Advanced DP technology improves navigation and manoeuvring

ABB Ability Marine Pilot Control is a next-generation DP system

Dynamic positioning systems has evolved to offer much more than vessel stability, with new technology improving navigation and vessel manoeuvring

It started out as a computer-driven method of keeping an OSV secure in a single location, but dynamic positioning (DP) technology has evolved to offer a far broader range of functionalities. Manufacturers of bridge systems have utilised the technology to enhance navigation, collision avoidance and automated voyage decision-making.

They have also used DP systems to demonstrate remote vessel and tug technology, with expectations that this will drive new business opportunities across maritime sectors.

Kongsberg Maritime for example, has developed DP and autopilot technology into a combined navigational safety system. At the recent SMM exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, Kongsberg senior sales manager Roger Trinterud said this could be used for station keeping and advanced manoeuvring.

“We are merging navigation and DP into one system with the same software,” he explained. “It will use DP for keeping in a geographic area and then when the throttles are opened up, the autopilot will take over.”

Mr Trinterud expects this will reduce the risk of incidents because it “uses the same control software and there is no need to change control system” which is potentially a source of DP incidents. “There is a common point for controlling the engines and thrusters,” he said.

Information is fed into this system from other bridge equipment, such as radar, ECDIS and the automatic identification system (AIS), as well as from cameras and positioning sensors. All this goes into the sensor fusion unit that can feed the information to an autonomy controller.

“Kongsberg Maritime’s technology could facilitate a single human-to-machine interface for vessel transits, DP, docking and voyage control”

“Our sensors can characterise an object or calculate if another vessel is heading towards the ship,” said Mr Trinterud. Sensor fusion gives bridge crew greater awareness by delivering a holistic, real-time navigational picture, based on precise data from these sensors.

It presents vital data, allowing more effective operation of navigation, remote control and advanced manoeuvring, automation, energy management and safety systems.

Kongsberg intends to rapidly prototype this system for navigation and offer it to vessel operators before the end of 2019, according to Mr Trinterud. “The first generation will give navigators advice and then the next step is more automatic and remote control of a vessel.”


Roger Trinterud (Kongsberg): “Our sensors can characterise an object or calculate if another vessel is heading towards the ship”

This could facilitate a single human-to-machine interface for vessel transits, DP, docking and voyage control. Information could also be sent to shore control centres for remote control or monitoring of vessel operations.

Mr Trinterud said a similar system could be developed for managing simultaneous offshore and towage operations. “Vessel masters could work together and data could be shared over maritime broadband radio for rig moves and towage, or with subsea vessels for co-operation in projects,” he explained.

Safety can be ensured using multiple layers of redundancy, with different data sources from various sensors that can detect other vessels and movement of surrounding hazards, or motion from a precise position if a vessel is on DP.

Touchscreen interface

Also at SMM, ABB launched its Ability Marine Pilot Control (MPC) DP system. This fulfils the same role and functionality as a traditional DP system, while allowing for simplified operation through a touchscreen-based interface.

MPC combines multiple control systems, such as those used for manoeuvring, DP, transits and docking operations, into a single interface. It employs algorithms that calculate optimal methods to execute commands for vessel control, regardless of the operational situation.

ABB senior vice president of digital solutions Mikko Lepistö said MPC could be used for manned vessels and eventually for autonomous shipping. “We need a DP system that replaces traditional solutions designed for disconnected operations,” he said. “MPC embraces new technologies for the human-machine interface and offers tangible safety and efficiency benefits.”

ABB said the technology is suitable for any vessel that uses DP. Lloyd’s Register has granted MPC an approval-in-principle certificate and the system is due to be trialled on board a vessel from Q4 2019.

MPC is part of the Marine Pilot family of products that includes the Marine Pilot Vision situational awareness system, which combines data from a range of sensor types, such as cameras and laser, to allow for precise knowledge of a vessel’s surroundings.

ABB also provides the Octopus marine advisory system for monitoring vessel performance and to respond to different weather and sea conditions. Its latest deployment of Octopus appears on flotel Edda Fiddes. This 2011-built vessel has class DP3 and is fitted with a telescoping motion-compensated gangway and pedestal.

Octopus is used to gather and analyse data, calculate hydrodynamic parameters and their effect on vessel responses and it also helps maximise uptime within critical motion and acceleration limits. The system incorporates alarms to provide onboard warnings if pre-set limits are exceeded and allows shoreside staff to monitor vessel performance via the Octopus fleet portal.

Reference sensors

Guidance Marine has introduced a ‘targetless’ laser position reference sensor called SceneScan. Unlike traditional laser position reference sensors, SceneScan does not use reflector targets; rather it scans and tracks the surrounding environment, said Guidance Marine marketing officer Ravi Bhalsod.

This reduces the time needed to set up DP, while providing non-stop 360˚ manoeuvring around an asset on DP without having to move targets, he explained. It also eliminates any possibility of a walk-off incident because a target has accidently moved.

Guidance Marine has now improved the system’s dashboard user interface to display the reference point and the scan of the asset. SceneScan was designed for station keeping and manoeuvres close to the asset, said Mr Bhalsod and provides additional redundancy for safer operations.

Some of the latest DP control levers and joysticks were also presented at SMM. Lilaas demonstrated some of its new controls for offshore vessels, tugs and passenger ships and is working with several bridge-system suppliers to develop and customise products for maritime and offshore applications.

Lilaas introduced new propulsion control levers at SMM

The company has a new azimuth control lever for anchor-handling tugs and a joystick for high precision steering. It also presented a new joystick that has a CAN open interface for vessels.

Electronic & Marine Research Industries (EMRI) used SMM to introduce a flexible joystick panel for vessel manoeuvring. The IMJ11 panel can be used for controlling vessel propulsion and comes with various steering module options, including a mini-wheel and joystick. IMJ11 is also available with a bracket to make the unit portable.

According to EMRI, IMJ11 displays propulsion information on a central screen and has programmable categories that present the vessel’s status, conning heading and speed information.

New thruster tech aids DP

Veth Propulsion, which was acquired by Twin Disc earlier this year, has started installing its new integrated L-drive propellers with electric drives on vessels. These were designed for hybrid OSVs, tugs and other workboats for DP applications.

In the latest installation, a water-cooled permanent magnet motor is integrated in the slewing bearing of the thruster. This compact unit comes with a power range of 300-2,350 kW.

ZF Services also revealed its latest propulsion units, including the ZF AT 3000 retractable thruster. This can be used for DP or bollard pull requirements. ZF has also introduced transmission with power take-in for hybrid propulsion systems; ZF 3300 has a power range up to 1,940 kW.