Automated excellence: driving efficiency with ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot

Automated excellence: driving efficiency with ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot

Vegard Saeterlid, Global product manager, bridge solutions, ABB Marine & Ports

Automated docking saves time, money, fuel and emissions. The ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot product family is key to unlocking benefits, enabling enhanced efficiency, safety and optimal operations – every time.

Autodocking advantage

A multitude of hardworking vessels spend much of their time docking. Typical ferries, for example, dock and undock between 10-30 times a day, often working 5-7 days a week, year-round. If such a ferry can save 2 minutes on each docking and undocking that can translate to 300 hours a year of saved operational time, and expense.

With the ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot product family, vessels can perform docking autonomously, safely and efficiently, in the same precise manner every time.

The information flow between the solutions within the ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot family delivers data for calculations that determine optimal docking trajectory. This trajectory is fed into the ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Control intelligent maneuvering and control system, which moves the vessel accordingly and positions it safely at the dock side.

During undocking, the procedure is carried out in reverse. The vessel is brought out from the dock, and at this point the auto crossing can be engaged to take the vessel on the next step of the journey. At all times, the operator has a full overview of operations and, if necessary, can take command. While the shipping industry is moving towards increased automation and autonomy, at this stage acknowledgement from a vessel operator is required when switching between different journey modes. To assist, the system will provide relevant information to the operator to help decision making, for example, relating to stopping, changing course, increasing or decreasing speed, or going from position keeping into speed, or other changes in operation.

To illustrate with undocking as an example, the operator starts the process by selecting ‘start undocking’. The system then notifies the operator when the undocking is close to completion and asks the operator if it should commence the next operational phase e.g. autocrossing. When the rules and regulations for autonomous operations are more mature, this interaction by the operator may no longer be necessary, with the system deciding on the next course of action.

Given the time saved during docking and undocking, the vessel can maintain a lower speed during transit, and still be able to reach the destination at the scheduled time. A lower transit speed will lead to lower consumption of fuel, or other energy sources. If a ferry can lower the average speed by 1 knot it can reduce the required energy consumption by about 175kW/h. A case study using a Shuttle Tanker in Korea, shows that lowering the cruising speed of the vessel from 15 knots to 13.5 knots reduces energy requirements from 883 kW/h to 566 kW/h, a total saving of 317 kW/h.

If this power saving is converted to a traditional diesel engine utilizing 0.2 kg of fuel to produce 1kWh, it results in a saving of 65 kg of diesel per hour. Based on a standard operational profile of 6 hours a day, 365 days a year, this translates to a total saving of 117 tons of fuel a year.

A Vision for safety

If weather conditions are challenging (e.g. foggy and/or dark), or there are other factors demanding extra caution or attention, the added situational awareness from the ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Vision solution will enhance safety during operations, even without the automated docking and undocking options.

It is very important to note that humans have strengths that today’s technology cannot compete with, such as a natural ability to handle uncertainty and applying knowledge and experience across contexts. Although technology is excellent at objective, accurate and continuous observations for instance, it struggles with creative problem solving in unforeseen situations. By combining the strengths of humans and technology, we can achieve improved safety and efficiency.

Precise information regarding the vessel’s position and distance from surroundings is delivered to the operator, removing the possibility of human errors. There is no longer a reliance on perceived measurements, communicated via radio, but rather accurate, calculated information appearing on the operator’s screen, providing much better situational overview for the operator to base their decisions on.

Although there will always be a requirement for a lookout in a crowded harbor area, or in the Arctic to identify ice, the human eye has a narrow focus area and struggles to maintain a broad focus across a wide horizon. Eyes also run into difficulty when trying to focus on a large number of objects simultaneously. ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Vision can maintain a wide area of focus and keep track of multiple objects at the same time. By utilizing ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Vision and ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Control, a vessel can safely maneuver in between obstacles preventing accidents.

The future

ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot technology can not only keep vessels safe when maneuvering, docking, undocking and in transit, but also reduce energy consumption. When the requirement for maximum power output is lowered, it brings down the space required for installed batteries, reducing charging time, while overall fuel consumption can be lowered for diesel electric vessels. In addition, docking time is reduced, safety enhanced and stress on operators and crew minimized.

By developing digital solutions for vessels, ABB Marine & Ports can enable more efficient, safer, and greener vessel operations today, tomorrow and far into the future.


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