Industry project completes first phase of remote machinery operation testing

Industry project completes first phase of remote machinery operation testing
Kim Gunnar Jensen, project engineer at Fjord1, at the shore-based engine control centre used in the ROMAS project. Image courtesy of Fjord1

DNV GL, automation systems vendor Høglund, ferry operator Fjord1, and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) have completed the first testing phase of the ROMAS (Remote Operation of Machinery and Automation Systems) project.

The key concept of the project is to move the engine control room (ECR) from the ship to shore based engine control centre (ECC), where chief engineers can operate the propulsion and auxiliary machinery systems of a single ship or fleet. The purpose of such remote operation is to enable machinery engineers that have the skills to deal with increasingly complex systems to remain at a separate location to the vessel. According to DNV GL, it can be a challenge to find machinery engineers that have these skills and are willing to work onboard for weeks or months at a time.

“The overall goal of ROMAS is to provide improved operations and cost-efficiency while ensuring a safety level that is the same or better than today’s conventional operation,” said Steinar Låg, principal researcher on autonomous ships in DNV GL and ROMAS project manager. “But transferring responsibilities, monitoring, and control facilities to shore also reduces the need for machinery engineers onboard, which could make marine engineering jobs more attractive.”

The results of the first phase of tests were presented during Nor-Shipping this week. Tests were carried out in the first quarter of 2019 onboard the Fjord1 ferry Fannefjord in Molde, Norway. The Fannefjord is a DNV GL classed LNG/battery/diesel powered ro-ro ferry that operates on the 35-minute crossing in Moldefjorden between Molde and Vestnes.

Kim Gunnar Jensen, project engineer in Fjord1, stated: “The ROMAS pilot project provides us with an arena to explore these possibilities and find solutions for a new generation of ferry transport that will benefit all stakeholders.”

ROMAS will continue to the end of 2019, supported by funding from the Norwegian Research Council. The long-term aim is to develop technical solutions and establish a framework of regulations, rules and verification methods to enable the remote, shore-based operation of ship machinery systems, including a “remote ready” integrated automation system (IAS) from Høglund, the applicable rules and Approval in Principle programs from DNV GL, and regulations from the Norwegian Maritime Authority. This will enable Fjord1 and other shipowners to consider commercial deployment for new generations of ships.

“Through the ROMAS project we are building knowledge that will be used to develop new rules and new verification methods, ensuring that the remote operations concept can be implemented with a safety level that is the same or better than today’s conventional operations,” said Steinar Låg.