Towage operator Svitzer and power systems giant Rolls-Royce showed the marine sector a glimpse of the future this summer, with the successful completion of tests of a shore-controlled tug in Copenhagen, Denmark. The demo saw Svitzer’s 2016-built, 28m x 12.6m vessel Svitzer Hermod undertake a series of manoeuvres around the port of Copenhagen, controlled by a pilot operating from a remote station set-up in Svitzer’s nearby office in Nordhavn. These manoeuvres included quayside berthing and undocking, the completion of 360degs turns and transits between the port and Svitzer’s HQ.
Designed by Robert Allan Limited (RAL) and built by Turkish yard Sanmar, Svitzer Hermod is powered by two MTU 16V 4000 M63 diesel engines, each rated 2,000kW at 1,800rpm. Iiro Lindborg, Rolls-Royce VP for remote and autonomous operations, tells Ship & Boat International: “The demonstration session itself lasted about an hour and the maximum speed during the remote control demo was approximately 10knots. But, before the demonstration session, the vessel was tested under remote control for tens of hours, and it covered tens of miles’ worth of distance during the testing.”
One such test, Lindborg reveals, included the tug making a top-speed dash from Copenhagen to the Swedish side of the Öresund Strait, which forms the border between Denmark and Sweden.
Rolls-Royce developed and supplied the remote operating centre (ROC) from which Svitzer Hermod was operated: this centre was installed in a purpose-built room at Svitzer’s HQ. Rolls-Royce says that it incorporated feedback from captains' real-life experiences into the design of the ROC, so as to create an ergonomic and effective fit rather than simply replicate an existing wheelhouse design. Lindborg adds: “We didn’t want to be limited by the boundaries imposed by copying the design of existing bridges. Instead, we sought to use ‘ergonomic and human-centric design’ principles to create the best surroundings and experience for the captain to feel confident in control.”
This layout sees the captain’s chair positioned at the centre of the ROC, facing the ‘video wall’. The DP joystick and thruster controls are integrated into the chair’s armrests, while, immediately in front of the chair arms, are two screens: these display images from the radar (on the left screen) and from the DP control system (on the right screen) (see photo, above).
“Further to the right, another smaller screen allows the captain to change the images he sees on the video wall,” Lindborg explains. Additionally, an ECDIS monitor has been placed on the floor in front of him, and a headset is provided to facilitate communications.
The tug was equipped with various sensors, and high-definition cameras with infra-red / radar / LIDAR capabilities relayed information from Svitzer Hermod to the ROC. “These were combined with a digital map of the harbour, to offer the captain interchangeable layers of insight presented on the curved ‘video wall’ in front of him,” says Lindborg.
The Copenhagen tests were also notable for being the first time that a Rolls-Royce DP system had been installed on a tug. The DP system serves as the key link to the remote-controlled system, granting the captain “very precise control over the placement and movement of the vessel,” says Lindborg.
Svitzer and Rolls-Royce now intend to jointly further investigate areas such as autonomous navigation, situational awareness and ROCs and communications. Lindborg comments: “The successful first test is only the beginning – we believe we can secure up to £200 million [US$259 million] of investment to revolutionise shipping. We expect to demonstrate a fully autonomous vessel very soon."