Rolls-Royce and global towage operator Svitzer have successfully demonstrated the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel in Copenhagen harbour, Denmark

Rolls-Royce has announced it has made maritime history after demonstrating the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel.

The British engineering company has partnered with the global towage operation, Svitzer.

Earlier this year, one of Svitzer´s tugs, the 28-metre long Svitzer Hermod, safely conducted a number of remotely controlled manoeuvres.

From the quay side in Copenhagen harbour in Denmark, the vessel’s captain stationed at the vessel’s remote base at Svitzer headquarters, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360°, and piloted it to the Svitzer HQ, before docking again.

Rolls-Royce has only just made news of the demonstration public.

A man uses a joystick to control a boat

The Remote Operating Centre

The companies have also signed an agreement to continue their cooperation to test remote and autonomous operations for vessels.

The primary systems involved will be autonomous navigation, situational awareness, remote control centre and communication.

The president of marine for Rolls-Royce, Mikael Makinen, witnessed the demonstration.

A graphic showing the route a remote controlled ship took in Denmark

The route taken by the ship

“It was an honour to be present at what I believe was a world first and a genuinely historic moment for the maritime industry. We’ve been saying for a couple of years that a remotely operated commercial vessel would be in operation by the end of the decade,” he said.

“Thanks to a unique combination of Svitzer’s operational knowledge and our technological expertise, we have made that vision a reality much sooner than we anticipated,” he added.

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The Svitzer Hermod, a Robert Allan ship design, was built in Turkey at the Sanmar yard in 2016.

It is equipped with a Rolls-Royce Dynamic Positioning System, which is the key link to the remote controlled system.

The vessel is also equipped with a pair of MTU 16V4000 M63 diesel engines from Rolls-Royce, each rated 2000 kW at 1800 rpm.

The Svitzer Hermod also features a range of sensors which combine different data inputs using advanced software to give the captain an enhanced understanding of the vessel and its surroundings.

The data is transmitted reliably and securely to a Remote Operating Centre (ROC) from where the captain controls the vessel.

Rolls-Royce said the Remote Operating Centre has been designed to redefine the way in which vessels are controlled.

A man in a remote control centre operating a ship

Rolls-Royce believes this is the first time in the world that a commercial ship has been operated remotely

Instead of copying existing wheelhouse design, experienced captains were asked for their input with the aim of creating a future proof standard for the control of vessels remotely.

Lloyd Register is also working with both Rolls-Royce and Svitzer on the project.

Its marine and offshore director, Nick Brown, said working and supporting the two companies on the safe demonstration of the Svitzer Hermod was “truly a landmark moment for Lloyds Registry and the industry.”

“With autonomous ships likely to enter service soon, we have already set out the ‘how’ of marine autonomous operations in our ShipRight procedure guidance as it is vital these technologies are implemented in a safe way and there is a route for compliance.” he explained.

“Lack of prescriptive Rules was no barrier for “de-risking” the project and we provided assurance against LR’s Cyber-Enabled Ships ShipRight Procedure, whilst considering the safety implications associated with the first closed demonstration,” added Brown.

Throughout the demonstration the vessel had a fully qualified captain and crew on board to ensure safe operation in the event of a system failure.