Bastø Fosen, Kongsberg Maritime and the Norwegian Maritime Authority have taken part in the two-year project.

“This is a big day for everyone involved. Congratulations”, Gunnar Pedersen at Kongsberg Maritime said with a smile as the Bastø VI completed its first “adaptive transit” with passengers on board.

In other words, the ferry left the quay, crossed the fjord and docked under her own power and steering, but under the supervision of the captain and mate.

“Once again, Norway has strengthened her position as world leading in the maritime industry. This would not have been possible without a forward-leaning company like Bastø Fosen and a supportive maritime authority, which has asked for our needs instead of putting obstacles in our way”, stated Pedersen.

Support system

The bridge of the Bastø VI was fully loaded with collaborative partners and guests when the first commercial tests took place in the beginning of February. Project manager Svein David Medhaug represented the Norwegian Maritime Authority and had been looking forward to the test trip.

“For the Norwegian Maritime Authority as a responsible authority, it is essential that the safety of passengers, crew, ship and environment is ensured when using the new technology. Besides, I find it important to underline that this support system will not in any way replace the crew on board at this point. On the contrary, it will provide an opportunity to optimise the operation of the ship in terms of safety and efficiency”, says Medhaug.

For the purpose of maintaining navigational skills, it is incorporated in the vessel's safety management system that the mate in charge of the watch or the captain must perform manual dockings at least twice during each watch. The automatic system (adaptive transit) will control the vessel for most trips depending on the weather and other external factors.

“The system performs all docking and crossing functions to a high and repeatable level of accuracy, which results in increased customer satisfaction”, says Øyvind Lund, Bastø Fosen CEO.

He explains that the main purpose of the project has been to enhance the safety of passengers and crew and improve the ferry connection with even better timekeeping. Now, the pre-set times are accurate almost to the second.

“Moreover, the system is based on following "best practice", which in turn allows us to benefit from using less energy when crossing the fjord. This leads to reduced energy consumption”, says Lund.

To the passengers, the new system will barely be noticeable, except that arrival and departure times will be even more accurate.

“We trust the technology and have no qualms about sailing on a ship with an autopilot system”, Per Brattshaug and Tor-Arne Holme said with a smile. The two of them travelled with the ferry on their way to Denmark.

No replacement of the crew

Captain Kristian Larsen says that the new system makes it possible to monitor the voyage in a completely different way. He is not afraid of losing his job to automation.

“Not at all. The airline industry has used autopilots for years without replacing any pilots. The same will be the case here”, says Larsen.

He points out that a good and close cooperation has been crucial to the success. The crew has had the opportunity to provide input throughout the process.

“Kongsberg Maritime has been considerate and has adapted and adjusted the system continuously to find the best solution for us”, says the captain.

Both national and international bodies are still at an early stage in terms of developing regulations for automatic marine operations.

“Through this work, we have shown the world that we have set a course. Norway is a small nation, but a leading nation in the maritime industry”, says Medhaug.

Bastø Fosen now enters a six-month trial period during which the automatic system is expected to control most services. However, the captain will remain in charge and the bridge will be fully staffed. If other vessels or objects are detected, an alarm will sound and the captain will take control.

“We find it exciting to take part in the development of a system that will be used in Norway and the world. It’s only a matter of time”, says Lund.