World's First Automatic Docking System Goes On Sale

Source: Wartsila

Finnish company's SmartDock technology takes passenger ferry from port to port with no human intervention.

Smart technology is all the rage in the home, and multiple companies are racing to perfect the self-driving car, but Finland's maritime technology company Wärtsilä has just secured the first sale for its SmartDock system, which enables ships to leave port, sail to a destination and dock at its next berth without human input.

According to Joonas Makkonen, vice president at Wärtsilä, the system has been in development for decades and is based on automation and positioning technology used by oil rig support vessels which need to stay close to their platforms even in rough conditions.

Trials carried out this month used the Folgefonn, an 85 meter long passenger ferry operated by Norled. As well as demonstrating its port-to-port navigation, the test also involved an automatic 180-degree turn as well as Wärtsilä Guidance Marine’s CyScan with GeoLock technology, a security feature which uses a backup position sensor to allow docking to continue safely even if GPS signals are lost. Norled and Danish shipping and logistics company DFDS are among the operators to have expressed interest in the system.

Right now, the system is designed solely for commercial and passenger use but there is sure to be military interest in the process, if only for auxiliary supply vessels and other non-combat operations.

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Contributing Editor

A hardened survivor of the games press, Jeremy Parish has written, edited, and podcasted for AllGamers, Retronauts, USgamer, IGN, 1UP, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GameDaily.biz, and more.