Norwegian ferry completes world’s first fully automatic journey

Bastø Fosen VI. Credit: Kongsberg

The world’s first adaptive ferry transit using fully automatic control from dock to dock has been successfully completed in Norway, representing a significant step forward in the integration of autonomous technology into shipping operations. 

The double-ended ferry Bastø Fosen VI, owned by Norwegian ferry operator Bastø Fosen, was fully loaded with passengers and vehicles when it undertook its first automated voyage on the popular Horten-Moss route in the Oslofjord.  

Equipped with a fully integrated digital system called ‘adaptive transit’ on Bastø Fosen VI, it automatically performs all docking and crossing functions to a high and repeatable level of accuracy, ensuring that best practice is followed to the smallest detail on every transit. The result is more exact timekeeping. 

Currently, the installed equipment is not fully autonomous – if vessels or objects are detected on a collision course, an alarm will sound, and the captain will take control. In 2020, an anti-collision system, comprising radar and electro-optical sensors, is expected to be fitted into the ferry with testing scheduled to take place this year. Although, even with the anti-collision system in place, a full crew must be on board to maintain manoeuvring skills. Bastø Fosen VI’s crew will be required to perform manual transits on a regular basis. 

Following the successful voyage, Bastø Fosen VI will enter a six-month trial period during which the automatic system is expected to control the vessel for most services. However, the captain will remain in charge and the vessel will continue to carry a full complement of crew.  

The automated ferry is the result of collaboration between Bastø Fosen, Kongsberg, and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), as part of a two-year project. 

Øyvind Lund, CEO of Bastø Fosen, commented, “Today [February 13], at the press of a button, one of our vessels left the quay in Horten, crossed the Oslofjord, and docked in Moss, all completely automatically. This leaves the crew more time to focus on monitoring the vessel and ensuring passenger safety, which for us are the main motivations for adopting this technology. 

“This is an aid, not a replacement. Greater accuracy permits better logistics. For example, we can now pre-programme the time allowed for the crossing and thus reduce energy consumption. Digitalisation and automation is the future, and we are proud to be prime movers,” he continued.  

Svein David Medhaug, senior surveyor with the NMA, said, “Safety is the key issue for us, and we’re delighted to work with stakeholders such as Bastø Fosen and Kongsberg to ensure that this technology is both sustainable and safe.”