expertise on new alternative fuels that may be hard to get onboard every vessel,” he said.

Testing will be conducted throughout the current summer season (Northern Hemisphere), involving a shore-based technician managing a number of tasks on three vessels, all managed remotely from shore.

Each of the vessels will be visible at all times from the remote operations centre, and a “high attention” mode will be activated if any of the three require attention due to an issue.

Kongsberg intends to follow DNV’s class guidelines for autonomous and remotely operated ships and remote engineering monitoring and control systems prior to approval being granted.

Other crew members such as the master and navigator will remain onboard during the tests and will be in constant contact through radio and CCTV.

“Developing new vessel systems that will support autonomous and remote operation of vessels is a challenging task, and we are happy that Kongsberg Maritime has decided team up with DNV to ensure that safety of the new solution is thoroughly verified,” Mr Blomhoff said.