TECHNOLOGY group Wärtsilä says it has taken a step towards realising the commercial potential of autonomous vessels, announcing its SmartDock auto-docking system.

The company says it has secured the first order for the system, making SmartDock the first commercially available auto-docking solution in the world.

Wärtsilä SmartDock seeks to mitigate human errors resulting from ship officers having to do technical manoeuvres several times a day.

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Wärtsilä vice president Voyage Solutions, Joonas Makkonen, said the SmartDock solution was the culmination of decades of research and testing.

“Our system draws on similar automation and positioning technology used by oil rig support vessels to maintain proximity to the rig in the toughest sea environments,” Mr Makkonen said.

“This gives us absolute confidence in SmartDock’s ability to meet the urgent commercial need to provide the safest possible docking for commuter ferries.”

Head of innovation and technology for Danish international shipping business DFDS, Jakob Steffensen, said there was already customer demand.

“The SmartDock solution offers improved safety and efficiency for existing vessels,” Mr Steffensen said. “More importantly, it represents an important part of the solutions needed to power the next generation of vessels.”

The successful sea trials were done onboard the Folgefonn, an 85metre ferry owned by Norwegian operator Norled.

The testing also included operating the automatic 180-degree rotational turn of the vessel.

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